Broken Kitchen Cabinets

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The day started with a cold and dark awakening. Eyes open before the sun even began to peak over the horizon. I was squeezed in bed between two tiny bodies with a chorus of echoing cries; my children’s needs already pressing in on me from both sides.

As I dragged myself out of bed and began the marathon of racing from one emergency to the next as two children needed something and everything all at once, I realized it was not going to be one of those days where I could embrace the joys of motherhood. The darkness of the early morning never truly yielded, but simply faded to a cold grey; a staple of an unrelenting Chicago winter. The weather settled in for the day, reflecting the mood of our household. Smiles were overshadowed by tears, laughter drowned out by screams.

I wasn’t able to be in a space of responding to the kids, thinking and processing with depth and compassion. There was no time for all of that on this dark day. I was merely reacting, attempting to put out fires before another cropped up.

The day wore on and the needs of my children continued to pummel me incessantly, an attack on all senses. The sound of deafening screams exhaled from tiny bodies. The feel of little hands endlessly grabbing for and lashing against my own body. The smell of diapers that needed changing and a house that needed a good scrub. The sight of tears and chaos all around.

One child finally went to sleep, the other awoke. No break. No space to breathe. It was all too much.

I set a crying baby on the floor surrounded by a pile of toys. Grabbing myself a glass of water, I shut the kitchen cabinet a bit too hard. The sharp thwack of wood hitting wood, the freedom of swinging my arm with all its strength felt strangely liberating. I opened the cabinet door and slammed it again. And again. And again. The kitchen cabinet graciously granted me five swings before it’s fifty year old hinges finally gave way. The solid maple door landed with a heavy thud on our hardwood floor. Then a moment of silence.

I looked up, stunned. Glancing out the window I saw our dog in the backyard staring back at me. She had heard the thud. “Are you okay?” her soulful eyes seemed to be asking me through the smears of our dirty door panes and my own tears. Was I?

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Sometimes motherhood feels like this. Heavier than a kitchen cabinet. Darker than a winter night. Harder than I ever could have imagined. Often it feels as if I, like that cabinet, am being slammed by needs over and over and over again. Sometimes I wonder if the hinges will hold me or if I, too, will break. And there are days where I find myself broken.

But I hold on. And I realize that broken can often be a passageway to better, rather than a permanent state of being in which I must reside.

I learn. I learn about limits, both my children’s and my own. I learn about grace, for what I have done and what I can’t do. And I learn about fixing, what needs to be repaired and what needs to be let go.

At the end of the day, even the worst days, comes help and hope. I lean into my need for help, whether it’s a hug or a listening ear or a hand with the kids. I hold onto the hope that tomorrow we can be a bit calmer, tomorrow will be a bit easier for all that we have learned today.

My husband came home and fixed the broken kitchen cabinet, skillfully refastening the door without question or judgement. Words weren’t necessary to know that he was there for me, believing in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself. His arms embraced me in the reassurance that even on my broken days, I’m doing okay.

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The Un-Gift Guide

I recently wrote about my distaste for the tradition of forced gifting for the holidays and the unnecessary stuff that comes along with it. But I know, too, that gifting brings immense joy, and a carefully curated present can be a heartfelt expression of love. I’m also aware that there are some societal pressures around gifting and, right or wrong, we will all probably still want a few things to wrap up for others. So I’d like to think outside the (Amazon) box when it comes to gifts and give some alternate ways to spread joy and cheer. Think of it less as a gift guide, and more as ideas to inspire your own unique and meaningful giving.

Ask for a wish list. Yes, you may want to show that you’re the mastermind of creativity and able to read minds to discern the perfect gift. But you’ll save a lot of hassle if you just ask someone what they want or need. If they say nothing, respect that too. Not everyone needs (or even wants) a gift.

Do a gift exchange. Rather than struggling to find a million small or meaningless gifts for everyone, see if your family or friend group would be open to an exchange. That way you can focus more effort and money towards something specific that your gift-ee might enjoy. My sister-in-law suggested a gift exchange for our family gifting this year and I could not respond “yes!” fast enough!

