Tag Archives: children

What Love Looks Like

On this day six years ago, on the bank of a lush green peninsula with the Tennessee River weaving its way around us, my (now) husband nervously dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. My heart raced. Excited as I was about the expectation of this day, I was stunned in this moment of surprise. With tears in my eyes, I wholeheartedly exclaimed, “Yes!” and he somehow managed to slip the ring on my shaking hand. Our lips curled into smiles as we kissed and settled into the strange sense of relief and anticipation that this great decision brings.

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In the span of time between then and now, our lives have shifted so much. We’ve made three moves and had two babies together. We’ve switched jobs and quit jobs and attempted to create jobs. We’ve lived apart and together. We’ve traveled, we’ve learned, we’ve grown. As our minds and our bodies and our routines have been forced to adapt to our ever-changing circumstances, so, too, has our love. The love I said yes to six years ago looks a whole lot different than the love we live out today.

Sometimes love looks like chasing down dreams. Mine. His. Both of ours. Sometimes love looks like putting my dreams on hold to allow him to pursue his. Sometimes it looks like rejoicing in gratitude when he selflessly does the same.

Sometimes love looks like sharing adventures. Traveling the world, climbing glaciers, flying over fields and valleys. And realizing, no matter where we go, he and I are still our same selves; which is both beautiful and daunting.

Sometimes love looks like settling. For a place we don’t want to be. For a house we don’t love. For jobs we don’t enjoy. For a person who doesn’t always meet all of our expectations.

Sometimes love looks like surprise. Surprise at how we can know each other so well and still uncover new gems. Surprise at how our hearts can soften when it would be so much easier to let them grow hard. Surprise at the depth of our commitment to better our selves and our relationship.

Sometimes love looks like acceptance. Acceptance that his emotions and reactions and outlooks are going to be different from my own. Acceptance that we’re not always our best selves, but at least we keep trying.

Sometimes love looks like weathering loss together. Holding each other through the heavy burden of grief. Holding space for the hurts that cannot be expressed. Holding grace when those hurts seem to flow through us and out onto each other from the gaping wounds that have yet to heal.

Sometimes love looks like the strange combination of hope and fear that big life events bring. Babies and birthdays and moves and job opportunities. Love looks like supporting each other through the joys and trials of these transitions.

Sometimes love looks like doing dishes or doing laundry or mowing the lawn or paying the bills. And choosing not to stew in the resentment that passes through our household when the scales of the chores seem unevenly tipped.

Sometimes love looks like staying home. Or going to work. Dividing and conquering the responsibilities that never end. Even if it feels more like dividing than conquering.

Sometimes love looks like the faces of these children we’ve created together. Little faces that are a beautiful blend of both of our bodies and spirits. Faces that both delight and and exhaust us.

Sometimes love looks like putting the kids to bed early so we can have a little extra time for just the two of us. And sometimes love looks like a shared sigh, a glance, a brief embrace, when, despite our best efforts the kids just won’t sleep. And this is the best we’re going to get today.

Sometimes looks like talking about our deepest thoughts and dreams. But sometimes love looks like simply sitting together in silence.

Sometimes love looks like the soft touch of gentle hands. His hands on my back as I labor to bring our children into the world. My hands stretched across his chest in the dark of the night as we savor this silent time together.

This love that has changed shape over time is not always what I expected, not always what I signed up for six years ago. And yet, it’s so much more. I didn’t quite know what I was saying yes to this day back then. I still don’t know what I’m saying yes to in this future together. But I’m so glad that I said yes, that I continue to say yes, to our ever-evolving love.

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Proud Momma

Modern day motherhood feels rife with judgements and expectations. Every person I meet or book I read seems to have an opinion on every aspect of how children should be raised. With all this noise from society, its easy to fall into a pit of self-doubt around my own mothering. The internal and external judgements of how to do it right can leave me feeling like I’m always doing it wrong. So pervasive is this attitude, that it seems radical, over-confident, or even off-putting to profess pride in my own parenting choices.

And yet, I’m proud of the momma I am.

