Wanderlust

Tonight the walls are too confining. My skin itches to feel the balm of a summer night and not the pinpricks of an air conditioned chill. My legs want to stretch out under the dashboard of my car, right foot meeting accelerator, and drive under the moon. Wanderlust seems to creep in right in those seasons when it is the most impossible- escape the most improbable. But I acknowledge it anyway, ticking off in my mind all of the places I want to see.

And to ease the restlessness, I will tell myself that it’s ok to dream. It’s right to experience longing for escape when motherhood can leave us feeling so trapped. So tapped out. And I will grab a travel narrative off of the shelf, open the windows, and pray that until my mind lets go and surrenders to sleep that my babies will dream their dreams. Because I need to dream mine too.

Freedom in Becoming

There is magic in becoming. I will never forget driving home from the hospital with my daughter. Cars have “new car smell” and babies…ahhh babies….have that incredible newborn smell that peaks in its headiness right at the tippy top of their little heads. I swear I could smell her newborn smell from the front seat and suddenly it hit me like soccer ball to the stomach. I was a MOM. A mother. A living, breathing, person’s mother. I knew in that moment in the way that all life-changing things are known, that more than just my sleep schedule and Saturday afternoons were different. I was different.

There are tangible ways that we change after giving birth. If you have experienced postpartum depression or anxiety then you may have experienced the birth of an anxious you, or a sad you, or a constantly worried you, where there may not have been before. Or maybe your postpartum experience has been pretty normal but you discovered that becoming a mother made you more or less organized, more poetic, less carefree, more adept at thriving in chaos, etc. One of my girlfriends discovered that having babies gave her a life perspective that intensely mellowed her out. She experienced life to be much more enjoyable, fun, and free after her son was born. However you have or will experience a metamorphosis postpartum is good and to be embraced! It’s all a part of becoming the mother you are meant to be.

I also think that there is a significant spiritual shift that happens within a mother at the birth of each child. And I think the reason for that change is held within the person of her baby. I don’t think we can carry and birth a child without being touched by his or her soul. It’s not a quantifiable kind of change where you can look at your child and say “you’re quiet and inquisitive by nature and birthing you has made me so”. While that may have been your experience, what I’m talking about goes beyond that. (By the way, this is absolutely true for adoptive mothers as well!)  What I can only put the tip of my pinky finger on because the presence of it is so elusive is that the very core of our being shifts in a primal, visceral way that marks us, scars us in a way that only those closest to us can see. We become something that can only be described as “Mother”.  And even though it would seem as though that’s not really saying anything, it actually says everything. It’s the rage that bubbles up when someone threatens your baby. It’s the way that you know how your son needs to be touched in order to fall asleep, or the song to sing when your daughter is about to lose her cool. It’s the magic you hold in your scent and in the rise and fall of your chest that is enough to send your newborn babe into sweet dreams. When you become Mother you become a new you. A true and pure you. Nuanced with each birth and with each child that you welcome in as yours.

On the really hard days, this is what I go back to. When I question who I really am and what I’m doing, if I’m doing it right or if my mothering needs to take an entire 180…I return to my becoming. And I embrace the freedom that comes with knowing those two souls were chosen as mine to raise. When they became mine, I became theirs.  Nothing undoes that bond. Nothing can make me not their mother. I’m writing that thought on my heart tonight while I sleep next to a teething baby boy in the midst of a growth spurt.

Take heart, dear ones.  ~ Heather

Growing a Rocky Garden- The Freedom of Imperfection

garden

 

I am a classic perfectionist. Born of a family of “it’s the other guy’s fault” and “you’re the best one out there” I grew up expecting more of myself than I should have and did not experience failure well. I still don’t. I’m pouting tonight. I’m finally not too proud to admit that. I submitted a short writing piece- not my best work but still good- to a motherhood journal to be one of this quarter’s authors. I did not get selected. So much of me wants to sink into the words that my dad would say if I were to call him tonight and tell him. “It was rigged. You’re just as good as the ten people chosen. They must have been intimidated by you…” But the truth is, I read the pieces written by the women who were selected, and they are simply much better writers. The prose, the voice, the lyricism in each of their pieces was exquisite. What I had to offer wasn’t up to par, plain and simple. And that’s OK! Can I get better? Absolutely. Do I want to become a better writer? Yes. Does this relate to motherhood? It does. 😉