Give the gift of time. In today’s fast paced world, it seems like we never have enough time. Finding a way to help loved ones feel like they have a bit more time, especially in this season of busyness, can be such a blessing. Whether is offering to babysit so a couple can have a rare date, driving carpool so another momma can focus on herself or her other babies, or bringing over a meal so a neighbor doesn’t have to worry about cooking and cleaning. A few more minutes and a few less burdens are what we all need.

Share an experience. Living far from family, I can tell you there is no greater gift than time reconnecting with my favorite people. It could be sharing a cup of coffee and cozy conversation with a friend or enjoying a pedicure with your sister. Maybe it’s simply taking your grandchild to play at the park or taking your mom out to lunch and truly connecting. These are the gifts that will last. Memories made and relationships strengthened.

Give something consumable. Food is love. Coffee is life. (Or maybe it’s should be the other way around…) In any case, food, coffee, brownies, cookies, cake, etc. are perfectly acceptable and often preferred gifts in my book. If you give someone something they can enjoy in the moment, but doesn’t have to take up space in their home, it’s the best of both worlds.

Make something. Many of us have creative talents that are lying dormant just waiting for an opportunity to blossom. What better excuse than Christmas to brush off your crafting skills and make something with your whole heart. Bonus points if you can use what you already have on hand. You may feel like you don’t have time or talent, but even if you just bake a batch of store bought cookie dough, it’s something that you’ve had a hand in creating and is made with love.

Support local artisans. If getting your hands dirty for gift making doesn’t strike your fancy, it’s very likely there is someone else in your vicinity who has already done the dirty work of creating something beautiful. Maybe you have a talented friend you would love to support. Or scout out a local craft fair and connect with the person behind the wares. You’ll not only be giving your loved one a one of a kind gift, you’ll be giving hope to a budding business in your community.

Support a cause. What do you give to someone who already has everything? A gift for another who truly needs it. There are big organizations like Heifer International where you can donate an actual animal (or part of one) to help a family in need in another part of the world. Or if you prefer to keep it local, there are countless community charitable organizations that could use your aid. Our church hosts a really cool concept called Spirit Village, which allows you to stroll through a decorative Victorian marketplace, complete with caroling and live animals, and shop for unconventional gifts to support domestic and global outreach, ranging from donkeys of firewood to shoes and school uniforms for underprivileged children overseas. It’s a win-win-win in my opinion – family fun, supporting the missions of our local church, and gifting for those we love while giving to those in need.

Write a note. It can be words of encouragement, a note of thanks for being so incredible, or a love letter. As a writer I believe words are powerful and lasting and windows to our soul. So what greater gift could there be than something written from the heart?

Embrace the gift of nothing. I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating. Sometimes it’s ok to just not give a gift, regardless of what society may think. Maybe some people on our list also feel a sense of lightness and relief in not receiving a gift and feeling pressured to respond in kind. Maybe we can all agree that our love for one another does not have to be wrapped up and put under the tree. Maybe our giving and showing of love does not have to be limited to one day or season. Maybe I’ll find something I know you’ll adore next week or next month or next year and I’ll send you a happy little mid-year surprise. Or maybe not, because I’m forgetful and distracted and busy and don’t really love shopping, and I hope you know that it’s no reflection of how deeply I care.

A gift from the heart, no matter how small, bears infinitely more value than a million meaningless tokens masked in beautiful wrapping. Give with love and you will have always selected the best gift, even if it’s not something you’ll find under the tree.

What are some of your favorite alternative gifting traditions? I would love to hear more ideas and inspiration for spreading joy and cheer!

Enough with the Stuff

The holiday season is officially upon us and though the Thanksgiving turkey has yet to be cooked, everyone is in a frenzy to start checking gifts off Christmas lists. Black Friday is in t-minus 7 days, which means we have less than a week to figure out how to get the most for the cheapest. And if we can only just find the perfect gifts for everyone, then all will be well and our holiday season will be perfect too.

