You’ve Got This

Dearest Noah & Aria,

My first instinct is always to jump in and be the barrier between you and the world. My muscle memory is to protect you from anything that could potentially cause you harm or sadness. And more and more as the days pass by,  I find myself fighting an internal battle between the part of me that wants to fix everything for you both and the part of me that knows it’s important for you each to learn to trust in yourselves and your own abilities to navigate new experiences.

Thankfully, the voice of reason is growing louder with each year that passes. And even though every fiber of my being wants nothing more than to be a helicopter mom who shadows your every move and choice, I know that is not what either of you needs from me. I am always trying to toe the line between keeping you safe and giving you enough space and encouragement to find your own way. And oh man you guys, that is so insanely hard sometimes.

This past weekend, I watched you help each other climb to the top of a ladder on the big kid side of the playground. Your little hands held on so tightly to each other as you went higher and higher and everything in me wanted to go and put my hands out towards you. But instead, I stopped, took a deep breath and said to myself, “They’ve got this”.

I stood a few feet away, every muscle in my body ready to leap forward should one of you slip, but I stood my ground, hide my panic, and smiled and told you that you were doing a great job.

And you were. You both surprised yourselves with your strength and perseverance. The look of pride on your faces & the high-fives when you reached the top by yourselves assured me I had done the right thing in staying back.

It reminded me of the internal battle I will fight until you both are grown. I fought it on your first day of school, Noah. Aria, I’ll be facing the same fight with you when you begin kindergarten in a few months. I dread the first time someone breaks your heart. And the first trips you take away without me. And the day you get your drivers licenses. And the day you move out of our house.

I can assure you that at every turn, a voice inside me will be shouting. “No! Wait! Stop! Let me help you! Let me go too!!”

But thanks to God and his endless grace, the reasonable side will win, as it always does.

I will take a deep breath, look into your beautiful brown eyes, and I will tell you how much I love you and remind you that I am here if you need me. That I will always be right here. And every single ounce of me will be waiting eagerly to remind you both that we can do hard things. I will always be ready to answer your call, should you need me. But I will do my best to take a step back, and whisper to myself again and again and again.

They’ve got this.

Wave to me from the top, my loves.

I love you to the moon & back,

Mama

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Talking To Your Daughter About Her Body

Talking To Your Daughter About Her Body

Step one to talking to your daughter about her body:

Don’t. Unless you’re teaching her how it works, just don’t. Buy her an anatomy book that you can read together. Let her ask questions. Answer them as best as you can. Don’t have the answer? Tell her that and let her know that you will find out. Better yet, look for the answer together.

Don’t bring up if she’s lost weight. Don’t bring up if she’s gained weight.

If you think that she looks great, don’t say that. Some things to say instead:

“You look so strong!” is a great one.

Or  “You’re looking so healthy.”

Even better? Compliment her on something that has absolutely nothing to do with her body.

Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.

Teach her about kindness towards others, but also teach her about kindness towards yourself.

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of her or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t even go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.

Encourage her to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage her to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to talk to God than at the edge of the Universe. Encourage her to surf, or rock climb, or bungee jump because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.

Help her love baseball or soccer or martial arts because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork.

Prove to your daughter that women don’t need men to move their furniture. Yes, Daddy is super strong, but so are we.

Teach her how to cook kale. Introduce her to new produce at the weekly farmer’s market. Grow your own garden and build a salad that you planted together,

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for coconut pie and Christmas buckeyes. Teach her how to make a cheesecake so damn good, it elicits tears.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world if she want

Most importantly, always remind your daughter that the best thing about her body is that it is the vessel for her beautiful soul.

The Laughing Family

The Laughing Family

A lot of my motivation when starting this blog was to capture all of the fantastic and silly things my kids say. They crack me up every single day, but more than that, they say the sweetest and sometimes, most profound things.

Tonight was a great night. Usually, Tim works the closing shift and bedtime is for the kids and me. But tonight we were able to go about our routine with him by our side. Our nightly Goosebumps viewing dissolved into a tickle fight, which then dissolved into a mess of hyper pups, giggling kids, and the happiest parents all crammed onto our queen sized bed.

