Yesterday morning I was sitting on a long sheet of white paper, waiting for my OBGYN to come in and let me hear my tiny baby’s heartbeat for the very first time, when I got a text message from my friend:
“I’m either having a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t call. Please pray for us this morning.”
Before I could respond, my doctor came in.
So I sat, listening to the strong, healthy heartbeat of the baby we didn’t plan – the baby we were trying not to have – while one of my best friends sat, hundreds of miles away, bleeding.
I scheduled an ultrasound to determine the sex of our third child; she went into surgery to have the ectopic pregnancy removed.
In that moment everything about motherhood seemed arbitrary and upside down and unfair.
Perhaps the most unfair thing of all is that my friend is not the exception. Neither are my 6 friends that have miscarried in the last couple of years. Neither are my 2 friends who are battling infertility. Neither are my 3 friends who are waiting for adoptions to go through. Neither is my friend who had an unplanned pregnancy, and just as she was getting through the fear and into the love, lost the baby. Neither are my dozens of friends who have heard the words, “It’s anencephaly.” ”It’s cerebral palsy.” ”It’s autism.”
Neither am I – even I who have easy pregnancies, easy deliveries, and healthy babies.
Two unplanned pregnancies: two rounds of fear, and “I’m not ready,” and “My life will never be the same.” And one veryhard day when a doctor told me, “There is no treatment; she will never see like you and I can see.”
Thinking about it all, I went back and re-read a chapter of Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, called “Eight for Eight.” It is all I’ve been able to think about for the last twenty four hours.
Motherhood is the most beautiful, transformative, sacred thing I’ve ever done. I would choose it again every single time, forever. But some days – it sure does hurt.
“…And then I realize that as much as I want my friend Jenny’s abs, she wants a baby, and we’re all yearning for something.
When I take a step back, I’m surprised to realize that the topic of pregnancy and birth and mothering, for every single one of us, has been touched with pain or just a shade of heartache. The odds of that surprise me. Eight women, and eight stories of waiting or yearning, of brokenness mixed in with deep delight. If we’re a microcosm, is this how it is? We’re eight normal women, if normal exists in this or any realm. And one by one, eight for eight, one or another aspect of motherhood has pricked us and made us bleed.
…As for my dear friends and me, our hearts are full, of course, but also a little tender, bruised, tired. Motherhood, and the journey towards it, has battered us a little bit, each in our own ways. From ambivalence to longing to loss, from the anger that our bodies won’t do what we want them to, to the consuming, crushing love for a baby that is just hanging on…Motherhood laughed at our plans, twisted up our expectations, and gave them back to us upside down, covered with blood and stretch marks and Goldfish cracker paste.
We are very thankful, and we adore our children and one another’s children. But as much as it’s beautiful, the process is a little harrowing. Who knew we could want something so badly and then not be able to just wrestle it into existence? Who knew we could want to provide something so desperately for our children, to heal and protect them, but find ourselves profoundly unable? The stakes have gone up in our lives, the way they do, it seems, every time you decide to love something.”
Surviving parenthood is simple.
Why do people think it’s so difficult?
Take if from me, if you do this one thing, you will be the most prepared, peaceful, wise, Zen parent alive. Here it is:
I’ll give you a quick 10 to get you started.
The Floor: Is it navigable? Yes = clean. No? Put all toys in a hamper and shove said hamper into the nearest room with a door that closes. Bam, clean.
The Dishes: Can you see the dirty dishes over the horizon of the sink? Are they “breaking The Plane?” No = clean. Yes? Rearrange the dirty dishes so that they are no longer breaking the plane. Bam, clean.
The Fridge: Can you smell it? No = clean. Yes? Does the smell offend you? Throw away all Tupperwares and sippy cups. Do not open them, as curiosity might actually kill the cat here. Wipe down with Clorox wipes. Bam, clean.