I want to be the perfect mom. It’s my “job”. I’ve been good at every job I’ve done. But all of those jobs came with training, with clear expectations and regular affirmation of work quality. Nothing prepares us adequately for the thrill, shock, and rollercoaster ride that is mothering a child. And yet we hold ourselves to a standard that suggests otherwise.  This morning my daughter screamed and got mad at something (a daily occurrence) but for some reason the way she yelled stunned and terrified my 5 month old son to the point of hiccuping sobs. His hiccuping sobs made my daughter feel so bad that she started bawling and I was left to rock, shush and calm both of them thinking to myself “who could have told me that I would be here, trying to calm both of my hysterical children all because of one angry little scream?” I had to laugh. They were both crying simply because the other was crying! I wanted to scream at the lunacy of it! The whole situation was ludicrous. And there are many many ludicrous scenarios that we will endure in our parenting journeys. Nothing prepared me for the night that my daughter would throw herself out of her crib in a desperate attempt to get to us. Nobody prepared me for my son being wheeled on a cart into the NICU just minutes after he was separated from my body and for the first time in 41 weeks not being able to wrap my arms around him. And most days I certainly don’t know what to do with my too smart, so fiery, always questioning little girl. I snap. I yell. I make mistakes and I hate it. I’m not perfect at being her mother. But do you know what my Heavenly Father reminds me in those moments of intense remorse when I have to hang my head at the way I fall short or am left powerless? My kids don’t need a perfect mother. Neither do yours. Because they are going to fail. They are going to make mistakes and fall down hard and come up short. And they don’t need a parent who tells them to place blame elsewhere. They don’t need a mother or father to make excuses for them or to tell them they need to be perfect at everything. Our children do need someone to show them their strengths and weaknesses and to see both with grace-filled clarity. They need someone to hold them when they fail and to explore both the ways in which they can do better and the ways in which they simply can’t. Sometimes even our best will not make the grade. That’s OK too. It can be shocking to have those first experiences of wingless leaps. We are not always going to take off and soar. Oh we want to. So badly we want to. Especially when we work so hard. Tally the bruises. Safeguard the scars. They make you human and ensure that your babes will be raised with the fearlessness that comes with pure love and acceptance. My garden is filled with rocks but it is yielding some beautiful growth. If that’s not a metaphor for motherhood then I don’t know one.

Grace to you, sweet hearts. There is freedom in grace

The Lie of Being Trapped- Freedom from our Babies

Last week I started a series about freedom. It’s a word that we don’t normally associate with motherhood but I want to show you how you can either recognize or reclaim some freedom into your world.

Tiny people are exhausting. If yours aren’t talking yet then you’re most likely still walking around half-awake in the kind of exhaustion that comes along with night-nursing, teething, and attaching baby locks to every cupboard and drawer. Or you may be the kind of worn out that only moms who have bodily removed a screaming, tantruming toddler from Target understand. Maybe you’re balancing your time between children that range from infancy and beyond and in the same day you’ve cleaned baby poop off of a wall and sent a mouthy child to her room. Whatever your degree of tired, it feels confining. I know that. I’m there. And it is so easy to feel completely overwhelmed when you look at your children first thing in the morning and can already tell that your plans aren’t happening. One is already yawning and cranky from poor sleep, another is making every little task an enormous challenge testing your already thread bare patience before you’ve even had your coffee. And then the voice pipes up. “My whole day is ruined because of my kids. I can’t do anything. I have no life. Why do I even try to make plans?” That voice, the whisperer of lies, is manipulative and powerful. But that voice only has as much control as you give it. It’s not our children that steal our freedom, it’s us.