As we all stopped for a minute to catch our breath and calm the dogs down, Aria looked at us and said the best thing I’ve heard yet.

“We’re the laughing family! We’re always laughing and I love it!”

Noah excitedly agreed with his sister and my heart soared. We may not have it all together or be where we would like to be. In fact, we may even be in a seemingly unending season of trials and struggles but we still have it so, so good. We have been able to raise these two beautiful little human beings, who even in the midst of so much darkness shine light into our lives with their innate joy. And nights like tonight prove that, by the grace of God and God alone, we’re not totally screwing this gig up.

Mom-guilt gets the best of me all too often. I let my mind and insecurities run wild when our circumstances feel out of control.  It kills me when I’m not able to buy the kids a new outfit for a special event or take them out for ice cream to celebrate special accomplishments. But Aria’s bold declaration about our family and who we are reminds me that these fears about perceived shortcomings are my own. I’m the one who ties my worth and success as a mother to the number on my paycheck, not my kids. They don’t care if their closet is 75% Goodwill finds, they just want that second and third story before bedtime. And they don’t care if we’re at a fancy ice cream shop or if we’re rocking our jammies in my bed while we watch Goosebumps.

Just as long as we keep laughing.

Shaking Things Up

Shaking Things Up

We like to joke that sometimes life is like the movie Groundhogs Day. You wake up, you get kids dressed, you pour bowls of cereal, get ready for work, pick up toys and so on,  rinse and repeat. While there are plenty of beautiful, Kodak moments in our lives, our reality is weeks and months of predictability and repetition. Sometimes, it starts to drive us all a little crazy.

We embrace the benefits of our tried and true routine, but with the coming of spring, the daylight is already beginning to linger just a little longer in the evenings and we’re trying to make good use of it. We’ve been eating early, quick dinners so that we can pack up and walk the dogs to our favorite spot where we can all run and laugh and wear ourselves out.

We’ve been pushing their bedtimes just a little later to adventure out and shake things up.

Wednesday’s are for midweek connect at church, where we eat dinner with our friends before the kids, my mom, and I head up to our separate classes. The kids spend the hour laughing and learning with their friends. And I always get some pretty sweet art to add to my desk at work the next day. Win-win!

Thursday nights the kids put on their jammies and we take the 5-minute walk to our favorite place, Once Upon A Storybook, for cookies & milk storytime. Seriously, it’s the cutest concept and the kids always look forward to it. This shop is geared towards instilling a love of reading, imagination, and wonder in kids of all ages and they are killing it. There’s always something going on at OUASB and it’s our favorite part of where we live.

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Every other night, we take extra long walks and encourage Noah and Aria to think of places that they would like to go or things that they would like to see and then trying to making it happen. Anything to get us out of the house instead of making excuses as to why we should probably just stay home. We’re too good at convincing ourselves that it’s easier to stay put (because often, it is!) but once we are out, we’re always glad to be there.

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The whole family is benefiting from this concerted effort to build more out-of-the-house activity into our weekday routine. The kids are sleeping better and we all are genuinely in better moods. Being spontaneous and adventurous with the kids has been helpful in making our days less ground-hoggy and a little more unpredictable in the best ways.

Mothering in the Shadow of Anxiety

Mothering in the Shadow of Anxiety

One of my biggest challenges as a mom is keeping my anxiety in check. Motherhood has made me hyper-aware of all of the risks and dangers in the world in a way I never could have expected before having children. Anxiety has been in my life since I was a young girl, but the overwhelming love that I have found in motherhood kicks it up a notch – my daily demon.

Some things that haunt me on a regular basis: My kids choking or drowning ( I had scary personal experiences with both of those as a child). The possibility of one of them getting outside and being accidently run over. ( Once on the news, I saw a story about a family who lost their 3-year-old son that way. The sound of the father’s voice as he screamed his son’s name on the 911 call will never leave me). Protecting my children from sexual predators. (As a victim of sexual abuse, this one haunts me the most). Pretty traumatic stuff to fill my head with, right?