I say enough. Enough with the stuff. I, for one, have had enough of the notion of forced or arbitrary gifting for a holiday.

I’ve had enough of the stress, both emotional and financial, of having to show someone you care by getting them physical possessions. Some people are masters of finding the perfect gifts for others. Some people actually even enjoy the process – the hunt for something a loved one will adore. Gifting is their love language. But I am not this person. I am the person who overthinks what I should get someone for weeks, wait until the last minute when I still have no ideas or time, and buy something random that I know the person might not actually enjoy. Yet I feel like I need to get them something. So the dollars fly out of my wallet, and along with them my dreams of owning a house or enjoying a vacation. Because, let’s be honest, gifting is expensive. Even if you plan to keep it small or set budgets, when you multiply the small gifts by all the family, friends, neighbors, teachers, whomever that you need to buy for, it can quickly add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. Of small stuff. Which brings me to my next point…

I’ve had enough of being on the receiving end of gifts that I don’t actually want or need, and that just take up space in my home and life. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but I don’t really need another mug / scarf / decorative candle holder. It’s not that I don’t appreciate them, I am blessed with many loved ones who have impeccable taste and give me lovely gifts. But the problem is me. I am woefully disorganized and a trail of clutter seems to follow my every move. This problem is increased exponentially with young children and all the stuff that’s required to keep them fed, clothed and entertained on a daily basis. I wish I was better at keeping things stowed away in their rightful place, but I’m not. So when gifts we may not need come into our house, one of two things usually happens: 1. They get thrown into our office and forgotten because I can’t deal with the task of finding a place for them or, 2. They create more clutter on our floor / counter / life that simply stresses me out. I’m realizing more and more that stuff, and the effort it takes to maintain and put away said stuff, is a huge drain on my energy and joy. Isn’t spreading joy what we’re all striving for, especially this time of year?

I’ve had enough of how consumerism steals the joy and overshadows the meaning of Christmas. Did you know that Christmas isn’t actually about physical presents? Are you aware that Santa and stocking stuffers are not really requirements of a happy holiday? If you come from a Christian tradition, as I do, it might be worthwhile to focus on the greatest gifts of Christmas – the gift of God with us, the gift of grace. Regardless of your belief system, though, it’s so much more meaningful to spend time with the people you love rather than stressing about shopping for them. It’s easy to forget in the fanfare of the holidays what this season is all about. So I’d personally like to quiet some of the noise and the demands to create space and time to focus on family and faith. Maybe it’s necessary to clear away the unnecessary in order to see what’s most important; what we already possess. Unlike Christmas clutter, these are the gifts that last.

I’ve had enough of the wastefulness of buying something for one day that will have an impact on our planet for years to come. This may be the biggest issue that is often overlooked when it comes to unnecessary gifting. The non-renewable resources that go into producing the kitsch items we often give as gifts deplete our land and pollute our environment. An abysmally large proportion of gifts are discarded within six months because they have broken, become obsolete, or were never needed / wanted in the first place. For a fleeting moment of joy, we are filling our landfills for the foreseeable future. I think the most awakening summation of this issue I’ve read comes from this article, which gives the touching advice: “Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for God’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.” Our children don’t need another toy from Santa to know that we care, they need a future where they can continue to enjoy the beauty of the Earth we walk upon.

So maybe this year, instead of rushing off to stores before Thanksgiving leftovers have even be put away, we sit with those we’re lucky enough to be surrounded by just a bit longer. Maybe instead of running all over town, filling our heads with stress, we appreciate where we are and fill our hearts with memories. Maybe instead of adding more clutter this Christmas, we leave space for what matters most. Maybe we can all agree that we already have enough without the extra stuff.