Now before you start talking to your phone/tablet/computer screen and arguing with me, let me explain.  There are times when our kids are going to call the shots. Illness, injury, refusal to take a bottle are a few of those non-negotiables. But aside from those things, are you still letting life get the best of you when it comes to having time away from your children? This scenario might sound familiar. You get asked out for happy hour by a girlfriend who you would love to catch up with. You get excited and absolutely need the time away! The day comes and your toddler has a runny nose so is particularly cranky. Making it to the grocery store doesn’t happen like it should so you call your husband to make sure he’s home on time and picks up dinner as well because you just don’t have anything to make. Suddenly it’s 5:00, he’s not home because traffic is a mess, you’re still not out of sweats because of said toddler and the whole thing becomes too overwhelming to feel worth it. You cancel. And then you’re miffed about it for the rest of the evening and probably the entire next day. Moms, this was me for my daughter’s first two years of life. Was it fair that it always just felt so hard to make it happen?  No. But is that how life goes sometimes? Yes! And who else is going to advocate that you get some time to yourself if you don’t? Perhaps you feel guilty taking more time away because you are a working mom. That was me. Maybe you know that things just run more smoothly when you’re home and you would rather stay and run the show than come home to dishes and a baby still awake. That was me too. Until those reasons no longer worked- no longer justified feeling like I was a victim in my own choices. Thankfully my husband noticed it at the same time and started encouraging me to make plans and do fun things. He even went so far as to book me a flight and send me down to see one of my best girls in Cali shortly after our daughter turned two! But please, if you’re feeling trapped and you’re resenting it do not wait for someone to make plans for you and push you out the door. You deserve more from yourself. You deserve to nurture your friendships with fun and uninterrupted conversation. You deserve to nurture your big, beautiful brain with reading and enjoying culture and beauty. There is a lot that we can do with our kids by our sides but also a lot that we can’t. And that is OK. Getting out is OK.

Before I leave and that whiny, annoying little voice of negativity starts to whisper why you are the exception to this post let me give you a few ideas on how to make this doable. Because there is nothing I love more than proving a liar wrong 😉

  • Make a date, write it on the calendar, and then tell a lot of people how excited you are! This will get you more excited and more likely not to cancel for a “silly” reason, it will keep Daddy/Grandma/Babysitter on the ball and remembering that they are responsible for the babes during that time, and if you have people asking you all day “hey aren’t you doing ___ tonight?” you’re going to stay excited and be less likely to cancel.
  • Plan for meals while you are gone at least a day in advance. You will feel that much easier leaving and won’t be stressed the day of.
  • Tell your kids a couple days in advance and keep reminding them how great it is going to be that they get to have some special Daddy/Grandma/Babysitter time.
  • Be prepared to come home to things not being as you left them and remind yourself that there will always be messes to clean, kids to put back in bed, etc etc. What matters is that you got some time away and the kids were well cared for.
  • Build a network of people who are available to come be with your kiddos and who love to do it. Because time away without your significant other is fun but you guys need date nights too! Make sure that you’re building people into your network who let you get away together so you’re not always tag-teaming your fun.
  • Give your kids as many kisses and hugs as they need before leaving…but still leave. If you love and trust who you are leaving them with they will sense that and know it’s ok that you are gone. Moms are magic, but there is a lot of magic to be found in other incredible caregivers.

Enjoy today and while you’re at it, call a friend. Make a date. Go have FUN!

Cheers ~ Heather

The Home of the Free

In honor of Independence Day being this past weekend I want to do a series on freedom. I think as mothers, especially in the first year postpartum, we wind up feeling so tied down, even imprisoned at times by our babies schedules and needs. We can so easily become blind to the freedoms that we have. The next few posts will be about finding freedom in different areas of motherhood and womanhood and I pray they inspire and liberate you!