All of that being said,  I’m very conscious of keeping it in check enough so that it doesn’t spill over and affect the kids in a negative way. I’m determined to raise brave, independent kids who approach new situations and experiences with curiosity and interest and determination. I do not want to instill fear in them or echo the “what ifs” that weigh on me into them.  We are constantly trying to find a balance in educating my brave babes about the people, places, things, and situations that could potentially be dangerous for them (i.e. running with scissors, opening the door and going outside alone, reaching for something on top of a hot stove) and encouraging them to explore. More than anything, I want them to be independent and confident from a young age instead of having to fight for those things at 27-years-old.

It is such uncharted territory to explain these things to kids. I find myself choosing each word I use with them carefully – trying to help them understand the need to be cautious without scaring them.

Thank the Lord above that my partner in parenthood is much more levelheaded and relaxed about these issues. Tim is the perfect yin to my yang. He helps me talk through things that worry me and offers suggestions on how to keep the kids safe in a reasonable manner. I have also learned to lean on my faith. I ask the Lord to show me what they need from me and do my best to hand over the burdens of my heart to Him. I am trying desperately to be comfortable with the fact that there will always be so much in life that is completely out of my control.

I will always battle these worries, but I work every single day to let my kids go a little bit. I’m determined to not let my anxiety cloud the beauty of watching them discover the world. I can miss out on or even prevent a lot of their joy if I don’t keep it in check.  I’m never completely successful and I’m sure that I will always hold a little knot in my throat whenever they are out of my arms reach – but I’m getting better at it all the time. By the time they are teenagers and the real tests to my ability to let them go begin (High school! Social media! Driving! Dating! Peer pressures!) I’m hopeful I’ll have learned to get good and comfortable with my worries and put them in a place where they don’t clutter my head or my heart.

I’m  working it out and seeking ways to keep anxiety from running the show. We can give our kids love. We can take reasonable steps to protect them. We can do our best to teach them right from wrong. And then we have to step back, swallow down that familiar lump in our throats, and let life happen.

And that my friends, is the hardest part of this thing called parenting.

Done Over Perfect

Done Over Perfect

 

I’ve lost track of how many times I have told myself that I couldn’t do this blogging thing. My lack of web design knowledge mocked me every time I opened up a friend’s thoughtfully and beautifully designed blog. The rust that’s settled onto my writing from allowing myself to become so out of practice would become so glaringly apparent the second I’d try to draft that initial post. As you can see, over the years I have perfected the art of talking myself out of things that scare me. Which is how I have found myself as an aspiring writer, with a mountainous passion for words and connection, and nothing to show for it, except for piles and piles of journals that I have never let anyone read.

There’s always been some reason why I couldn’t start and if I’m being very honest, all of the above obstacles still apply today.

Web design and coding are a totally alien concept to me. I’m still hyper aware of my flaws as a writer. But I’m done letting all of the reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t get in the way of trying.

A good friend of mine came into the office today, absolutely glowing. When I mentioned how great she looked, she told me something that has stuck with me since:

 

“I claimed my life back. I stopped making excuses for why I wasn’t accomplishing the things I wanted to get done and I just got them done.”

 

The peace and joy that this woman exudes on a daily basis is inspiring, but today there was something more there. I could sense the peace and calm she felt from taking control and I knew right then that I had to take note.

 

So here I am. An aspiring writer and blogger with a heart for people and a passion for all things creative looking for an outlet. I may not be a web designer or be able to afford a snazzy blog makeover, but I’ll show up and cultivate this space as I learn and grow. I may not have all the answers (let’s be real – I may not even have most of them) but I’m finally willing to put myself out there and seek the answers, for both of us.

 

Here’s the thing: this blog is not going to perfect. It may not even be pretty and sometimes you may want to send me a heated email listing out all of the ways I butchered grammar in a single post. But, if you gather here with grace, this is going to be a space where you will feel heard and seen. Where you know that you are loved and that even if things are in the shitter today and tomorrow isn’t looking too great, either, you can come here and take a deep breath and say, “Me too.”

 
So here’s to learning as we go and getting better together.