The Earth is His

Have you ever walked outside and felt your body relax in an involuntary sigh? Like something in the essence of your soul was reunited with a missing part?

Me too.

I have been privileged to have had the outdoors be a huge part of my life. I grew up in San Diego, California and relished the feel of the sun upon my skin pretty much year-round. We took annual trips to Colorado and would spend parts of the summer backpacking in the Rockies. Hiking in the pristine woods and sleeping in tents nestled in valleys at the base of mountains. In college, I spent a semester “abroad” in the Sierra Nevadas where part of our curriculum was to spend a week backpacking with friends; hiking miles and miles a day then sleeping out under the stars and swimming in crystal lakes. The rest of the semester was spent kayaking at midnight and studying the classics outside with the meadow as a classroom. My husband and I spent the first year of our marriage teaching English in China, which allowed us to explore the great outdoors in a different country. Floating down rivers accompanied by water buffalo and sleeping in huts with lizards as bunk mates. Grand explorations of the great outdoors.

However, now that I’ve lived in South Texas for almost 6 years, and have two littles of my own, we don’t go on grand adventures much anymore. We’ve tried to make it a habit to go on walks and hikes in nature (yes! There is some in South Texas!) since we’ve moved here, but I won’t lie, it takes a lot of effort. More effort than it ever did growing up, being in college, or being newlyweds without a care in the world.

Since mid-March, that has changed a bit. My husband and I both started working from home and the girls stopped going to daycare. We’ve stopped having other commitments and started having less places to go. We’ve started going on walks around our neighborhood every-day after our work day ends and have stopped spending hours on commutes/drop-off/pick-up routines. We’ve gotten out the water toys and beach towels and have started having to de-clutter the backyard at night. We’ve made Saturdays a day for hiking to the local hidden gem of a lake along the city greenway. Arms are tanning and hair is lightening.

And ya know? So are spirits and attitudes. Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of screen time and whining and throwing of snacks to small children to stop said whining while conference calls have to happen for work. We’ve had bad days and stressful days and hard days and mad days because that’s life right now.

But we have been spending more time outside, and it is without a doubt, good for all of us.

Last week, after a particularly enthusiastic water fight in the backyard after work, the girls had gone to bed and my husband looked at me and said, “You’re in a really good mood. It was being outside, wasn’t it?” I guess after almost 8 years of marriage, he knows me pretty well.

“Yup.” I said, “I love the sun.”

It’s true too. Growing up, I used to go outside and just lay on our sidewalk in the sun. In college, when I had a sort of freak out and called home crying one day, my mom (also a sun lover) told me to “go outside in the sun for awhile.” And it worked. I have journal entries from my semester in England (where the sun did not shine practically the whole time I was there) that say, “the sun came out today. It was a good day.”

The sun. Being outside. It energizes me. I know the sun saps some people of energy, but for me, it gives me energy. Some of my best and most profound memories and moments have happened outside, either in the sun, or under the stars. Because for me, being outside… it’s life giving.

Vitamin D is good for humans. Fresh air is good for humans. We know this. You’ve heard it during this COVID-19 crisis – spend time outdoors while you are quarantined. We have all heard that being outside is good for us at some point in our lives. We have all probably encouraged someone else to go outside because we know it is good for the mind, body, and soul.

But I personally think it is more than just Vitamin D releasing neurotransmitters in our brain.

Nature, God’s first creation – is in a constant state of worship. God is the ultimate Creator, and His creation of the Earth was not a one-time event that happened and is now over. No, He continues to create – trees continue to grow, creatures continue to multiply, waters continue to writhe – all because of Him.

So is it any wonder that standing in the midst of creation; standing in the midst of all the trees of the fields clapping their hands, we should feel awe and a sense of peace?

When we go out into nature, we are standing in the masterpiece of our Maker.

We are standing in the middle of life being breathed into the Earth.

When we go and spend time in that sacred space, we are spending time with He who created, is presently creating, and will continue to create long after we are gone.