Today I want to focus on freedom in parenting. The biggest thing that I want us to toss out the window is parental labeling. A) It’s isolating, and B) It’s debilitating. When I was pregnant with my daughter I became incredibly attracted to the theory of Attachment Parenting. The concept of gentle, close, intimate mothering jived with both my personality and with what I knew from studying developmental psychology. I donned the cap of the Attachment Theory Parent and decided that I would go by the manual. Simple right? 😉 Not. I know that there are some parents that this has worked for. You decided early on how you were going to parent, how often you would let Dad give a bottle and how often you would breastfeed, whether you would breastfeed at all, cry-it-out verses the no cry sleep solution verses traditional sleep training verses modified sleep training, Ferber verses Gerber…etc etc etc. And it worked! Some of you out there have stuck to your guns, made a decision and found that miraculously that decision worked for your child and for your family. If that has been the case for you then that is awesome! For others of us, we got stuck somewhere between chapter three and “my baby won’t take a bottle” and the theories and decisions have been modified. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. When I decided that I wanted to jump on board the Attachment Parenting bandwagon I never considered that there would be things that wouldn’t work. After all, this highly researched and decades practiced method seemed foolproof. But I didn’t know at that time that I would give birth to a strong-willed, space-craving, bottle-loving daughter. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing  is common with Attachment Parenting families. This was not an option for my little lady who was far too wakeful when she was in bed with us. And when it came to breastfeeding she could have taken it or left it. The flow of the bottle was her bag baby. 😉 I pushed through and we nursed until a month past her first birthday at which point she weaned herself from the breast and never looked back. And those things bothered me. It bothered me that I had to let her do some crying at night at 15 and 18 months when she went through horrible sleep regressions and would not sleep any other way. It bothered me that she didn’t want to be my little nursling until she was 2 years old. And do you know why those things bothered me? Because they weren’t the “Attachment Parenting Way”. It sounds silly, but that was it. By nestling myself into the comfort of a theory I had essentially imprisoned myself self-imposed parameters and taken away my own freedom. I started down that same dangerous path when it came to her education. When she was 2, I started researching schools and education theory and stumbled on the Waldorf/Steiner Education method.  I started implementing Waldorf fundamentals into our home because Waldorf isn’t just about education, it’s a whole way of family life and child-rearing. Some of the things that I did brought beauty and balance and rhythm into our family life…and others just didn’t work. Waldorf early education is slow and earthy, whimsical and lovely. It urges parents to only bring natural elements into the home for play and art, to eliminate all forms of media, and to focus on movement and song . My daughter loved the idea of singing our way through the day and spending a lot of time outdoors. But she is not prone to play quietly and do anything slowly. She loves all things bright, plastic, shiny, and loud! Her first year of preschool was at a Waldorf school, and she loved it, but she will be entering her second year of preschool this fall at a Reggio Emilio school. Because I am learning to take what I like from a method or theory while tossing what doesn’t work guilt-free. There are naysayers out there who will scoff at this idea. There are those that will call that “flighty” or say it’s giving into the whims of the child. I simply think it’s realistic and kind. It is kind to consider how something is working for you and it is kind to think about how something is working for your child.

Now my son just might be your prototypical Attachment Parenting, Waldorf kid. He sleeps next to me in bed, nurses on demand, and thinks the sun rises and falls on my boobs.  (I took the last line from a friend because it’s hilarious and so so true! Thank you, Katie!) His temperament is pleasant and even and strikes me as a boy who will be happy to play with rocks and blocks for hours on end. If we “follow the manual” for him it will simply be because it works. I’m not going to force it. Life is too short to live or parent by what works for someone else, even if it is incredibly well researched. Because in the end, you and I are different people. And our children are their own unique tiny people. And in order to raise them up in joy and in love I think we need to remember to also raise them up in freedom.

What’s Your Unicorn?

Why am I writing about unicorns? I think the correct question is why would I not write about unicorns. 😉 However, I’m not going to write about actual unicorns. I’ve been reading fashion blogs lately with the intent of both streamlining my “look” (read: not look so frumpy in clothes that are bigger than I want to be wearing) as well as my closet. If you haven’t heard of the capsule wardrobe movement or project 333 but you’re craving some simplicity I urge you to look into these ideas further! Finding a unicorn is fashion lingo for when you’ve found an item of clothing that feels and looks so good on you that it seems too good to be true. A true rarity- a precious gem…like a unicorn. Mine is my 6 year old Gap chambray shirt. I smile just thinking about it. Well I happen to think that we also have a unicorn in mothering.

I remember when my daughter was right around 9 months old and the weather officially turned wintry here in the Pacific Northwest. Gone were the evenings of long walks to kill the dead space between the afternoon nap and dinnertime…aka daddy getting home. I was working at the time but only 4 days a week so I spent a good number of those days with her at home all day. And if you’ve ever had a willful, teething 9 month old you know that those days are loooooong. I had a couple of go-to solutions that I’m not necessarily proud of but they worked. One of them was popping her in her high chair with cheerios facing the tv and turning on a Baby Einstein DVD. That always bought me an hour to cook dinner. One. Whole. Hour. For that brief season (because though they feel long they really are all so fleeting) the high chair and Baby Einstein DVDs were my unicorn.