I’m proud that I celebrate the miracle of my children’s lives and hold them with delight.

I’m proud of the overwhelming strength of my body that grew these babies, nurturing the tiny bodies within, then overcame my own limits to bring them into this world.

I’m proud of the beautiful nursing relationship I built with each child, endlessly holding them to my chest, day and night, as my arms grew weary and my eyelids grew heavy.

I’m proud of sharing sleep with my babies and the exhausting, amazing bond that it’s brought to our lives.

I’m proud of trusting my gut instincts, and my own children, above all else when my heart screams no to the “shoulds” of society.

I’m proud every time I’ve answered my children’s cries, listened to their needs, and embraced them with love.

I’m proud of giving them the freedom to grow into their own selves rather than forcing my own expectations.

I’m proud of sitting down to share meals with my kids. Of laughing together with oatmeal-smeared faces, ignoring the piled dishes and messy floors.

I’m proud that I stop to play with my little ones. That I take time to build blocks and read books and paint pictures.

I’m proud when I slow down to meet their meaningful pace rather than hurrying them to keep up with mine.

I’m proud when I respond to their most trying times with a soft heart and positive spirit.

I’m proud that when I fail and yell, I can embrace my kids, and myself, with grace and say, “I’m sorry. I love you. Let’s try better next time.”

I’m proud that I show my children my whole heart – what makes it smile and what breaks it wide open.

I’m proud of loving my children – deeply and abundantly and imperfectly – but ultimately with everything I am.

These points of pride are things that are not always easy; they do not always come naturally to me; they do not always feel right in the short term. Each choice comes with a trade off, something else at which I feel I’m failing. And in the moment, I do not always make the “right” choice, the choice that makes me proud. But perfection is not the point. Showing up and trying, day in and day out, is enough to be proud of.

So for today, I choose to take a step back and be proud of the mother I am. I choose to celebrate the small successes that stream through the scattered failures. These are the things I choose to hold onto and remember about motherhood. These are the meaningful moments that make me a momma.

I’m proud of the momma I am, and prouder still of the momma I’m becoming as I learn more and grow wiser with each passing day.

Why I Wander With Wee Ones

I am a wanderer at heart. As much as I love to cozy up at home with a good book, there is nothing that makes my soul come alive more than embarking on an adventure. Whether it’s a walk, a hike, a flight, a bike ride, or a road trip, I feel the stir of excitement in my bones when I step off the beaten path of life. Stepping outside of the daily tasks and leaving my own comfort zone renews and invigorates me.

My other greatest joy and passion is my children. When my first baby was born, I worried about how these two pursuits would mesh. Would I become too grounded by the responsibility that comes with caring for young children and be forced to give up my wandering ways? Adding kids to the mix inherently makes things a bit more complicated and a whole lot more exhausting. Embarking on any adventure, big or small, with children involves preparation, packing, and patience. And snacks. Always lots of snacks.

And this is where many parents give up (myself sometimes included). We can start to feel like it’s too much effort to take on the world with our wee ones. So we stop. We close the door on that part of our soul and we say “I’ll get back to it when the kids are grown.” Meanwhile, that spark inside us fades a little more with each passing day. Our children miss out on the light that ignites us and a glimpse at who their parents really are apart from cook, cleaner, and chauffeur.

But, no. This life, a life without wandering, is not the best life for myself or my children. So I must push back and push through, exerting the extra effort to make the wandering possible with my little people.

I refuse to view my children as burdens, limitations, or excuses from living my fullest and most wonderful life. I refuse to let them hold me back from adventures and refuse to let myself hold them back from exploring and experiencing this great wide world. I refuse to rob them of the joy of the journey that comes with a life filled with wandering, even, or perhaps especially, if there are struggles along the way.

Because here’s the magic: although wandering with with wee ones entails more work, it also brings infinitely more reward. I bring the wander, but they bring wonder.

