Tag Archives: motherhood

On the Move Again

Question: What is more fun than moving twice in six months with two young kids?

Answer: Anything.

And yet, this is what our family is doing. Unpacked boxes still decorate the floor of our current house as the real decor remains un-hung. A short four months ago, we packed up our humble home and hauled our life five miles down the road. This was a seemingly simple but actually overwhelming feat. Now, with the dust of the last move still settling, we’re filling boxes once again and making moves. Except this time the distance is 670 miles rather than 5. In a somewhat unexpected, but long anticipated, turn of events we’re moving halfway across the country to Frederick, Maryland.

So why are we doing this again? Why are we going through the stress and overwhelm of packing and moving and managing the transition with kids?

Because opportunity comes knocking on its own timeline. And sometimes you have no choice but to open the door to possibility.

Because dreams need to be chased, even across hundreds of miles.

Because the mountains are calling and we must go.

Because when we found a place that felt both new and familiar, a place that our souls could settle, we decided to call it home.

Because our kids have the opportunity to run and grow and play with their cousins and we see the light that brings to their faces.

Because living closer to and leaning into the love of family can make a world of difference.

Because our adventurous spirits cannot turn down a chance at something, somewhere, that’s new and exciting and invigorating.

Because as hard as it is to say goodbye, the bonds of true friendship can span the endless miles.

Because hope so often lies hidden in the unknown.

Because we refuse to shy away from a challenge.

Because sometimes, oftentimes, the hardest choice is the best choice.

Because our children are watching and learning and this is what we want to teach them: That it is worth it to tirelessly pursue dreams at all costs. That life was meant to be an adventure, and it’s only through the hardship and struggle of change that joy can reveal itself. That resiliency and adaptability and flexibility will serve them well in so many of life’s circumstances. That, as a family, we’re all in this together, supporting each other every step of the way.

Have these weeks of preparation been tough? Yes. Will there be times when we doubt our sanity in making this all happen? Probably. But do we have faith that, looking at the big picture, this will be the best choice for our family? Absolutely.

And at the end of the day, faith is just what we need to take a leap.

Advertisements

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.

IMG_0632.JPG

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.

IMG_0665.JPG

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!

12-untitled-12

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.

15-untitled-15

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)

A Love Letter To Myself

With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, it’s a time of great love and even greater expectations. We all want to feel loved, cherished, adored, and noticed. Perhaps we wait with bated breath for someone else to tell us we’re worthy. Perhaps we feel a deep sense of disappointment and self doubt if we either don’t have someone to tell us how wonderful we are, or the person we hope for fails or forgets.

But what if we gave ourselves this gift of love we so desire? What if we took the radical step of seeing and appreciating all that we are and all that we do? It’s so hard to fully love others when we don’t really love ourselves. So maybe we start a revolution and become our own Valentines. Thanks Hallmark, but I’ll just save myself the postage.

IMG_9503

Hello Lovely,

I see you there with your radiant red hair blowing in the winter wind. I don’t care if it hasn’t been washed in days, it still looks gorgeous, as do you.

Let’s talk about your beauty for a second. You are truly beautiful. Your body has grown beauty inside of it, and though you may feel like its left you a little stretched and sagging, in reality you have become so full of the beauty your body has been holding and nurturing over the past four years. Your muscles show the signs of heavy lifting, not confined to the walls of a gym, but every day in every moment in the real world. Your face glows with the joy of living a purposeful life. Your eyes shine with, well, sleep deprivation, but also resilience.

But it’s not just that amazing body I adore, it’s the soul contained inside. You are working tirelessly everyday to better yourself. You’re never afraid to question your own ways and seek new solutions if something isn’t working in your life. I admire how you’ve come to embrace who you are and where you you are in life, yet continue to rise to the challenge of gaining greater knowledge, depth, and humanity. You balance on that tightrope between striving and settling, and on it you’ve found your happiness.

And darling, how the world sings when you let that happiness ring forth in laughter!

Your joy is contagious and I love watching it bloom into the brilliance that is your daughters. They are thriving and smiling and you don’t even realize the incredible role you play in forming them into the beings they are becoming. You pour onto those beautiful babies every ounce of kindness and care and compassion you can muster. And when you fail and yell, as you sometimes do, you embrace them with empathy and grant yourself grace instead of guilt. As you flounder through many moments of motherhood, I fall even more in love with you, knowing that you are learning and doing your best.

I see you. I see you doing the messy and mundane tasks of everyday life. The dishes and laundry and diapers and cooking. The things that so often go overlooked, but that provides the fuel that keeps your family going. I see you trying to be everything to everyone and still coming up short. I see you questioning whether you are being a good enough wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I see your doubt, and I embrace it all the more. Never doubt, my sweet, the mark that your small but meaningful efforts make.

Even when you feel like you’re failing, especially when you feel like you’re failing, I still love you, my dear. Always remember to hold yourself with the same grace and tenderness that you afford others.

I know you’re tired and spent, but I so admire how you summon the energy and courage to pursue your passion and write. You are learning amazing things with each new word and each new day. I am in awe of how you get up every morning, no matter how early the children wake you or how restless your night has been, and face each day with the potential and adventure it holds.

Keep trying, keep shining, keep showing up.

With Abundant Love,

Me

When Love Is Not Enough

IMG_9493.jpg

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.

IMG_9489.jpg

Broken Kitchen Cabinets

IMG_9343

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?

IMG_9810

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.

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:

IMG_9311

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.

FullSizeRender.jpg

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.”