As we continue in this time where sickness is spreading and our contact with other humans is necessarily limited, let us not forget that we still have access to the active, and very much alive, creation by the hands of our Lord.

Let us not forget that no matter what, this Earth is His.

“The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” – Psalm 24:1

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.

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.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

“Because I am a woman and I will show you.”

I wrote these words when I was 19 weeks pregnant with Brynn and had just found out she was a girl (you can read the full post here). I was scared and excited and determined to raise a strong, independent little woman- with zero knowledge about what the heeccckkk was about to happen. I had no idea just how strong and independent that little girl would be at the tender age of 3 ½ or that there would be another little woman arriving on the scene in 2.5years.  I wrote about being the primary female role model for my little girl but had no idea just what implications came with that. I mean, I knew…but I didn’t know.  I wrote about allowing her to wear tutus and bows but didn’t know my living room floor would be perpetually littered with a variety of tutus in different colors and material with batman action figures nestled between them.  I wrote about not letting her win at games but didn’t know just how many games of Disney matching I would be playing or how often I would legitimately be losing to a 3year old. I wrote about letting her fall down, but didn’t know just how hard that would be for me (#enneagram6).  I wrote about putting Band-Aids on scraped knees but didn’t know how many Band-Aids I’d be putting on toenails because a “tiny piece was falling off and getting caught on the purple blanket” in her bed. I wrote about maintaining confidence and modeling that to her.  But I didn’t know that there are some days in Motherhood that shake even the firmest of confidences.

I. Had. No. Idea.

But mostly- I didn’t know what strength and independence that little girl and her future baby sister would teach me.

I didn’t know I would find a physical strength inside myself I didn’t know possible when I pushed out a 9lb11oz baby and then an 8lb14oz baby (without the epidural that time!).  I didn’t know I would experience probably the lowest my confidence has ever been when nursing was so painful and so frustrating, only to become one of the things I’m most proud of myself for sticking with. I didn’t know the physical, mental and emotional strength required for months (years because my kids hate sleeping) of nightly night feedings/soothings.   I didn’t know the amount of independence that would be required to ask for help and support from friends and family.  I didn’t know the kind of strength it takes to maintain a semblance of professionalism at work and grad school when your baby girl was up screaming all night so you slept on the floor next to the crib.  I didn’t know about the independence forced on you and strength forced from you when you take a newborn home from the hospital to a toddler who still needs your attention and a routine to be maintained.  I didn’t know how much strength it takes to remain patient and calm while a toddler is throwing a tantrum and a baby is screaming from gas pains. I didn’t know the kind of strength it takes to apologize to a 3 year old and ask for forgiveness for not remaining patient and calm.  I didn’t know the independence it takes to defend your choice to work and go to school instead of stay home with the kids.  I didn’t know the kind of strength required to feel like you have no idea what is going on, but realize you are somehow now the adult in charge.

I didn’t know the strength and independence that comes from being broken and wrung raw.

I didn’t know about Motherhood.

So today I say to you, my sweet baby girls:

Because I am a woman, I hope to show you what I’ve learned from being your Mama.

I hope to show you it takes strength to ask for help.

I hope to show you that you will fail, but you can try again because you are strong.

I hope to show you that plans will go awry, but you can use your independence to be adaptable and grow.

I hope to show you that your body will not be perfect by society’s standards, but it is strong and it is yours.

I hope to show you that confidence is important, but humility demonstrates strength of character.

I hope to show you that compassion and strength are not mutually exclusive but rather dependent on one another.

I hope to show you that there truly is strength in numbers – find your people and stick with them.

I hope to show you that it takes strong determination and hard work to reach your goals.

I hope to show you that your dreams and goals are worth fighting for with every bit of strength for the sole reason that they are yours.

I hope to show you that you have options in this world but it will take independence and strength to assert your yourselves in some of those options.

I hope to show you that without God’s strength, you will flounder, but with it you will soar.

I hope to show you self-compassion is a strength that will help you through hard times.

I hope to show you both so many things. So so many things.