Your Laundry: Is there a visible spill/stain? No = clean. Yes? Can you scrape it off with your fingernail? Can you dilute it with a wet washcloth? Yes = clean. No? Can you smell it from 2 feet away (which is likely the closest you’ll come to another human)? No = clean. Yes? Just wear the jeans again. Just ooonnneee more time.
The Children’s Laundry: Do they have pants? Yes = clean. No? Do they really NEED pants today? No = clean. Yes? Go swimming instead. Bam, clean.
Your Car: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
2. Redefine “productive.”
Did you do any 3 of the following?
Shower, brush your teeth, change into different pajamas, leave the house, get the mail, make a phone call, reply to an email, feed yourself real actual food, consider exercising.
Yes = productive. No? Life is hard, try again tomorrow.*
*In seriousness, parenting is inch by inch, moment by moment, Chinese takeout by Chinese takeout. If you nourished the body, mind, and soul of a small, helpless person that has been entrusted to your care, if you taught them about love, and that the world is a safe place for them because YOU are a safe place for them, if you played and cooed and held and disciplined and kissed and nurtured a little heart – you did a great big thing. You are shaping healthy humans. You are pouring LOVE into the world, because you are pouring LOVE into another person. And that is no small thing. Some days it will cost all you have, and that’s okay. Spend it. Pay it. And don’t think twice about the dishes.
3. Redefine “dressed.”
Men, are you wearing pants? If so, you are dressed! Women, are your breasts covered? Yes = you are dressed! No? Are you breastfeeding? Yes = dressed! No? Put something on, out of the hamper is fine. Bam, dressed.
4. Redefine “date.”
You didn’t know these were dates, but they are:
Grocery shopping, watching The Office on Netflix while eating dinner leftovers at 11:30 pm, taking the kids for a walk, holding hands while driving and listening to the Frozen soundtrack, sitting beside each other in church while the kids are in the nursery for a WHOLE GLORIOUS HOUR.
5. Redefine “privacy.”
The last time I was in the bathroom for any reason and the door was closed was 2007. Can your neighbors see you? No = Congratulations, you’ve achieved “privacy.” Yes? Ces’t la vie.
6. Redefine “dignity.”
Imagine your child is throwing a holy terror fit because he is possessed by the kind of demon that only comes out by prayer and fasting. Imagine he is screaming, kicking, gagging, sweating, and very, very red. Now, imagine that you are in Barnes & Noble, a traditionally quiet establishment. Imagine that you are dragging your demon out by his arm, at great risk to his tiny shoulder socket, as he flails/gags/kicks/screams behind you. Imagine that you are visibly sweating through your clothing, and that your mommy muffin-top is poked out because you have another baby on your hip. The small baby has his arm shoved down between your breasts, exposing your bra to the patrons of Barnes & Noble. Don’t worry, EVERYONE IS LOOKING. Imagine that as you drag your noisy, paralyzed demon, that you can hear the other patrons talking amongst themselves about you and your “parenting style,” and that their opinions are neither kind nor empathetic. Now – are you embarrassed by this? Yes? Your pride will be the death of you. No? Congratulations, you have achieved Zen parenting. Drag that demon out as calmly as Linus dragging his blue blanket. Carry on, warrior.
7. Redefine “dinner.”
You didn’t know the following things were dinner but they are:
A packet of peanut butter crackers and a glass of milk, cereal, assorted nuts, “pizza” (hotdog buns topped with pasta sauce and shredded cheddar cheese in the toaster oven), baby carrots and pickles, a milkshake from Sonic, a generous helping of Wheat Thins, Pop-tarts, granola bars and bananas.
8. Redefine “sleep.”
Here is a simple equation to help you determine whether or not you are receiving enough sleep:
Begin with your number of children.
Raise to the 4th power.
Divide by the number of pets in your home.
Multiply by zero.
Are you getting at least one (non-consecutive) hour of sleep? Yes = rested. No? Feign serious injury, get admitted to the hospital, and sleep for several uninterrupted hours. Pay your exorbitant medical bills and get back to your regularly scheduled programming.