At the risk of sounding like a complete Grinch, I feel compelled to offer some Christmas hope. Here’s the truth, as much as I don’t want to give or receive unnecessary stuff, I’ll still give some gifts, and so will you I’d guess, which is wonderful if done with mindfulness and love. So I’ll be following up with a list of ideas to make your gifting more impactful for those you love and less impactful on your level of stress, finances, and our Earth.

Small Gratitudes

It’s the month of Thanksgiving. The time of year when we see grocery store aisles brimming with turkey and stuffing and Facebook feeds filling with daily reminders of gratitude. Many people partake in a lovely tradition where they record and post one thing they are thankful for each day during the month of November. I think this is a beautiful practice, but I’ve never been able to maintain it with any consistency. You see, I’m woefully forgetful and far too easily distracted, so I make it to about day three before my efforts begin to taper off.

Instead, I decided to practice a day of gratitude. Rather than finding 30 things I’m thankful for over the course of the month, I decided to challenge myself to find 30 things to be thankful for in a single ordinary day. The thing is, its in the ordinary, the mundane of everyday life, that we can often find the extraordinary. But we must be willing to slow down, shift our perspective, and notice.

These are just a few of the many magical moments sprinkled throughout my day that often go overlooked, but for which I am so thankful:

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1. Tiny baby fingers grasping my arm and snuggling warm in bed in the dark and cold of the early morning.

2. The magic of a toddler growing in independence. Getting out of bed and going to the bathroom by herself and amazing us with what she’s learning every day.

3. My husband going in just a little late to work so he can share breakfast with our family.

4. The all too loud sounds and overwhelming mayhem in the morning that mean our house is bursting with life.

5. A warm cup of coffee with a perfect swirl of cream and just the right amount of sweetness.

6. A baby who stops nursing just to look up at me with the most gorgeous gummy grin.

7. The music of little pots and pans clanging together in a play kitchen.

8. My daughters sitting on the kitchen floor, without caring how dirty it is, playing joyfully together.

9. The cold damp air on my cheeks as we head out for a misty morning walk.

10. Moving my body and stretching my legs as I breathe in the peace of the outdoor world.

11. The smell of fall. Not of artificial pumpkin spice, but of peaty fallen leaves and dewy grass.

12. The wonder of a child discovering an acorn or a worm on a walk in the park.

13. How excited the dog gets to see a squirrel. Tongue out, tail wagging wildly as she can barely contain her fierce energy.

14. Conversations with a neighbor. Dreaming together of exotic vacations with sunny skies and sandy beaches.

15. A friend getting my toddler a cup of water at storytime since my hands are so full and my mind is so frenzied.

16. The most caring librarians who always remember the children’s names, have the patience of saints, and engage the kids in such fun programs.

17. A kind compliment from a stranger telling me I’m handling my children so gracefully when in that moment I feel the exact opposite.

18. A hot meal out shared with my daughter, which feels like such a special indulgence, as we smile at each other across pot roast and mac & cheese.

19. The luxury of being able to buy groceries and feed my family.

20. Running through cold rain and climbing into a warm car to escape it.

21. An easy nap time. The rare and beautiful gift of my toddler drifting off to sleep without a battle.

22. The quiet and sacred breathing of both children sleeping simultaneously.

23. A meal eaten in silence and solitude. And consumed in one sitting.

24. A baby who won’t stay asleep without me nestled beside her, because it means I have no choice but to take a much needed break.

25. My daughters entertaining themselves and each other as they play so I can cook dinner in relative peace.

26. The warmth of a bear hug from my husband when he walks through the door.

27. Dancing while cleaning the kitchen as my girls stare at me with wide eyes and big smiles.

28. Little wet footprints on the floor after my daughter climbs out of the bath.

29. The sweet smell of clean babes with wet hair and snuggly pajamas.

30. The even sweeter taste of chocolate devoured after the kids are asleep.

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In the noticing of these little sparks of joy, the day actually felt so much more peaceful, happy, and slightly magical. Each challenge I met throughout the day provided an opportunity to look for the positive. The seeking was like a reset button, reminding me to step back and gain perspective.