I have had a few unicorns in my parenting career. The Ergobaby carrier. I’ll cry when it’s finally time to part with it. So many memories of both of my babies…sigh. The BOB Revolution jogging stroller. I was just telling my daughter tonight about the handful of months when every Friday morning I would go on an hour long walk so she could nap in that stroller. Well this afternoon I welcomed what I hope and pray will be this season’s unicorn…a double jogging stroller. I feel like angels should be singing and trumpets playing! This stroller is monumental for me. My husband travels a lot and I love to run. It’s been on my wishlist since my little mister was born and today I got the go-ahead to get it! I didn’t think I would need a double stroller with my kiddos being 4 years apart but my daughter is right at that age where she doesn’t need to be in a stroller for short walks but trips to the zoo are a bit much. And when it comes to runs and walks she’s not proficient enough on her bike to ride alongside while I run. So double jogger it is and I could not be more thrilled to know that I have the freedom to just head out the door whenever I want…within reason of course. 😉  This particular symbol of sanity also signifies something else. It’s a double. I have two little people that fill my heart up to near bursting. Two when for a short time I thought there might only be one. And please don’t hear me wrong in this. More kids does not necessarily mean more love, and having one child does not mean that you have “less”. I just know that my heart didn’t feel complete until the birth of my son. After we had our daughter, my husband and I knew that we wanted her to have a sibling. And tonight she climbed into her seat in the stroller and I sat my son next to her. And my heart. It ached with goodness. If that is the only time they are happy sitting side by side in that silly stroller and I never even get the awesome runs that I am currently dreaming about, it will be alright. Just to see them sitting there, side by side my two blonde babies that are mirror images of their daddy was worth every penny.

So I’ll ask it again: what is your unicorn? Do you toss your kids in the bath to ride out the witching hour? Do you pack them in to the car and drive with the windows down? Whatever it is, run it to the ground. Do it. Every day if you need to. Because those are the things that memories are made of. In our house growing up we went to the farm. A lot. We went to Chuck E Cheese’s. A lot. We went and got a box full of doughnut holes….a lot. And I don’t ever remembering those things getting “old” or “boring”. Unicorns are magic. I guarantee yours is too. Because that is what we are mamas…magic.

Identity Crisis

Like most things in life, there is a rhetoric for introductions. Names are exchanged, hands shaken, and then usually there is a repetition of names for those of us that need to say a name out loud for it to be committed to memory.  And then the question usually gets asked, “what do you do”. What do you do? This is a uniquely North American way to get to know someone.  I didn’t give it a thought until I started staying home with our daughter when she was 18 months old. And then I became highly aware of that question. See, we assume that living in North America means that we have manifested our deepest desires so that the “thing” we wanted to be when we grew up became reality. We think that by asking someone what they do, we will get a full and complete picture of who they are and what they love.  And that is simply not the case. Because if I tell you that I am a stay at home mother who sometimes gets to lead people in spiritual direction, all you can determine from that is that I love my kids and I love talking with people about their connection to God. What you don’t find out from that question is that I have a bleeding heart for animals and orphans, adore thrifting, write poetry, sing, research every little thing to a fault, and that I am a sucker for a good hike in the trees. In fact, as I am still getting comfortable as me in this new skin that became mine when I became a mother, you might not even discover those things about me if we have had multiple conversations. Because all of us, every one of us, has fallen into the mindset that what we do defines who we are.

Today I woke up at 7am with my son attached to my breast. He is my happy co-sleeper so I am his happy co-sleeping mother. 😉 Whatever gives me the most sleep. I dozen in and out while he squealed happily and cooed and played with my hands and face until 7:45 when my daughter waltzed in requesting breakfast. I figured out breakfast for the two of us ladies while the babe teethed in his highchair. Breakfast was followed by a nap for Baby Bro and laundry for me, followed by a dance party for all of us which actually just consisted of Big Sister dancing and me recording a video. We somehow made it to the pool for lunch and swimming and then came home for naps, dinner prep, kitchen tidying, more laundry and a quick shower.  My husband came home from work and quickly mowed the lawn before dinner. And then. THEN…I got to go to the gym! I go one evening a week and it’s bliss. So in a full, long day filled with activities and happenings, there was one hour that represented me and my heart.  And do you want to know something crazy? I don’t feel like I have lost myself. I don’t. But I used to. I remember one night crying to my husband before going to a dinner for one of his golf events that I felt boring and completely inadequate to carry on a conversation with people who traveled and played golf and had jobs outside of their homes. At that time I was so consumed in my high needs 1-year old that I couldn’t have even pretended to discuss a political current event, a recent film, or an important designer. I was fully immersed in the world of cloth diapers, attachment parenting theory, organic baby food and babywearing. But time has a way of softening things and slowly, since that night, God has been showing me that the enigma that is each one of us does not exist simply in actions. Because today as I did the work of homemaking and mothering I was contemplating the ways that my deep and true self still lives in this season of sacrifice. While I nursed my son I dreamed about getting a double jogging stroller so I can get out the door and run whenever I need to. While I recorded my daughter rocking out to oldies I told her the names of the dance moves she was performing and remembered what it felt like the last time my own body created those same moves. And perhaps that is the greatest gift- being able to share my passions with the people I am most passionate about.