9. Redefine “worth.”
You probably thought that you were very enlightened and mature and deep, and didn’t measure your worth by your home, appearance, productivity, job, or general likeability and good-naturedness. But you did. Even the Buddha, the Dali Lama, Mother Teresa, and the Virgin Mary did. When you have children you are forced to look that reality in the face, and are confronted with what you’re going to do about it. Here is the answer: You must RECKON WITH AND APPROPRIATE the reality that your worth is not in any of those things. Your worth is in you because you are a person. Because you have life and breath in you. Because you were created in the image of God and are loved by Him (scandalous!). There is no other measure – there could be no lesser measure, and there could be no greater one.
It’s strange that people without children so often feel that their lives are less complete because they haven’t experienced parenthood. There are so many posts out there saying, “You matter too!” And at the exact same time, on stage left, parents feel like their lives aren’t worth as much because all they do is raise children. There are so many posts saying “You matter, too!”
This is evidence that finding your worth anywhere except for inside of your given-to-you-by-your-Creator-life, is hollow. You can take a deep breath – there’s nothing to earn and nothing to prove. You are lovely, valuable, enough.
10. Redefine “love.”
I don’t know how it is true that you can love fully before kids, and then add more fullness when you have them. I don’t understand the math of heaven, adding fullness to fullness and growing it. I know that people that do not have children love fully and sacrificially and that their insides twist and flip inside out and they have WHOLE, COMPLETE, INFINITE LOVE. I know that. I also know that I have never loved anything on this planet like I love my children. I can’t figure out how that works, but I believe that it’s true. Dear mother, you will have to redefine love. It might not be right away. It might not be in the hospital. You might not cry when you hold that new baby that looks like a stranger to you. But sometime, maybe a week or two in, you will be rocking and soothing in the middle of the night and you will not want to stop. You SHOULD want to stop, to go back to sleep, but you won’t. You will want to sit and stare at her forever. You will never want to blink again. You will feel fierce and angry at anyone who would ever leave a baby – hurt a baby, neglect or abuse a baby. Something in you will break like a dam and you will think, “OH. THIS IS MOTHER-LOVE.” And you will never, ever, ever, ever be the same again. I cannot explain that. I just know that it is. The love will break you. You will hurt more, worry more, cry more, despair more. You will want more, yearn more, scratch and claw more, PRAY MORE. You will consider the possibility of God more. I do not know the mechanics of this. How could love that is already maxed out, grow? But whatever you think love is, hold on tight. Because you’re about to be flooded and drowned and smashed and buried in love. And it is good.
Last week I wrote about the Sunday morning alter egos of kids, and the abject horror that ensues between the hours of 7 am and 12 pm.
You don’t even know.
Unless you are responsible for kids in the altered state of Sunday consciousness. Then, YOU KNOW AND I’M SORRY AND LET’S GET TOGETHER AND DRINK*.
*Coffee. Because bedtime is still a long way off and Imma need to be on my A-game.
Shortly after I posted that blog, my youngest child managed to break an “unbreakable” dish filled with oatmeal. As I wiped up the slime, taking care to avoid the billion shards of “unbreakable” dinnerware, I thought, “Pride cometh before the fall, CORELLE.”
The following Sunday. Mercy. I’ll give it to you à la Jeff Foxworthy.
It Might Be Sunday Morning If:
1. It might be Sunday morning if you come downstairs to find the bottom third of all sliding glass doors covered in green crayon scrabble. And an empty sleeve of Ritz crackers, an empty bag of chocolate chips, and an open honey bear on the counter, all sitting in a pool of honey.
2. It might be Sunday morning if you pull a pair of jeans out of the hamper and say, “If anyone mentions it, I’ll say I spilled it ON THE WAY to church.”
3. It might be Sunday morning if the smoke alarm short circuits, just because, and blares until he feels heard.
4. It might be Sunday morning if you have to SHAKE OUT THE BLANKETS, LOOKING FOR TURDS.
5. It might be Sunday morning if you break a sweat walking to the car.
I know that I am not alone.