As a parent, I have the rich opportunity to see the world anew through my children’s eyes. We stop and taste the sweet nectar of honeysuckle on hikes, we sing the silly songs on road trips, we listen for the unique calls of birds on bike rides, and we watch how soft clouds blanket the earth below as we gaze out the window of an airplane. This is a whole different kind of wandering, steeped with constant discovery and noticing overlooked details. I am forced to be more intentional and truly take in where we are and what we are doing. I have to take a deep breath and release my expectations of what our adventures should be and allow myself to fully experience what the wandering could be.

Do I sometimes miss the quiet car rides and forging quickly up the mountain to reach a scenic vista? Yes. But I’m learning to appreciate the scenery along the way; the slow steady path rather than the race to a destination, which is really what wandering is all about.

So we set off, a gang of wild explorers, with restless hearts and snack-filled hands. We take on the world with true baby steps, embracing our own gentle pace. Together we wander, my babies and I, together we find wonder wherever we may roam.

Happy First Birthday Sweet P!

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Oh my Sweet P, my little baby, where has this year gone?

I remember anxiously awaiting your arrival as you took your sweet time to greet us. I remember wondering how you would fit in to our family and how my heart could expand to love another child. I remember questioning my ability to be the best Momma to both you and your sister, meeting both of your constant and often conflicting needs. I still question this.

I remember how, after making us wait a whole week, you burst into our lives at lightning speed. I remember holding your tiny wet and warm body against my chest. I remember the crushing worry and loneliness when they whisked you away to the NICU to make sure you could breathe. I remember my overwhelming joy and relief when you returned to me, perfect and beautiful, taking my own breath away.

I remember bringing you home on Easter Day, our very own blessing of new life. I remember how you then became our own symbol of hope as we received difficult news. I remember how we loaded you into the car, tiny and just ten days old, and drove halfway across the country so you could meet your Yia-Yia. I remember the abundant joy you brought to the hardship, the light you brought to a dark time.

I remember how you seamlessly melded into our family and rolled along with our busy life. I remember how you went with the flow on our endless adventures, even though you hated your car seat with a fiery passion. I remember how I wore you close, feeling your breath on my chest, watching you drift off to sleep under my chin, as we went about the day together. I remember how my heart swelled beyond measure to make room for all the love I had for you.

I remember how you made your sister’s eyes light up, and how you tolerated her poking and prodding you with toddler fingers. I remember how you watched your big sister in awe as she attempted to entertain and soothe you. I remember when you found your smile, and later your laugh, you used them to delight in your sister’s wild antics. I remember watching as you girls learned to play together, trying to manage to push and pull and ultimate support of sisterhood.

I remember how you would light up a room with that gorgeous gummy grin, how you made our world sing with your lovely laughter. I remember how you paid attention to the world around you and honed your focus on what you wanted – reaching and grabbing and enjoying your own accomplishments. I remember how you took your time learning to crawl, but then became a happy and unstoppable explorer. I remember how you danced in your highchair between bites as you filled an appetite that rivaled your father’s. I remember how you found your voice and began to assert your desires with shrill screeches, much to the disappointment of my eardrums and sometimes sanity. I remember how you would use that squeal in excitement to welcome me whenever I returned home.

I remember pacing creaky floors with you in the dark of the night when you were sick or teething or merely restless and sleep just would not come. I remember how your tiny toes pushed against my soft tummy and your head wriggled in the crook of my arm until you found a comfortable place to snuggle into my body and rest. I remember the synchronized rising and falling of our chests as we slumbered together.

I remember worrying if I was overlooking you, if I was able to give you enough attention as I strived to meet all the demands of motherhood. But then I remember how you would command my attention, swatting the phone from my hands, crying out or clinging on, or simply staring at me with your dark, soulful eyes. I remember how we would remain, locked in a gaze together as you filled my soul with all your love.

There is so much I probably have and will forget about this first year with you, my second baby. Your milestones may not be as meticulously documented as your older sister’s and I may have skipped a few of your monthly photos. But these things I will not forget. I will remember, forever and always, how in just one year of life with us you have brought so much more love, laughter, and heartwarming happiness to our family than we ever could have imagined.

Happy birthday Sweet P! I hope you always remember how much your Momma adores you.