While none of my moments were anything earth shattering or momentous, they were glimpses of the happiness that can often be overshadowed by busy schedules and grocery store meltdowns and sticky floors. They are the small wonders that lie between the mess of daily life, which at the end of the day is what its all about.

As one of my very favorite quotes by one of my very favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, reminds me:

“Maybe life doesn’t get any better than this, or any worse, and what we get is just what we’re willing to find: small wonders, where they grow.”

Momma, You Are Doing Enough

Here’s a secret no one told me about motherhood. Or maybe they did and I just wasn’t listening closely. The secret is, motherhood can be truly all consuming. It can feel like I’m treading, just trying to keep up with the day to day demands. Yet when I look up, everyone else seems capable of doing it all and so much more. There’s the mom with the great career or the one with the spotless house. There’s the mom having fun with friends or venturing across the globe or running a marathon. It seems like no matter how much I do, there will always be more that I should be accomplishing; it will never be enough.

But being a mom, and all the simplicity and complexity that entails, is enough.

So here’s a reminder and reassurance, to myself and to you and to all of us treading through motherhood together, that whatever we are doing is already enough.

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You might think that you should be more doggedly chasing down your career goals; going back into the workforce or pursuing a promotion at you current job. But your time and energy and soul have limits. Embrace those limits and accept that it’s ok to lean out a bit when and where you can. Work and worth are not solely defined by numbers on a paycheck. You are doing enough.

Maybe you feel like you should be pursuing your passions, working on a project with all your heart. But maybe your kids are your passion right now, and that’s ok. Or maybe they’re not, but you’re too damn tired to figure out what your passions are. That’s ok too. You are doing enough.

You may feel like you should be traveling the world; experiencing life and making new memories. But to your little people you are the world; the leader of life and the maker of memories. Embrace seeing the world around you anew through their eyes. You are doing enough.

Maybe you think that you should be working out more. Running and shaping and toning your body to it’s pre-kid self. But your body has been a vessel of life and nourishment, which has shaped it in a new and different and spectacular way. Be kind to it – stretch it and move it – but be gentle on your tired bones. Appreciate all that your beautiful body has already done. You are doing enough.

Or maybe you wish that you could constantly cook up homemade organic and vegan and gluten free Pinterest-perfect recipes that the whole family would enjoy. But at the end of the day, the people and conversations around the dinner table are more important than what’s served on top. You are doing enough.

Perhaps you feel that you should go out more and keep up with friends. But sometimes the magic lies within the walls that surround you and the relationships cultivated with those who share your walls. Allow yourself the space to enjoy the magic moments right in front of you. You are doing enough.

Or you think you should stay home more to catch up on cooking and cleaning and laundry. But those chores will always be there. Sadly, there is no end in sight to the to-do list. So let go for a little while and explore what makes your soul come alive. Sharing this joy with your children is one of the sweetest fruits of life. You are doing enough.

You might be looking for tangibles, tasks to check off your to-do list, and it seems like a day with your children has resulted in nothing. But you are shaping souls, you are crafting character. There could be no nobler task. You are doing enough.

Maybe most days feel like it’s everything you can do just to keep up. Getting everyone fed and changed and fed and changed again is all you manage to accomplish. But you have kept another human alive; this is no small feat. You are doing so much more than enough.

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Motherhood is full of strange contradictions and often we feel like we’re doing everything and accomplishing nothing. But never underestimate how much you are truly doing. The small daily details that may never be seen or appreciated by anyone else are the building blocks to little lives. Each seemingly mundane or meaningless task you are doing is building a strong and sturdy foundation for your children. Your patience and presence through all the endless needs is the keystone that keeps your family standing.

Momma, you are doing enough. You are enough.

 

Dear Baby Girl

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Dear Baby Girl,

It is impossible to believe that two years have already passed since you burst into our world. The first words I blearily uttered when I saw your sweet face were “It’s ok, it’s a whole new world.” And it was, for both of us. A more beautiful, if sometimes more challenging, world than I ever could have imagined.