Sweet girls, I know you are watching.  I know because I hear, “when I’m older I’m going to put cream in my coffee” after I pour creamer in my coffee in the morning.  I feel your little hands pet my hair while you announce, “when I’m older, I can have hair long long like yours and braid it like yours.”  I see your little eyes watching my hands as I demonstrate clapping and see concentrated focus while your chubby baby hands lurch towards each other in an attempt to mimic my behavior.  The gravity of these simplistic statements and movements is not lost on me my tiny loves. I feel the weight of my responsibility as your Mama and so I am trying my best.  Trying my best to demonstrate strength and independence in all forms because I am a woman and what I show you will inform your concept of what it means to be a woman.

What a weight that is.

Oh, but what an honor.

Mama loves you both, my little women.

“I know, Mama”

3 year olds are a trip.  Vocabulary is exploding, energy is endless and emotions are intense.

B has been surprising us daily with her use of words recently.  She’s always been ahead of the developmental curve in terms of cognitive ability- but recently we’ve been marveling.  The other day in the car, she was saying something (she is always saying something- like literally, unless she’s asleep, she’s talking….) and neither David nor I could understand one of the words.  (She has this nasally pronunciation of certain letters going on that makes it difficult sometimes.)  She kept repeating it over and over and I kept hearing “red” but it was clearly not the word she was saying.  In the past when this has happened, she would start crying out of frustration that we didn’t understand what she was trying to tell us.  However, this day she said “No, not red. ‘wet!’ .. like rain!”  I know it seems basic, we do it all the time, using context to get our point across, but it seemed so advanced for our little tiny 3 year old.  Later that same week she was trying to say something that we once again couldn’t understand- something that sounded like “call” or “mall”.  She said, relatively patiently- “No, like little. Not big, but little- ‘SMALL.’”  Small. She was describing, using synonyms and antonyms, the word small.   It’s amazing to me to think that just 3 years ago, she was a 3 month old baby who couldn’t do anything but eat, sleep, poop and smile.

With this blossoming of vocabulary, she is better able to demonstrate her understanding of concepts and express her desires more effectively.  This has diminished significantly the amount of frustration tantrums and general amount of crying.  It’s also allowing us to get to know her as the unique person she is becoming. She tells us great imaginative stories about her and her baby sister escaping jail with the help of nice monsters.  She cried indignantly, “My teeth are too sharp! WHY DID THEY DO THAT TO ME? I DON’T LIKE IT WHEN THEY DO THAT TO ME!” after biting her cheek for the first time a few weeks ago (side note: I was laughing so hard I couldn’t console her as she cried. Good thing David was there). She makes up games to play with hidden coins and shirt sleeves.  She “reads” her books to her sister while occasionally pausing to stroke her face and say “I love you.”  She tells strangers on the street about her love of ballet and demonstrates with no self-doubt her ballet moves she’s learning “Fridays in ballet class.”  She dances with abandon at Zoo light show and tells us in no uncertain terms that she “dances better” than us.  Her teachers constantly tell us how quickly she learns and grasps concepts and how they are sure she is going to be CEO or president of something someday.

I love it. I love her big personality and flair for the dramatic. I love her sweetness and desire to share constantly. I love her love to be around people and her constant chatter about her little best friends. I love her facial expressions that are starting to look a lot like mine and her concern for others that looks a lot like her Daddy’s.  I love her growing knowledge of Jesus and the Bible. I love her desire to learn and constant spelling of her name and Mama’s name. I love it all.

I love it all because I love her. And I love her simply because she’s mine.

And you know what? It makes me proud.  Proud of who she is and who she is becoming.  Proud that I get to be her Mama.  And- yes- proud of the job I’m doing as her Mama.