I think practically, that is what I am learning. I am discovering how to share who I am with my kids. Don’t think for a second that they don’t care. They do. My daughter can tell you my top three favorite colors without skipping a beat, can pick out clothes in the store that I would like to wear and knows when a song comes on the radio if it’s one that I love.  She knows my favorite flowers and animals. And when I see her reaction to a beautiful poem and how she feels when an animal is hurt or neglected…I see myself. My mom has probably felt like all of us have, that she lost a part of herself when she became a mother. But by the time I was 8-years old I lost count of how many times I heard the words, “you are so much like your mother”. Had she simply been a shell of a woman there would have been nothing to pass on. Mamas, we do not lose ourselves to motherhood. Even if you haven’t taken a shower in three days, read a single word of something you care about, or had one moment to yourself since your babies were born, you exist. You exist in the way you carry your body and all that it has known and accomplished. The experiences that made you the woman you are boast forth in the way you sing lullabies to your baby and tell stories to your preschooler. The way you kiss away boo-boos and laugh at silliness. If you’re a mom who is prone to story hour at the library or frozen yogurt and the park. Those things, those motherhood nuances are you. Still you and always you. And someday you will get to walk up and down rows of a tiny used bookstore for hours, peeking curiously at covers and breathing in the musty scent of 40-year old leather bindings. Someday you will grab your yoga mat and head to a 90-minute class that makes you drip sweat and feel completely at peace. Someday I will wake up, lace up my running shoes and head out the door to hit pavement for 45 minutes without having to push an extra 45 pounds in the jogging stroller. That day will probably not be tomorrow. But in the meantime I can keep telling my children about the things I love. I can take them hiking even if my daughter starts to whine about half a mile in and by powering through I can teach her about her own strength and resilience. What can you do to let You shine through? Read them books you loved as a child. Play your favorite songs in your home. Have a movie night with your favorite childhood movie. Show them who their mommy is besides the woman who plays with them, makes sure their clothes are clean and makes them take three more bites of green beans. And on the really hard days, finish it by drinking a big old glass of your favorite wine.

Cheers, my dears.

Letting Dad “Dad”

A quick thought from my heart in honor of Father’s Day. 🙂

There are a few things that have softened my heart since becoming a mother of two, but this one doesn’t have anything to do with my son or his birth. This is just a piece of wisdom that I picked up right after he was born from a fellow mother’s Instagram post…and it hit me hard in the best way possible. I am learning to let my husband “Dad” while I “Mom”.

Practically speaking, this means that I have stopped expecting the house to be picked up if I come home from my husband being alone with the kids. They will both be happy, cared for and nourished but the house in the process will have probably gotten torn apart. This used to drive me crazy and simply put, it doesn’t anymore. This also means that dressed means dressed, not necessarily “outfitted” when it comes most specifically to our 4-year old daughter. Pajamas with a skirt might be completely acceptable. 😉 And on weekends if he has any say so, we will not be cramming our day full of errands or gatherings in order to please someone outside of our immediate family or check off something on the to-do list. Period. Our kiddos needs come first in my husband’s eyes, and he values their needs for space and down time very highly.