In the past two years, there have been countless moments where I’ve embraced the bliss of new motherhood, and just as many where I’ve felt like I’m completely failing at this parenting thing. There have been sleepless nights that felt like they would never end and frustrating days that I wished would end faster. But somehow all that time, those seemingly endless baby days, now feels like it has passed in the blink of an eye.

When you look up at me with those big brown eyes, or reach for me with your soft delicate hand, I still see that new babe who I first nestled in my arms two years ago. The shining light of my life, my beloved baby. But when I take a step back, I see with an aching heart that with each passing day you are less and less of a baby and more and more of a little girl.

No longer do you need me, or even want me, for everything. As you’ve shown with your continually emerging stubborn independence, you are no longer a helpless babe, but a fierce individual with ideas and opinions and autonomy. It’s amazing, yet slightly bittersweet, to watch this growth. Every day you surprise me with your grasp of new words and concepts. You amaze me with your intelligence and compassion and curiosity and quirky sense of humor. In each new situation, I’m delighted to see your sparkling personality shine through.

It feels like a daily gift to discover more and more of who you are. This is a gift for which I am not always the best at showing gratitude. So many of our days seem to pass in a blur of diapers and dishes and laundry. You keep us on our toes and never stop moving. Some days, when “Momma” echoes through the house endlessly and my arms and patience are exhausted from constant requests for “up” or “help” or “more,” it’s easy to forget that you won’t always want me to hold you; you won’t always need me to comfort you. But when I lie next to you at night and breathe in your sweet stillness, I remember again the incredible blessing that I get to be the one you call Momma.

Thank you, baby girl, for coming into our world and igniting it with infectious joy. Thank you for your patience as I’m constantly learning how to be your Momma. Thank you for the beautiful beacons of hope you provide throughout the day – your mischievous smile, your unbeatable hugs, your slobbery kisses, and your amusing words. Thank you for the endless well of love and learning that you bring to our family. Thank you for being my first little love; for making me a Momma.

As I watch you grow each day, you make me grow just as much. You continue to push me beyond what I thought was possible – physically and mentally and emotionally – towards a love previously unimaginable. And for that and you, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Happy Birthday, sweet baby girl!

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Poppa, The Great

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This guy. In the past 15 months, this guy has surpassed any and all of my wildest dreams and expectations of the father he would be to our daughter. And I am a gal of high expectations.

Though I knew in my heart that my husband would be a great dad, in my mind I worried how he would take to this life-changing little person who burst into our world. He’s a guy who shied away from holding our nieces and nephews as babies because he’s “not a baby person.” He’s a guy who laid out every real or imagined constraint that a baby would place on our lives. He’s a guy who, when I told him I was pregnant, responded with a nervous and questioning “congrats?”.

But he’s also a guy who has the incredible patience and compassion and persistence that it takes to care for a new life.

From the moment our daughter was born, he was there. He was there for her and he was there for me. In the trenches, all of us together, a family. He never hesitated to endlessly bounce our fussy newborn on an exercise ball. Never groaned about taking our sleepless babe at 5:00 am even when he had to leave for work at 6:00 am because I couldn’t hold my eye se open another minute. Never thought twice about curling up in bed with our child who can only sleep with human touch. He rose to his role as a father when neither our baby nor myself had the words or energy to thank him. This wonderful guy shepherded our growing family through that first foggy phase of new parenthood, helping us to evolve and emerge into new and beautiful places.

Since that early hazy period, so much has changed; and this guy continues to grow as a father to meet the ever-changing demands of our toddler daughter. His success as a father is reflected in the joyful spark that lights up our daughter’s eyes. He is her favorite playmate, most brilliant teacher, hilarious entertainment, and all-around hero. Throughout the day a chorus of “Poppa” echoes through our house (long before there were any utterances of “Momma”, I might add). And when the prodigal Poppa returns from work each day, the excited squeals emitted by our one-year-old could rival a group of tweens at a One Direction concert. He is her world, and it’s such a stunning sight to see.