Don’t get me wrong, there are pleennntttyy of days I’m not proud of her behavior – or mine for that matter.  Her booty has a comfortable spot in the timeout corner and I threaten to unplug her purple lights or turn off her music at bedtime more often than I’d like. She bit her best friend at school out of the blue a few months ago (having no history of being a biter) and guys- I. Was. Mortified.  With her expanding use of words and knowledge of concepts has come the innate human tendency to lie and use that intellect for sassing.  Her strong independence I prayed for when she was in my tummy was granted and is now being demonstrated with glares and “hmmphss” and “That’s not fair!” and “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP! I’M NOT *yyaaaawwwnnnn* TIRED!”.  Also… did I mention she’s three?

So yes, sometimes I apologize for B’s outbursts or joke about how cray cray she is because she is at 100% energy All. Of. The. Time. But actually- I feel like her Daddy and I are doing a pretty good job at this parenting thing.  When I think about  my childhood- I don’t remember the times I’m sure my parents were embarrassed with a tantrum I had.  I don’t remember my parents holding the door shut to my room because I wouldn’t take a nap (supposedly this happened but who knows for sure 😉 ).  I remember being put in “VTO” (“Verbal Time Out”- how the heck did they get this to work?) but I don’t have negative emotions attached to those memories.  Because my parents did/are doing a heck of a job as parents.  And by that I mean they made sure we understood the most important concept a child should learn from their parents– I knew I was loved.  I knew I was loved no matter what. No matter what I did or said or broke. No matter how much I disobeyed or talked back.  No matter what.

I knew I was loved. And I still know it to this day.

So, when I say I think David and I are doing a pretty good job at this parenting gig? I don’t mean that I don’t have to sometimes apologize to my 3 year old and ask for her forgiveness for reacting poorly to her disobeying.  Because I do.  I don’t mean that I sometimes let her watch a movie just because I am done and tired and want her to stop talking for a minute.  Because I do.  I don’t mean that I feed her vegetables and make her eat them all before leaving the table every night. Because I don’t.  I don’t mean that I am 100% consistent with discipline. Because I’m not.  I don’t mean that I never give in to her whining and toddler demands. Because I do.  I don’t mean that sometimes more time passes between baths than it should. Because it does.  I don’t mean that sometimes I snap with my own sass at the little girl who is testing the limits. Because I do.

I don’t mean by any stretch am I a perfect parent. Because I am far from it. But I do think I’m getting the important message across.

Because as we snuggled on the couch during that extra TV time that probably should have been filled with books or something, I leaned over and said “I love you” and she said “I know, Mama.” And after I got done pinning her to the ground to squeeze pus out of a staph infected boil on her booty while she shrieked in pain and yelled “Don’t ever do that again!”, I said “I’m sorry, I don’t like to do this either. But I love you.” She said sniffling, “I know, Mama.” And after every timeout as we talk about why she was in timeout I say “I love you” and she says “I know, Mama.” And for the nights we do make her eat her vegetables and she gags on them because she hates them so much- I say (after exchanging covert eye rolls with David at the drama) “I love you” and she says “I know, Mama.” And when we are getting ready for bed and I go back in her room for the 3rd time to tell her to stop kicking the wall so she doesn’t wake up her sister- “Good night, I love you.” I hear her little voice say from the million blankets, “I know, Mama.”

And after I saw her little face break into tears and saw her shrink back against the couch after I got mad at her- I pulled her close and said “I’m sorry I snapped at you. I was mad because you hurt me, but I shouldn’t have reacted that way. You know mama loves you right?” she looked at me, clutched me tight and said “I know, Mama.  A lot.”

And I believe her because she does know. Her little words demonstrate big understanding.  My little girl knows I love her.  And that means I’m doing a heck of a job as a parent.

With it being the beginning of a new year, I’m seeing all these posts about resolutions with #NewYearNewMe attached to them.  And sure, I have goals I’d like to work towards and growth is always something to strive for.  But when it comes to parenting, overall- I look forward to 2019 and all the “I know, Mamas” I’m going to hear by being the same ol’ Mama that loves her babies fiercely.