Last year, I texted my friend Megan a Sunday Confession every week.
It started with a picture of what my bed looked like after I tried on every single article of clothing I owned.
Then me putting baby powder in my hair because I was out of dry shampoo.
Then wearing my husband’s dress socks because I couldn’t find my navy nylons.
Over the course of several months I texted her a picture of me filling in the scuffs on my boots with a SHARPIE.
My good hair-day selfies.
Henry’s cranial injuries du jour.
The state of my kitchen after my children fed themselves breakfast, like ravenous wolves with no sense or opposable thumbs.
And a lot of “Reasons My Son is Crying.”
So this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while – and now I’m doing it, and I’m asking you to take the plunge with me.
I’m hijacking the hashtag #Sundayconfessions.
Instead of just texting my friends, I’m going to LET YOU INTO THE MADNESS.
If you have kids, you will laugh. You will cry. It will speak to you.
If you don’t have kids, we haven’t forgotten. We know that our lives were insane before kids in the house, and that they will be insane after the kids leave. Please show us some real life. Give us real talk.
#Sundayconfessions will be exactly ONE MILLION TIMES AS FUN if you play along.
Did your cat uproot all your potted plants this morning*? #Sundayconfessions!
Did your todder jam up the faucet while the bath water was running, causing water to rain from the light fixtures in the kitchen*? #Sundayconfessions!
Did your daughter sing the chorus to Pitbull’s Calle Ocho in the church nursery*? #Sundayconfessions!
Did you spill something? Break something? Did you take a selfie as a grown adult because you were feeling JUST SO FLY? Did you eat brownies for breakfast? Give the kids coffee? What did you have to resort to to get out of the door this morning? We want to know.
We want to encourage you. We want to let you know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We want to laugh with you, cry with you, and hold a little space for real life on Sundays. Tag your pictures, statuses, and tweets with #Sundayconfessions, and let the games begin!
I am having a time-stands-still, remember-it-forever, validating parenting moment.
Just now, when given the option to write or braille her homework, Madeline chose braille.
That means that right this second, I get to acknowledge that I chose right for my child. Too often parents don’t. In fact, we almost never do. We don’t know what would have happened had we chosen, taught, or encouraged differently. We just know that we’re doing the best we can, and somehow, against all odds, kids mostly turn out okay.
I fought for braille. And I’m not a born fighter. When it comes to fight or flight, I’m a flee-er.
So many special needs moms are bulldogs. They call, and fight, and advocate. They march into offices and make fusses. They say, “This is not acceptable. You must do better for my child. My child is a hero and an overcomer and he can do one hundred times more than you are presently imagining. He deserves more and better from this system.”
As much as these moms are my friends and my sisters, I often feel less-than when I’m around them. I find myself thinking, “I am not a bulldog. I am not a fighter. I don’t have what it takes.”
But I fought for braille.
I fought the system.
When they said, “Maybe she would do better in a special needs classroom,” I said, “That is not even close to her least restrictive environment, so absolutely no.”
I fought the odds.
When they said, “We can’t give her that many hours/that summer instruction/that specialist,” I said, “That is unacceptable. I will do it myself.”
I fought really well-meaning friends and family.
They said, “You know, she can SEE the page. She doesn’t need braille. Technology! iPads! Magnifiers!” And I said, “Braille = literacy. She can choose when she’s 18. Until then, I choose.”
I took classes.
We brailled grocery lists, and Christmas cards.
In every school, at every meeting, at every pass I said, “More hours. More braille. Equal time, equal exposure.”
I blindfolded her when she practiced.
People wondered if I was forcing it.
People said, “She can read the words.”
And I said, “But she won’t be able to read them in 2nd grade. And H-E-DOUBLE-HOCKEY-STICKS if I’m going to wait until she’s 3 yearsbehind to start teaching her the alphabet.
I fought for braille.
And tonight, when given the choice between print and braille, Madeline chose braille.
She chose it because it is easier for her to form letters with her fingers than it is for her to form them with a pen.