I was the girl who always wanted to be a mother; my husband was the guy who was more reluctant to become a father. Yet everyday he is the one who is teaching me how to do this parenthood thing. He shows me that being a parent isn’t about the rules or expectations, it’s everything that lies in between – the endless capacity to love, the inspiring opportunities to play, the wonder of seeing the world through a new perspective and learning together, always together.

These are the things that make a great father, and these are the qualities that I’ve loved to see take flight in my husband as he embraces his role of proud Poppa and boldly leads our daughter into a world of limitless opportunity.

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This guy is simply the best.

Dear Momma

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Dear Momma,

I’m sorry; I’ve failed you this Mother’s Day. Your card is still sitting on the kitchen counter, buried under a pile of unopened mail topped by an un-done to-do list. Besides, it isn’t even an actual Mother’s Day card since Trader Joe’s only carried generic cards and I didn’t have it in me to stop yet again when the baby and I both so desperately needed a nap.

You get it, I know. You’ve been doing this mom thing for thirty-plus years. And I get it now too. Though I’m only a year into motherhood, it’s more than enough to make me realize all that all that you’ve done for me, from the moment of my birth; all that you continue to do as I grow into a mother. Over this past year, I’ve come to love and appreciate and respect you in a whole new way.

The very reason I can’t manage to get a simple card in the mail is the same reason that you deserve so much more than Trader Joe’s ninety-nine cent sentiments. Motherhood is hard. Without your love and support and guidance as I fumble my way through, I would be lost. Your gifts to me have been selfless and priceless and limitless.

What do I get for the woman who gave me everything? Who has not only shepherded me as I become a mother, but has risen to great and beautiful heights as a grandmother.

How do I say thank you for jumping in your car, driving all day, just so you could hold my shaking hand as I prepared to bring my daughter into this world?

How can I repay you for the countless vacation days you have spent washing my dishes, walking my dog, and taking care of me, so I could take care of the endless needs of a new baby?

Where do I find the words to tell you what it meant when you miraculously appeared at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., when I was at my wits end with a baby who Would. Not. Sleep.? Giving me a break when I needed it the most.

No gift could express the gratitude I felt when I faced you the next morning, bleary eyed and grumpy, and you didn’t tell me what I could be doing differently to get my child to sleep. You never questioned why my one-year-old wasn’t sleeping through the night. Instead you simply embraced me and told me the one thing I most needed to hear; the one thing I was most doubting. “You are an amazing mother,” you whispered softly.

I probably rolled my bloodshot eyes at you (sorry, I was tired…), but those words meant everything to me. Still do.

When I doubt myself, and my mothering skills, your reassuring voice is a constant refrain in my head: “it’s ok, it’s ok, you are doing great, you are incredible.” Your words become the steady heartbeat coursing through my veins and keeping me alive through difficult days and sleepless nights.

So momma – there’s no card, no flowers, no bottle of wine or meticulously prepared dinner waiting for you this year. I’m sorry that, this year, I’ve gotten too caught up trying to be a mother and paid too little attention to celebrating my own. You expect nothing, but you deserve the world.

But this I can tell you, as the wisest of women once told me, “YOU are an amazing mother.”

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Momma for all that you do. I Love You…

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An Ode to Midwives

I love all things baby, and from the exciting moment I found out I was pregnant, I dreamed of the kind of birth I wanted to have – bringing my babe into this world in the most natural way possible. My husband had vetoed my home birth idea, but I continued to read every birthing book I could get my hands on.  Due to a doctor’s recommendation back in Tennessee, I was seeing a Perinatal Specialist OB-GYN. The busy practice had two doctors, both male, who were friendly and undoubtedly knowledgeable, yet not quite what I had in envisioned in my Ina May Gaskin fueled birth fantasies. 