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To my Firstborn on your Third Birthday

(Photo: Apple Snaps)

Three. How did we get here? How is it possible that three whole years have passed since you burst into our world, filling our lives with your fire and fun, your laughter and love? How have we already watched in wonder as you’ve grown from a breathtaking baby to a tenacious toddler to a lovely little girl?

They say the two-year-old year is terrible. They warn that it will be full of tantrums and defiance, unreasonable requests and inconsolable emotions. This year has certainly held its share of trials and tests, but it’s also been filled with terrific times and teaching experiences. If there is one word I could use to describe this past year with you, it would be transformational.

I’ve joyfully watched you transform from babbling random words to eloquently expressing yourself in complex sentences. I’ve watched you transform from searching for the steadiness of your own two feet to confidently running and climbing. I’ve watched you transform from being overcome by your own big emotions to helping me manage mine. I’ve watched you transform from focusing solely on your own needs to growing rich empathy and recognizing and responding to the needs of others. And, most beautifully, I’ve watched you transform from our one and only child to blossom into the most incredible big sister.

I’ve seen you learn and grow by leaps and bounds this year. In each ordinary moment, I’m amazed at how your brain absorbs every little thing, and you take that new knowledge and make it your own. Every day you delight me with your wise insights about the world around you and your stunning use of words to describe thoughts and feelings. Time and again I’m surprised by the depth of your compassion as you never miss an opportunity to soothe your sister’s cries or give a hug to someone feeling hurt or frustrated. You see and feel the world, with all of it’s wonder and complexity, in ways that I can hardly comprehend. Daily you are teaching and transforming me as well.

You’ve transformed me from feeling flustered by your demands to softening to hear your needs. You’ve transformed my focus from checking off tasks to enjoying the slow flow of life. You’ve transformed my mind to think in new ways as we tackle new challenges together. You’ve transformed my heart to be more open and giving.

This past year of change and transformation hasn’t always been easy for you, or for me. There have been too many days when energy was drained and voices were raised. There have been countless moments where emotions felt too big and frustrations seemed to overshadow the fun. Sometimes, I’ve found that my default reaction was “no” and you responded in kind by creating your own new, oft used, word: “nomomma.” And I know your little soul aches for my attention that now has to be divided between you and your sister.

But even on the hard days, even in the moments that others would see as terrible, you have become a beautiful overcomer. You’ve overcome personal and physical hardships and waded through difficult feelings. You’ve found the strength of your own voice and body to heal hurts and mend mistakes. You’ve shown me what it means to practice grace, loving me even after I fail you, and inspire me to do the same.

This two year old year has been many things – transformational, teaching, terrific, trying, testing. But terrible? Never.

I can’t wait to see what the next year holds for you and for us… Happy Birthday my sweet!

Love,

Momma

(Photo: Apple Snaps)

Let Them Go Outside

As modern day parents, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of it all. It’s easy to find ourselves stuck inside all day, frantically trying to check off endless tasks on our to-do list while our little ones simultaneously undo our progress. There are days I find myself quickly shuffling from one activity to the next and come to realize that the only outside time my kids have experienced is the mad dash from the car to the door.

But when I make the simple but purposeful choice to let us enjoy the outdoors, it is a literal breath of fresh air that feels both rejuvenating and revolutionary. I need it. They need it. From tiny infants to busy teenagers, the call of the wild beckons, inviting their presence and igniting their growth. We don’t need a bevy of toys cluttering our house to let our children learn and play and develop, we simply need the natural wonders that lie just beyond our doorway. So open the door, and let them go outside.

Let them lie on the ground. Let the grass be their blanket and the clouds be their entertainment.

Let them crawl with the feel of the earth supporting their small but mighty strength.

Let them toddle over uneven natural terrain.

Let them run through fields and race through forests.

Let their toes feel the tickle of grass and the squish of mud.

Let them jump off logs and jump in puddles.

Let them climb up trees and climb down creek-beds.

Let them get dirty. Let them come running back to you stained and smiling.