She chose it because she could. And she could because she learned. And she learned because I fought.
This is what she wrote:
I cannot even.
And listen, I may have fought, but I only fought because of the amazing, passionate, dedicated educators that fought alongside of me for the good of my child. Educators that pulled me aside and said, “I can’t say this as a teacher, but as a parent…” And, “You didn’t hear this from me, but…”
If I fought, it’s because they equipped me to fight. They gave me the buzzwords, the loopholes. They gave me the courage; they EN-COURAGED, truly. They texted and called and emailed. They said, “Fight for Madeline. Keep fighting.”
Our teachers and vision teachers and braillists and specialists are our heroes, and this success is theirs, too.
I cried tonight. I cried because I got to see the fight pay off. It’s not theoretical anymore. It’s tonight, right now. My baby knows braille, and she likes it, and she chooses it, and I did a good thing.
As the great philosophers of The Fray said, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”
2. People only stop by unannounced when your house is STRAIGHT NASTY and you are bra-less at 3:00 in the afternoon.
3. The entire universe conspires to keep you out of church on Sunday mornings. Sunday mornings are, ironically, the sixth circle of hell.
However much hitting, punching, glass-shattering, appliance-breaking, things exploding, tantrum-throwing, food-spilling, and violent diarrhea you think is inherent in parenthood, triple it. And on Sunday mornings, triple it again.
My children are overachievers. They adopt their Sunday morning alter-egos on Saturday night, like overly ambitious Black Friday shoppers. They want to make sure they have time to fit in ALL THEIR CRAZY.
A few weeks ago, Henry went to church with a large Band-aid straight across his forehead, connecting his eyebrows. It was covering up the fresh gash that maybe could have used a stitch, but we judgment called it and figured he’d be fine (third kid).
Tonight, we were blowing bubbles when things got violent. If you don’t understand how bubbles can turn violent you have less than or equal to one child.
So my kids are inching closer and closer – in order to be the first in line cluster to pop all the bubbles before his/her siblings – until they are all standing there with their fingers shoved INSIDE the bubble wand, and soapy syrup is running down their arms and all over my legs, and they are giggling like scary little Christopher Nolan versions of The Joker.
So I said, “EVERY ONE BACK. UP.”
And they did.
Until I blew the next wand-ful of bubbles and they stampeded towards me, shrieking and waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t care. And Henry, Henry is one year old by the skin of his teeth. I saw it happen in slow motion, like watching Mufasa get sucked under the hooves of crazed wildebeests. They knocked him over forwards, then straight trampled him as they leapt around in their unbreakable bubble-trance, COMPLETELY UNAWARE that a LITTLE PERSON was underfoot.
That was the end of bubbles, and now Henry has a cut on his eyelid. His left eye is all puffed up and pink, and he’s going to church AGAIN looking like Rocky Balboa.
You should also know that Madeline had to give herself a schizophrenic pep-talk to pipe down during story time tonight. I am not making this up. After the fifth interjection on the FIRST PAGE, I snapped, “MADELINE. STOP TALKING.”
And she said,
“Okay, I can do this.
No, I can’t.
Yes, yes I can. I can do hard things.
No, I can’t do this.
Yes, I can be quiet.”
I stared at her, unable to make sense of what was happening in front of me. She has to have a conversation WITH HERSELF to mentally prepare herself to stop saying every single thing that pops into her brain. You don’t even know.
The moral of this story is that I need something warm and chocolatey in the most serious way. And that moms with herds of offspring should get preferential parking at church. Because we have done mighty battle. We have exorcised the Sunday morning demons. We SHOWED UP.
And also, the childcare workers should just turn a blind eye (PUN INTENDED) to my little boxer tomorrow. He’s fine. He just had a nice Saturday evening blowing bubbles.
Are Sunday mornings your craziest mornings too? Why do you think that is? What keeps you showing up?
In light of Easter, I wanted to share with you a meditation I wrote for Yoga Bird last month.