#NewYearSameMama

 

(Lest you think I’ve forgotten my sweet (almost 7 month old :O ) Baby M- there is no doubt she too knows Mama loves her- she is 100% Mama’s girl 😉 )

Keeping Watch

A few weeks ago, my husband and I both got food poisoning the same day.  Well, he woke up in the middle of the night puking and stayed home from work the next day, but I only felt nauseous and really needed to get my internship hours so I went ahead and took the girls to daycare and went to go counsel people.  Bad idea. I felt terrible the whole day, utilized my uber strength and fought the urge to puke until my last client of the day left my office and I ran to the bathroom and let it fly. Then I went back to my desk, wrote a note and promptly texted my friends about my misfortune. That’s not too abnormal as I’ve always been what most would say is overly comfortable discussing bodily functions (ask my parents about our dinner conversations growing up).  As I was joking about barfing on the way home, my friends were empathizing with me (and possibly thinking I was crazy since I was laughing about being sick but hey we all cope in our own way;) ) and asking what they could do to help.

You see, they are my mom friends.

They understood that being sick was one thing, never fun to be puking anywhere or at any time. However, they also understood that I wouldn’t just be going home to lay on the couch, binge watching TV with a trashcan next to me, sipping sprite until I felt better. They knew that when I sent them a pic of the giant trash bag I snatched on the way out of my office to have in the car in case the urge came, I would be driving to pick up my almost 3year old (who has an unnatural amount of energy even for a toddler) and my 4month old baby – who literally can’t do anything for herself yet (slacker…) from daycare and taking them home where I would then have to continue to keep them alive despite feeling like I was on the verge of death myself.

When one of them responded to my pic of the bag next to me in the car with “I can’t laugh at this with a clear conscience but I am definitely laughing. I’m so sorry. Praying you won’t need to use it!” and the other responded with “I am picturing Kiley puking the whole way home while driving down the interstate. The bag is ridiculously full and she just acts like it’s an everyday thing. My friends are wonder women!” I was so grateful.  So grateful to have friends who knew. Who got it.  And who were there to laugh with/at me in my misery.  Friends who knew that I’d be nursing my baby while postponing my inevitable trip to the bathroom.  Friends who knew I’d be tucking in my toddler with my sick husband hobbling into the room so we could both read her her Bible story and sing her her song.  Friends who knew because they had been there too- because they are my mom friends.

But not just any kind of mom friends- real mom friends.

I’ve been lucky enough, or maybe my parents just did a really good job about teaching me how to make quality friends, to have real friends throughout my life- high school, college, post college and now in this season of motherhood I have added real Mom friends.  Mom friends at church, childhood friends turned mom friends, college friends who are now mom friends- here in Texas and in different states (thanks technology). Real mom friends are ones who never judge or give advice when not warranted.  Who don’t say “Kiley, you really shouldn’t stop and get your kid a happy meal even though you are sick” or “You know, if you had your baby on a better sleep routine, you wouldn’t be so tired.”  Nope.

And when I send them texts confessing my not so best moments of parenting in reaction to my child’s not so best moments of obeying- I don’t get advice about how to discipline better. I get a meme in return that perfectly depicts how I’m feeling with “I feel ya man” attached to it.

When they see my toddler having a tantrum there are no hurtful words of “Well my child has never acted like that.”  No, these are real mom friends who said “Haha, don’t worry my kid will probably hit your kid first” when I mentioned apologetically that my one year old was in an “assertive” (ok, she was pushing kids down and trampling them for awhile) phase.  Real mom friends who send me pics of their thinning postpartum hair after I mentioned how much hair was falling out of my own head.  Real mom friends who say “Oh I would be so mad too” when I told them about when my toddler colored on her new bed and I got mad.  Real mom friends who say “Is it ok to ignore your toddler if they aren’t going to listen anyway?” and don’t scoff when I respond with “I hope so because I’ve done that before.” Real mom friends who oogle over your new baby with love and affection. Real mom friends who send you pump wipes in the mail because you developed thrush from being so busy at internship to properly clean your pump parts on top of the 4 clogged ducts that same week.  Real mom friends who will meet from 8pm to midnight after work and children’s bedtime to get some pancakes, coffee and sanity- giving up precious sleep and alone time with husbands.  Real mom friends who send snapchats of their kids being weirdos just like yours. Real mom friends who help calm fears when you think you have prolapsed uterus after birthing 2 giant babies. Real mom friends who laugh with you when you find out that is definitely not happening.  Real mom friends who encourage you to go after your dreams that don’t revolve around your kids. Real mom friends who commiserate the pain of childbirth and difficulties nursing without offering suggestions unless asked.  Real mom friends who celebrate surprise positive pregnancy tests and milestones of children. Real mom friends who rock the sweatpants, spit-up shirt and messy bun with you. Real mom friends who tell you your fried chicken diet doesn’t show and who say “You guys. You both look great too. Like, we’re three sexy beasts.” Then proceed to say they are hot boxing their van with farts while waiting to pick up their kids in the same conversation.