Let them feel the change of the weather. Let their skin tingle with the warm embrace of sunshine, the sweet kiss of a raindrop, and the thrilling chill of a thousand snowflakes.

Let them listen to the beautiful background noise of songbirds chirping, wind rustling through leaves, water trickling in the distance.

Let them find stillness and stimulation, wisdom and wonder.

Let them inhale fresh air and exhale adult expectations.

Let them know their own strength and find their own confidence. Let them dare and let them dream.

Let them discover. Let them learn. Let them explore.

Let them be free. Let them be wild. Let them be alive.

A Love Letter to my Husband

Dear Handsome Husband,

I know this phase of life feels a little tricky at times. I know that there never seems to be enough time or energy or money to go around. I know our days are endlessly consumed with meeting the needs of small children, with little left for ourselves, much less each other. I know I often forget to tell you how much I love and appreciate you. I know that when we find ourselves completely spent, day after day, it’s far easier to focus on the annoyances than to celebrate the fantastic.

But I know, too, that I am still madly in love with you in a million amazing ways every single day.

The things that make my heart melt these days look a little different than when we first met. They are not all roses and romance (although I did absolutely love those beautiful yellow roses you surprised me with!). What takes my breathe away are the things that make the rhythm and flow of our life, however chaotic, feel a bit more bearable and beautiful.

I love how you show up. For work. For the kids. For me. For your flying community. You are all in and all there, even and especially when there never seems to be enough time and energy.

I love how you work tirelessly to support and better our family. I know you don’t love your job, and the sacrifices you make every day to provide for us cannot be underestimated or over-appreciated.

I love how you support and encourage my dreams. Whether it’s staying home to raise our children or getting out to write, you bend over backwards to help make it happen.

I love how you relentlessly chase down your own dreams. You reach and strive to learn more and become better and grasp you goals, stubbornly rejecting failure.

I love to watch your boyish wonder and fascination with all things aviation.

I love to watch you share this passion with our daughters.

I love how you can elicit laughter from our children with a simple silly face or fun game and turn everyone’s moods around.

I love how you can walk in and breathe patience into a room when I have none left.

I love how you cook for us and am constantly blown away by the delicious concoctions you create in less time and with less mess than I ever could.

I love how you clean up after me. I know I am a walking mess maker, and there are always dirty dishes, scattered laundry, and random clutter left in my wake. Thank you for not nagging me (too much) about it; thank you even more for silently doing the dirty work.

I love how you effortlessly seem to figure things out and fix things to keep our cars, house, and life running smoothly.

I love how you twirl me in the middle of our cluttered kitchen when one of my favorite songs plays, even though dancing is the last thing you want to do.

I love how you still look at me, after all these years and a couple of babies, with desire in your eyes.

I love how I get to glance across the kitchen at your rugged handsomeness, kind dark eyes, and smile that lights up the room.

I love how you seek adventure and and ruthlessly refuse to settle for the ordinary. And I love how you push me to do the same.

I love how you bring me milkshakes and pay the bills and watch our daughter so I can have a weekend away. I love how you clear the drains and shovel the snow and take out the trash. I love how you make coffee in the morning and do bedtime in the evening. I love how you get out of bed to help our daughter and how you stay in bed to snuggle me close. I love your rough hands and your kind heart and your brilliant brain and your compassionate soul.

I love you for all these reasons and so many more that too often go overlooked. I may not be as great at saying or showing it these days, but I love journeying through this life with you and all the everyday joys you bring with us.

All My Love,

C

When Love Is Not Enough

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The room is dark as I quietly creep in and gaze down at my older daughter’s sweet sleeping face, filled with the peace of a deep slumber. I kneel beside her little bed and touch her lips, pursed in a rare moment of silence, as they have been busy all day forming new words. I stroke her tiny ear, so unencumbered by the hearing aids that rest upon them during waking hours and fill my daughter’s head with all the incredible sounds of the world. My heart is heavy with the weight and depth of the love I feel for this amazing little being.

But sometimes it feels as if love is not enough.