Emotionally speaking, what this creates in our family is balance. Ahhh, that word just makes me breathe more easily. And if you know me, you know that I am a people-pleasing perfectionist in recovery. When my husband gets home from work I expect the house to be relatively clean because that is a standard I set for myself. I expect that when we leave the house that our daughter will be in clothes that “kinda” match with her hair brushed because that’s a standard that I’ve set for myself. (Are you noticing a trend?) My husband doesn’t “father” the way I “mother”. When he’s solo with our kids he focuses his attention more directly on them instead of multitasking. And he would rather not try to cram too much into a weekend and overstimulate our already sensitive daughter where as I might be more prone to let that boundary slide.

Simply put, our kids need us both to parent through our instincts and gifts in order to receive a greater kind of love and in order to learn more about life than they would if one of us made all of the parenting rules. If we always had lazy weekends then they might not learn the lesson of sacrificing personal time for others. And if they grew up in a house that always had to be clean then they might not learn to give themselves grace.

What would it look like to let Dad “Dad” a little more in your house? Personally, it has given me more grace for my husband and much healthier expectations. It has also given me eyes to see his strengths more clearly than I did before.

I hope your Father’s Day was light, joyous, and meaningful. 🙂

Becoming Mom

One of the more incredible and mysterious things about becoming a mother is when exactly it happens. When is it official? There is no formal ceremony that initiates you into the club complete with a donning of cap and gown. There are ceremonies to be had, sure, and most of our births will include some sort of sheer, drafty hospital gown, but I don’t think the becoming of a mother happens with a turn of the tassel. It seems to me that it’s a process that starts with peeing on a stick, or perhaps getting the call that stops your heart with so much joy that it takes a beat to catch up, “you’re getting a baby. You’ve been chosen”. I think that the second we know that a chosen soul is to be ours that miraculous shift takes place. Any woman with a child in Heaven knows that motherhood doesn’t only start with birth- it happens before that. It happens with hesitancy and doubt at first. Am I truly pregnant? Am I really getting a baby? For some it is a shock. For others, years prayed for. Tears will be shed, both in fear and in joy. And slowly that realization starts to settle over our forever changed hearts. I am going to be a mother. I am a mother.

That is when the ceremonies begin. The baby showers, the purchasing of baby furniture and car seats. We start reading everything we can get our hands on (at least I did!) about pregnancy, birth, raising an infant, breastfeeding, attachment with adoption, making your own baby food, and how to get a baby to sleep. We form opinions about diapering, feeding, parenting, sleep, how long to rear-face in the car seat, pacifiers, day care, and babywearing. And somewhere in this process we fall head-over-heels in love with the precious baby that is ours, whether we are carrying that baby in our bellies or in the womb of another. The mom jeans have been donned as bellies grow and the anticipated day draws nearer.

And yet…and yet I think most of us will also argue that something indeed does change the second that chosen soul is earthside. Birth is twofold, in that when a baby is born, so is a mother. The entrance of a baby into the world is the culmination of what was begun 40-some weeks prior, but I think the distinction is that for the first time the two people of baby and mother are truly separate. Forever joined, but still separate. And THIS, this separateness is what I think is the most defining and challenging things about becoming a mother. Birth is a gain and a loss. It is the birth of a unique individual, crafted by the hands of an awesome Creator to fulfill a beautiful purpose in life. The gain is that as mothers we get to witness that life and steward it with gracious, patient love. The loss is that we don’t get to control it. There is so much that we get to decide for our children. All that research we do about purees verses solids and cloth diapers verses disposables is important, but it cajoles us into a sense of control that we relinquish with birth. The sudden realization is jolting. We don’t have ultimate control. We never did. The precious life that we carried in our bodies and hearts for 9, some of us 10 months is not just ours to carry any longer. It is achingly beautiful to touch our infant’s gorgeous little nose and kiss that bow mouth in the way that we have dreamed of for so long. And at the same time we acknowledge that the courtship and the anticipation have ended. It’s risky to love something so fiercely.

What we do with that tension defines how we mother. It is the knowledge of that give and take that fuels our patience and our stamina when the days and nights seem unbearable. It is the powerful understanding that our baby is a gift that at one time we did not have that becomes our center in the midst of tantrums and night terrors. And when we push the feathery hair off the foreheads of children that have lost that baby softness to sinewy muscles and long legs, it is the quiet recollection to a day long ago that anchors us. I chose motherhood. I chose this child and this child chose me.