Midway through my pregnancy, we made a big move that meant not only finding a new home, but finding new healthcare providers as well. After exhaustive research, I was delighted to find a midwifery practice less than a mile from our house – West Suburban Women’s Health in Willowbrook, Illinois. This unique practice combined the skills and knowledge of five doctors and four midwives, all women, to create a uniquely caring team. Though I was initially caught off guard by the difference from my previous practice – no hospital-like environment, no long white lab coats, no loud crowded waiting room – I was instantly enamored with the compassion that I felt upon meeting my first midwife, Karen.  

Throughout the course of my pregnancy I had the opportunity to meet each wonderful midwife multiple times. Karen, Gillian, Patty, and Sherri each had their own unique talents and personalities, but they all clearly shared the same passion for mothers, babies, and the crazy beautiful journey of birth. 

Beyond the care of the midwives, I was blown away by the other incredible resources that West Suburban Women’s Health offers. We took advantage of each and every one of their pre-birth and parenting classes. Being new to the area, it was as much an excuse to meet other parents-to-be – to find our village – as it was to hone our parenting skills. And sure enough, we met some of our closest friends though those classes. Once the baby arrives, they also provide a weekly free new mother and breastfeeding support group which has become my sanity saver; many weeks my sole social outlet. Not to mention the group’s incredible teacher / guru / brilliant Lactation Consultant, Patty Janicek, who has become like a third grandmother to our child. The midwifery mindset spills out into all aspects of the practice, and I am so grateful to be the beneficiary. 

So, when the big day came to give birth, I wasn’t in it alone. By my side stood (and knelt and lay and crouched) Karen – ironically the first midwife I met. She was my champion as I went to battle. Calmly encouraging me through the unknown, firmly pushing me when I thought I couldn’t go on. And as my daughter came into this world, it was exactly what I had hoped for but never could have imagined. Not the fanfare of doctors racing in last minute, surgical masks and yelling and bright lights, but Karen softly saying to me, “Reach down and grab your baby.”

 

This is the way birth should be – surrounded by support before, during, and after the glorious experience. Then walking alongside a tribe of other warrior mommas who are all going through the journey of birthing and parenthood together. 

To My Husband: Thank You

Andrew,

This past year has been a wild and beautiful ride. With a big move and the birth of our first child, and the ensuing chaos of day to day life, there is so much that I haven’t said. So much I haven’t thanked you for.

Thank you for making my ultimate dream come true; for making me a mother to our sweet baby girl.

Thank you for standing by my side and supporting me even when motherhood is more a sleepless reality than a peaceful dream.

Thank you for allowing me to stay home with our daughter, to have those daily moments that can never be repeated or replaced.

Thank you for not assuming my life is a vacation just because I’m not going into an office.

Thank you for understanding why you haven’t had a hot cooked meal in the last six months.

Thank you for cooking for me. Feeding me when I’m always starving.

Thank you for wearing wrinkled clothes without complaint because somehow the laundry just never gets folded.

Thank you for forcing me to use paper plates when the thought of washing one more damn dish makes me want to lose my mind.

Thank you for not questioning my parenting decisions and trusting my intuition.

Thank you for reassuring me when I question my parenting deciscions and can’t trust my intution.

Thank you for holding me when it’s been one of those days and I collapse into tears.

Thank you for holding our daughter when it’s been one of those days and she collapses into tears.

Thank you for always trying, even if you feel like you’re just muddling through this parenthood thing. To watch you and our baby girl learn together is a glorious thing.

Thank you for inspring that toothless baby grin that makes the whole world beautiful again.

Thank you for making me laugh when it’s the last thing I want to do but first thing I need.

Thank you for working hard. So. Damn. Hard. Everyday for this family. To tirelessly support the ones you love is not a slight thing and we are beyond grateful for all that you do.

Thank you for being the incredible husband and father, who is so much more than I ever could have imagined or hoped for.

Thank you for being you. Amazing, unrelenting, magnificent you.

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Happy Anniversary, Love. Thank you for two wonderful years as your wife and countless more to come.