The significance of the resurrection is so infinite – we can talk about the love of Jesus, the cost of sin, Jesus in our place, God’s power over death, the ultimate apologetic on which hinges the entirety of the Christian faith…
…but for me, this is where the rubber meets the road. The resurrection doesn’t just matter because it was miraculous. It matters because Jesus is alive. A dead god can’t help you any more than a box of rocks can. But a living God – a living God sees and loves and sustains. Easter is the biggest deal because a living God is the biggest deal.
“The days are uncertain, to be sure. When I think too long on Hollywood, or the beauty industry, or sex-trafficking, or congress, it is difficult to feel much of anything but despair. I can’t imagine anything more daunting than being asked to raise a girl in our culture – until I think of raising boys. And vice versa.
Then I realize that I believe Christ to be big enough for anybody, anywhere, no matter their plight or their hurt or their sin – but not big enough for me.
Not big enough for my parenting deficiency, not big enough for my immaturity, for my short-sightedness, for my brokenness and pride.
Of course he can redeem a life shattered by abuse.
Of course He can sustain through unimaginable loss.
Of course He can bring joy and peace to a life entrenched in the daily ache of poverty.
Of course He can lift the drug addict out of the pit, He can lift the alcoholic out of the mire, and set their feet on solid rock.
But me? And my kids? And my depressingly average, messed up life? I don’t know if He is big enough for that.
This is, of course, insanity. It is illogical and untrue, but I believe it – my worries betray me. My despair tattles.
“In what way am I damaging my children?” I wonder. “What will they say about me in therapy? Will they turn out okay, in these uncertain days? Will I?”
There is a song – a hymn – that I sang in a little Baptist church in Alabama. I sing it now, too. On almost every single one of these uncertain days:
“How sweet to hold a newborn baby
To feel the pride and joy he gives
But sweeter still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
Life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” The days are uncertain, but God - God is certain. He is the most certain thing there ever was. He is the Rock of Ages. Immutable and unchanging and certain.
And He is for me.
He is alive, full of power and grace. His arm is not too short to save. He is for me, and this child can face uncertain days because He lives. Some days “this child” is my child, and some days it’s me. But here’s what I know – we can face uncertain days. Oh, what blessed power and hope! We can face uncertain days!
We can face uncertain days because He lives.”
(You can listen to the meditation here. My words have been put to original music, and every meditation includes a time of silence and reflection.)
Besides blog and books, I have a few other projects going, one of which is writing meditations like this one for Yoga Bird. Yoga Bird is a wellness website that offers on-demand yoga classes with Christian meditation. I first subscribed a few months ago and poked around the site for over an hour – there is a huge library of poses, beginner and advanced classes, quick office breaks, a blog, and a library full of meditations (which are nice for a quiet time too, if you want to switch things up).
If you want to go exploring, here is a coupon for 10 free days!
Other cool thing: They beautiful heart behind Yoga Bird is my very dear aunt. You will love her.
And for the curious, this welcome video explains what they’re about:
We can face uncertain days because He lives. Happy Easter.
My middle child is my sensitive child. Sam feels things first. Changes in his environment, tweaks to his schedule, tensions in relationship – they’re all palpable to Sam. He notices and responds.
Whenever I visit with someone I love, I think,
“I hope they get to see the real Sam.”
They usually don’t. A new person in the vicinity is just enough change for Sam to holster his magic. He keeps it close to the vest.
I used to feel sad, because I knew the world was missing out. It was difficult to know that I had this treasure of a child and that even those closest to me would never really know him. When you have great joy, you want to share it. It’s why we photograph and Instagram, it’s why we call and text and “guess what!” It’s why we shout love from the rooftops. Sam is the greatest joy, and I so wanted the world to know him.
But these days, instead of feeling sad , I choose honored. I’ve begun to understand that all mothers keep their children’s secrets. I am the guardian of the great joy that is Sam at his most free, most comfortable, most true. I have the blessed privilege of being the human with whom he feels at home. It’s hard sometimes, to choose honored over sad, because the compulsion to shout him out and show him off is still so great. So I think of Mary, the young mother of Jesus, who “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2).