I grew my firstborn inside of me with every ounce of love her small body could contain. My love flowed to her like blood and nourishment, pulsing with the beat of the potential that was her life to come. When she was born into this world, becoming the physical embodiment of that great love, she was pure perfection in every way, except one. On the second day of her life we discovered that she was born with inexplicable hearing loss.

In that moment, it felt like my love was not enough. My love was not enough to grant my child two perfectly working ears. My love was not enough to guarantee that she could effortlessly hear the music that makes our lives sing.

Through the miracle of science and the grace of great clinicians, we quickly got our baby girl fitted with hearing aids to help her fully experience the world around her. At just three months, her little ears blinked with the bionic beauty that let us know that the tweets of birds and rustle of leaves were being amplified and broadcast into her mind. By six months, she was working with the most incredible therapist who made sure she was striving for milestones. And strive she did. As our baby grew into a toddler, and now a little girl, she has amazed us with her ability to thrive in every metric. Her hearing loss, originally diagnosed as mild-to-moderate, faded into the background of our lives as we relished watching our girl grow and learn.

Until a week ago. I sat in the office of our audiologist following a routine screening. The room was loud, filled with the sounds of my own restless children who were hungry and tired and losing patience. I tried to listen as the audiologist explained the results of the test, stating kindly, “It looks like your daughter’s hearing is getting progressively worse. It’s slipping into the category of profound.” My eyes welled with tears and my ears rang as I caught phrases like, “cochlear implants” and “total deafness” and “we just don’t know.”

And in that moment, I was hit again with the realization that my love simply is not enough. It is not enough to ensure that she will one day be able to hear, with her own two ears, the voice of the person she falls in love with or the music that compels her to dance or the sound of her children’s laughter. My love is not enough to ensure that she hears my own voice, right now, whispering how much I love her. And my heart breaks for my girl.

I know I’m not alone. Mommas around the world hold their babies, young and grown, with heavy hearts filled with uncontainable love that spills out onto their children. I know I am a lucky one, for my daughter’s challenge has options and opportunities still; it doesn’t threaten her very existence. There are mommas who stroke their baby’s eyes, with no hope of them ever seeing the beauty of this world. There are mommas who caress delicate legs that will never know what it feels like to run through fields and forests. There are mommas who hold close tiny bodies, waiting to feel their child’s inevitable last exhale. Our stories and our struggles are unique, but we all carry with us the heavy burden that our love is not enough to protect our precious babes from their own fate.

But we go on loving anyway. Because that is the call and the contract of parenthood; to have our love live outside of ourselves. From the moment of conception, we’ve agreed to trust an imperfect world with our most perfect expressions of love – our children. This world will disappoint us, and this world will disappoint them, with the injustice of it all. They will face suffering of all shapes and sizes, and time and time again, our love will fail to save them.

Yet, our love is the only thing that can save them. Our love may not be able to provide health and healing, but it offers glimmers of hope and happiness through the hardships. Our love may not bring a solution to the problem, but it brings purpose to the journey. Our love shows our children that, though life may look or sound different than we had imagined, it is so full of treasures that make the trials worth it. Our love is the strength and the salvation that carries them through it all.

This will be the hardest thing we do as parents – to keep loving in spite of the fact that our love is not enough. This will be the holiest thing we do as parents – to keep loving, in fact, because our love is not enough.

So we face each day with broken hearts; hearts that break open to pour out our boundless love on to our babes. Raw and ragged, the wounds that ail our children seep into our souls, inspiring ever greater love. We carry with us the ache of knowing our love is not enough, and the grace of knowing our love is everything.

As for our daughter, she continues to amaze us every day with the breadth and compassion of her own love. She continues to face each day with wit and wonder. She awakens in the morning and excitedly grabs her “hearings” to ignite her mind with the melodies of life. And she listens, not taking for granted the sounds that others might miss. When she hears something in the distance, she ponders sweetly, “What does that sound look like?” I don’t know what her future holds, in terms of hearing loss or life in general, but I know that I will continue to love her with a wide open heart, and that will be enough.