Real mom friends don’t pretend to have it all together or expect me to either.  They are just there. Being real in the good moments, the not so great moments, and even the bad moments.

These are the mom friends I surround myself with.  This is the kind of mom friend I try to be.

If you are here, you know I like to write. You know I have a blog. You know my blog is primarily about my life as a working, grad-schooling, mother.  You know I talk about cracked nipples, intense love of my two adorable daughters and chucking chicken nuggets in my toddler’s car seat while trying my best to figure out this parenting thing.

This “real mom friend” thing is my why.

It’s why the pictures on my blog are not white washed and trendily posed like “successful blog” pictures are supposed to be. It’s why I don’t have “Top 10 ways to be a good mother” posts like “successful blogs” are supposed to have. It’s why my “blog” will never bring in any income.  Successful blogs are successful because they offer services to people and are run like a business- and props to them! However- I’m not a business person.  I don’t have marketing tools or services to offer.

I’m just a random lady, who likes to use writing techniques as a way to express thoughts as a means for “holding space” for myself and allowing others to virtually enter into that space with me.  A place for me to be a “real mom friend” to moms out there who maybe feel the pressure to be a “successful blog” mom instead of the human mom that they are. I have the blessing of having many real mom friends and real non-mom friends in the flesh in my life, but I know- through conversations with people in my own life, and through talking with my counseling clients- that not everyone has people or even one person to hold space with them in their vulnerability or celebrate with them in their joy.

Sometimes, my admission of being in grad school for my masters in Counseling is met with a response of “Oh so you give people advice about their life?” or “Can you tell me what to do about my problems then?”  And I say “no- go read a blog for that” – Just kidding, but I try to explain what my 60hr grad program that includes: a practicum, two semesters of internship that require 300hours each, and then 3,000hours of in the field practice after graduation before the title of Licensed Professional Counselor is granted- is training me to do.  And while I can talk about reframing cognitions, reality testing or various creative interventions – a huge part of what I’m learning to do is hold space for people in their vulnerability.  To be present in that space without giving in to that human compulsion we seem to have to offer advice or try to “fix”.  To give people the space to be real.  This may sound basic. This may sound like something that shouldn’t take training. This may sound like the basic concept of listening. This may sound like the very center of being human.

And yet…

When Jesus said to his friends “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” they couldn’t.  They fell asleep while their Lord was weeping and when he returned he said “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?”  Jesus wasn’t asking them to give him advice about what he was about to do. He wasn’t asking them to take a cute pic of his feet while he prayed.  He wasn’t asking them to pretend to be something or give him anything.  He was simply asking them to be with him, alert and prayerful, in his time of need.

So this is what I strive for.  To be like Jesus and express my need for others and try to do my best at what he called his disciples to do for him. Be there- because we were not created to live life alone.

This is my why.  Why I write about bodily fluids and emotions that either make me uncomfortable or giddy.  Because they are real. Because everyone has them. And because everyone needs to know they are not alone in their real-ness.

*October is mental health awareness month.  Feeling alone is so real for so many people and can have such drastic effects on life. Please talk to someone, professional or non, if you feel alone or overwhelmed. There are people who care and who want to sit with you in your real-ness.*