The shepherds were out shouting the glories of God and angels and the infant King Jesus, because great joy wants to be shared, but Mary treasured and pondered. A young mother, just like me, keeping her baby’s secrets.
I suspect this secret-keeping, this guarding of beautiful little selves, is how the universe pays us back for stretch marks. Oh, did we ever get the good end of that deal.
I spent my afternoon listening to Leigh Nash’s Hymns and Sacred Songs, sipping espresso, and hanging up all of Madeline’s artwork from our beach week. The rainy days yielded lots of drawing, plus Brooke was there, or as Madeline calls her, The Best Artist In The World.
I can’t argue.
I started to Instagram this picture, but there was too much I wanted to say about it. Then I was all, “Wait, I HAVE A BLOG.”
Here are my 5 would-be Instagram captions:
1. When Madeline was 4 months old, I could not have imagined this glory. Darling, do not fear what you don’t really know. Vision loss, hearing loss, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism – whatever the diagnosis, whatever the life-changing, dream-changing, scary unknown, do not assume what your child will not be able to do. Just wait and see. If there are things they cannot do – that’s okay. Who they are is enough. But what they can do – WHAT THEY CAN DO – will surprise you every day. Kids are brilliant, resilient, spectacular little people. Dear special needs parent, do not fear what you don’t really know. Madeline the hope-giver wants to be an artist and and astronaut. Who ever would have thought. There is so much hope.
2. I need a new phone, STAT. Here’s a game: let’s pretend this is really bright and clear and happy and gorgeous!
3. It is so important to display kids’ artwork in their home. I remember the wall above my parents’ headboard, filled with pictures from my brother and I, and I remember how proud it made me feel. There were some really beautiful ideas of how to display kids’ art at apartment therapy a few months ago.
4. I am rich. When my heart fails within me, I only have to look at this wall to remember. I am rich. Parenting matters SO MUCH. If I only ever get two things right in life, I want those things to be loving Jesus, and raising Madeline, Sam, and Henry Conner.
5. I will sing its praises again – y’all, $2 for a roll of washi tape is worth it times a billion. (I loved this ode to washi tape on the walk in love. blog.)
(This one isn’t on Madeline’s wall. It’s going in my room:)
When my mom left the beach yesterday, she said, “I wanted more.”
It rained from Saturday to Wednesday, which was okay, since we are pretty good at hanging around and just being with one another, but it was okay in a “choose to be happy because the alternative sucks worse” kind of way. And we both knew it.
We took this picture, in our own words, to prove we were there.
When my mom and brother pulled out of the driveway, it was like the clouds hitched a ride in their back seat. They drove west, and immediately, gloriously, from the east came the sun – right on their heels. In just a few hours the island warmed up by 20 degrees. Sorry, guys.
And today. Today was everything we could have dreamed. It was the More.
Today there were sand castles; both bucket and dribble style. We dug giant holes, so deep that I looked down the beach once and panicked – where’s Madeline?!? Then she popped up like a prairie dog and we laughed. We saw bottlenose seal blah blah blah’s playing in the surf – diving slowly, lolling over the breakers – only waist-deep in the water. We made sand cakes, decorated with shells and reed-candles, OBVIOUSLY. We drew in the sand. We inspected dead crabs.
At one point, Henry was sleeping in a mass of patterned blankets, the kids were playing afar off in the giant hole, and I was able to lay so still that the little conch snail we found eased his way out of his shell right in front of me. Straight-up magical.
We snacked on granola bars and healthy amounts of sand. Sam terrorized sea gulls.
And I have not one single picture of this perfect day.
My phone did a weird thing, as ancient-artifact phones tend to do, and right before we stepped outside it was like, “Oh wait, did you need me to work today? MY BAD.”
And listen. Before you think that this is going to be a holier-than-thou “I was liberated from technology and lived in the moment!” post – it’s not.