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It Starts With Us

In the wake of the unsettling and all too common sexual abuse scandal of yet another famous figure, and the #metoo campaign that entailed, we’ve been forced to face the harsh reality that sexual abuse, lack of respect for others’ bodies, and ignorance of physical consent are rampant problems in our society. As the mother of two girls, this issue both frightens me and and gives me pause. I pause to think – how did we get here, and what can we do about it?

If you ask ten different people, you would likely receive ten different answers to these questions. There are many reasons, multiple hurtles, and, hopefully, a bevy of solutions. Where I am in life, though, I look at the issues through the lens of a parent. I look at what we are teaching our children and how seemingly innocent actions can inadvertently reinforce unwanted behaviors or ideals.

When it comes to parenting, and life, I’m learning that it’s the seemingly small choices that, over time, add up to life lessons. What we model for our children in our day to day decisions regarding respect for their bodies and others’, as well as the notion of physical and emotional consent, are the ideals they will carry with them when they face crucial situations in the future.

There are many ways to teach these lessons and empower our little ones by respecting their bodies and boundaries. I am no expert, and I by no means wish to claim that my way is the “right” way. I’m aware that, to some, my ideas might seem extreme, or a little too over the top. That’s fine. We are constantly refining what works for our family and our children, just as each parent has to do for their own.

Yet, I write this as a reminder to my children, as well as myself, that each day I will strive to respect their bodies and their right to consent, so that they can carry these notions forward in the future.

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Dear Fierce Daughters,

I grew your beautiful bodies in my own, and for that reason I want to both protect and empower you. As you will always be a part of me, I promise to treat your body and spirit with the same care and respect that I would want others to treat me. In doing so, I hope to teach you to do the same.

I will respect your preferences to be held and touched only by those you know and love. I will not pass you off to others when you look at me with quivering lips and tears in your eyes. I will hold you close and embrace your desire to be near your safe haven.

I will not shush you and tell you it’s ok, stop crying, be quiet, when in your world it so clearly is not ok. I will listen to you, between the words, to discern what your little body is telling you. I will comfort you the best way I know how, allowing you to trust your body and express your emotions.

I will give you space when you need it. When you push me away I will remain by your side, but I won’t force words or actions from you. I trust your tiny heart to know how to remedy a tough situation. I will lead and guide, but allow you the space to choose how to use your physical and verbal affections.

I will not force affection from you. I will not tell you to hug or kiss grandma or a friend or a stranger you’ve just met. Or even myself. Even when it breaks my heart that you won’t give me a goodnight kiss when I tuck you in at night. Even if all I want to do is squeeze you at the end of a long hard day. It’s your body and your choice. And it feels so much better to receive the affection you give willingly, filled with love and joy.

I will not tickle you until you laugh so hard you can’t breathe or mutter stop. I know tickling will make you laugh, that’s the point. But I also know that the laughter that comes from tickling can shadow your true feelings and ability to tell me no.  I will work harder and choose different ways to gain your giggles.

I will not stand idly by while others, unaware of our ways and just trying to have fun, tickle you. I will put myself in the awkward situation of having to tell a well-meaning friend or family member that we don’t do that. Hopefully this will help you avoid awkward and uncomfortable situations to come. Hopefully this will teach you how to use your own words to stand up for your own body, even and especially if it’s awkward.

I will try at all costs not to force your body into places or positions or clothing that you don’t want to go. When possible, I will respect your choices and your timing. When it’s not possible, due to safety or time or circumstances, I will strive to always handle your body with calm and your emotions with gentleness. I am listening, even when I can’t always accommodate.

Your voice still matters. Your choice always matters.

Love your fierce advocate,

Momma

I write these words to my daughters because, at this time, I only have girls. Yet, if I one day have sons, I believe it will be equally important, if not more so, to instill these same values in them. In order to change, our world needs girls and boys who know what it means for their bodies to be respected and to respect in return. We need young women and men who grasp consent because they’ve always been given a choice and a voice.

It starts young. It starts with us. It starts with the seemingly innocuous choices we make for our children everyday. So maybe, hopefully, it can end with us too.

Teaching Kindness and Training Warriors

As a momma-to-be, there are already so many things I worry about for this sweet child I’m carrying. Am I eating the right foods to help her grow big and strong? Am I picking the right bedding, toys, and accessories so that he’ll be safe, secure, and happy? How do I prepare for the unknown worlds of birth, feeding, and tireless newborn care?

My biggest worry, though, is the overall prospect of bringing this little one into a great big world that is so bright and beautiful, but can also be harsh and mean and scary. For a while she’ll be protected by the cloak of babyhood – being constantly supervised and surrounded by people who offer nothing but kind words for this tiny new being. But in a brief few years she’ll grow up and go out on her own – at pre-school, at the park – and someone will say something unkind to her or another child. And the thought of that shatters my heart…

So how do I teach my child to embrace kindness even in the midst of a sometimes unkind world? How do I let him know that, no matter how strong meanness may seem, kindness will always win? How do I encourage him to face each day, brave and strong, as a warrior fighting for kindness for all those around him?

With small daily acts and beautiful inspiring words.

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Fortunately, my lovely sister-in-law, Katie Moore, has recently published an incredible children’s book on exactly this topic. Her book – You Are A Warrior – tells a beautiful, whimsical, and truthful tale of a little girl who is doing just that – being a warrior by fighting back against bullying with seemingly small acts of kindness that yield huge results. What makes Katie’s book even more special are the delightfully happy illustrations that are a compilation of her four talented children’s artwork combined with her own wise words. Without a doubt, this is an inspiring book and a meaningful message for adults and children alike.

Since I’m fortunate enough to know this witty and wonderful author, I asked Katie a few questions about the book in hopes of absorbing some of her awesome, love-filled wisdom:

What was your inspiration for writing this book?                                                               

My inspiration for writing this book was to give my kids something to hold and read and know that they contributed to a real book. Something tangible that they helped to create and build and feel that they could put it in their hands and say that they were a part of. I’m working on a novel that is aimed for an adult audience so it was important for me to get this one out first. Also on my blog I write a lot of things that are adult humor that I would never (ever) want them to come across, but a book that is for kids helps confirm that their momma really is a writer. It gives me some street credit. Plus (and most importantly) I am a huge fan of children’s books that send out a positive message. I want my kids and kids everywhere to be kind and aim for good every single day.      

As a mother of four (incredible) kids, why do you think this is an important book and message for children?                                                                                                                 

I think that it is desperately important that children realize that small acts can make a tremendous impact on this world. Bullying is rampant in schools, playgrounds and probably the most detrimental of all, on all sources of media. Kindness isn’t a slight thing, costs nothing and has the potential to bring hope to every generation. Children of all ages have the power to bring change.

I love the artwork in the book! Can you tell me more about your process for creating the beautiful and inspiring images?                                                                           

Thank you! I am in love with collage work with mixed media. I wanted to create something whimsical with my own kids’ artwork and add some words and light to bring each page its own type of faithful magic. The process is really glue, hope, glue, repeat. Roll with the mess and the mistakes… perfection is overrated.   

What is the number one lesson that you hope anyone reading – both children and adults – will take away from your book?                                                          

Show up. Be kind. That really would be a dream if that was the takeaway. Oh and have fun too. Warriors are rockstars.                                                                                                                                                                            

Thank you dear Katie!

There is still time to get the perfect Christmas gift for kids of all ages (including those grown-up kids who may need a little kindness reminder) by ordering Katie’s book on Amazon: You Are A Warrior.

While you’re there, be sure to pick up a copy of her lovely inspiration journal – Dream a Bigger Dream – to spark your own creative potential.

For more of Katie’s wit, humor, and wisdom, check out her blog, The Naked Momma, at www.thenakedmomma.com.  Or get her daily dose of inspiration and fun on Facebook and Twitter @thenakedmommakt.

PS – it just so happens to be Katie’s birthday today, so share the love!

What small but mighty acts of kindness have you seen or done this week? Leave a comment below with ways to share some joy this season and beyond, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of You Are A Warrior – a beautiful gift just for you! Happy kindness spreading friends!