I did not feel even a little bit enlightened. I wish I’d had my phone. If I could change that part, I would. My heart does an achy thing when I think about all the sandy, happy freeze-frames I don’t have.
I had to add this day to my mind bank.
I have a treasure box in my mind full of perfect moments uncaptured by film. They’ll only last as long as my mind does; when I’m gone, I’ll take them with me.
-In my mind bank is a day in the Tuileries Garden in Paris with my little cousins, pushing sailboats around that iconic fountain with a stick. I’d used up all 13 rolls of 35mm film, and since digital cameras only existed in a think tank somewhere and not in the possession of 13-year-old girls, I was out of luck.
-There is also an endangered red hawk, perched feet from me on a fence post, as we were driving home from horseback riding.
-There is the night I felt mother-love for the first time. It wasn’t in the hospital, for me. It was at home a week later, at 2:30 am. I didn’t want to put Madeline down, and I didn’t understand why. I should have wanted to sleep, but I didn’t; I wanted to be awake with her. I can still see everything about that moment.
And now there is a perfect beach day with my three children. It was everything a beach day should be, and it’s our secret. It is safe in my treasure box with the other moments I’ve preserved on mind-film.
Do you have a mind bank? What is a moment that’s inside? Do you wish you’d had a camera, or are you glad it will only ever be your secret?
Sam fell asleep in the car this afternoon, and I opted to try to transfer him to his bed instead of following my traditional course of action, which is to listen to music and text and generally avoid responsibilities in my car until he wakes up.
Bringing a sleeping child inside is a risk – the parental version of Russian Roulette. There are so many factors working against you:
-Seat belt maneuvering
-Car door noises
-The darn birds
Each obstacle that doesn’t yield a screaming baby is a Russian-Roulette-caliber sigh of relief; it is hope and life and an hour of nap time to accomplish things.
I lifted Sam onto my shoulder without incident; he was exhausted, and all 30 lbs of his two year old self pressed heavy into my chest. I laid his blanket over his back to shield him from the elements – one of my hands tenderly, protectively on the back of his head, and the other bearing his weight under his thighs.
Halfway between the car and the house, I felt Sam stir. I felt him flexing and releasing his legs, his butt, over and over, fighting for sleep.
Now here is the delicate balance, the dangerous dance: You must get to the bed ASAP, but without increasing your heart rate enough for the child to sense it. You have to move quickly, fluidly, and silently with a little bit of a waddle, so that your bent knees absorb all the bumps and jostles.
When Sam started to squirm, I picked up the pace and whispered, “Shh, shh, shh, don’t wiggle.”
He kept on flexing and squirming, trying to carve out a warm, safe space in the crook of my arm. ”Shh, shh, shh. Relax your little butt. I’ve got you.”
Then I said, ” Trust my arms. Trust my strength. Trust my love.”
And I felt a familiar surge in my chest. The God-speaking-surge.
How many times has He whispered those words to me TODAY?
“Kate, stop wiggling. Relax your little butt. (How glorious that in relation to all the cosmos in the hollow of His hand my butt is very, very small.) Trust my arms. Trust my strength. Trust my love.”
I am a strategist and an energy-preserver and I work really well within structure and flounder outside of it – and that makes me a wiggler. That makes me want to know what’s going on and why – not so that I can control it (I tell myself), but so that I can prepare for it. I’m very flexible as long as I know exactly what is going on. (So, about as flexible as an anvil.) I say, “Jesus, your will be done. But give me a heads up as to exactly what your will is, so that I can adjust my attitude and my expectations and generally get on board.” I get agitated when God does not consult me about His plans, or at least update me. A little common courtesy is all I ask.
But that’s not how faith works. For who has known the mind of the Lord? And who has been his counselor? Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out. (Romans 11:34 & 33) Faith is not for the faint of heart. And God tells me, every day, some days more patiently than others, every time I stop for long enough to listen:
Stop wiggling. Relax your butt. Trust my arms. Trust my strength. Trust my love. I can carry you.