I didn’t become a mother at 5:34am when I saw the faintest red “+” on a plastic stick. I didn’t become a mother when the last pull of the surgeon’s hand wrenched her pink roundness from my belly and announced, “it’s a girl”. I became a mother the first time I said yes. Yes to sacrifice and love and the greatest vulnerability I have ever known. Yes to fear and joy and to living with my soul forever changed because it has been uniquely tied to two others in a way that nothing could ever compare to. Today, tomorrow, and every day that I get the privilege of being called “Mom”. Yes.

How Mama Got Her Groove Back and Became a Runner

When my daughter was 2 years old I was sick of being in a funk. I was about 20 pounds heavier than I wanted to be and nothing in my life felt like mine. I had recently become a full time mom after leaving my job as a children’s pastor and though I loved it and in some ways felt more freedom than I ever had (until then I had worked at least part time since I was 16) I also felt stifled. It’s really easy to feel trapped as a stay at home mom, whether you live in an apartment or a big old farmhouse with land! So I registered for a 5k running race. It wouldn’t be my first but it would be my first since becoming a mom. I was excited and glad to have something to train for and look forward to. I had no idea what it would become.

Something turned off in my brain after giving birth to my daughter. I had always been pretty driven, and at the very least busy. There had never been a season in my life where I was just doing one thing. When I was in high school I was also working and also volunteering and also in extra-curricular activities. Ditto with college. When Joel and I got married I was working and going to grad school and volunteering…yadda yadda yadda. Postpartum depression took away my ability to be a people-pleaser, which might have been a tremendous gift in the long run but that’s a topic for another day. It also took away my ability to fill my plate to overflowing. I pared. it. down. I had to. The anxiety of too many people depending on me was overwhelming, let alone the life of a tiny infant. So I had my family and I had my job, and that was good. And then I even said goodbye to my job, and that was good too. And then one day I realized that I was really starting to heal and could probably add something to my life again without insomnia and panic attacks. I am so glad that something was running.

It was this time two years ago that I ran that 5k. Helvetia. A lot of my friends were there too, running the 10k or the half marathon, and that’s when I felt it. That resurgence of the competitive me. The one whose inner voice says “I can do that, too” and actually goes for it. That me had been dormant for quite some time and I knew I NEEDED to grab hold before the fear sneaked back in. I went home from that race and registered for an August 10k and a last week of September half marathon. Now I don’t know if you’re a perfectionist like me, but if you are then you know that signing yourself up for a race means YOU HAVE TO TRAIN because YOU WILL NOT FAIL! 😉 I joke, but I’m actually serious. One of my biggest fears (character flaw alert) is looking dumb, so I knew that if I signed up for a race that I would be expecting myself to A) run the whole thing B) look and feel like a runner doing it C) enjoy the damn thing and D) not finish last. Were those reasonable expectations? Maybe a tad lofty but those were my goals nonetheless and they shaped the next 4 months in a big big way.

I planned out a training plan for the 10k and from there a second training plan for the half marathon. Training for the half marathon actually required my mileage to be greater than 6.5 miles by the date of my August race so I ran my first 10k under my training time by 4 minutes, didn’t slow on the uphills, and literally smiled the whole time. On the first day of my period. Heck-freaking-yes! And that was it. That high, that feeling of success and accomplishment was pivotal for my healing. Because I was broken after my daughter’s birth. Broken and sad and jealous and shamed. I felt disconnected from my body and was angry that it had failed me. Finishing that race strong in the same body that had undergone major surgery to deliver my daughter 2 years prior was the first step in physical redemption. And it felt amazing. This running this was a game changer and I was hooked.

By September, I knew that my body could do the work and run the 13 miles and change when the day came. But my mind…could I actually believe in myself enough to push through fatigue and pain? Could I run those miles alone with nobody there to cheer me on and still push it? It turns out, the answer to all of my questions was yes. When training meant that I missed my daughter’s bedtime or had to rise at the crack of dawn to get the miles in, I did it. When it meant having to take her along in the jogging stroller, I did it. When it was 90 degrees and my only option was an afternoon run, I did it. And when race day came with a misty rain falling the whole time and a nasty headwind from miles 7-10, I finished. I walked some. That didn’t really matter so much by that point. The work had been done and the result had already shaped and changed my heart. I had set a goal for myself and followed through. I was capable. I was strong. I was motivated and could take the steps necessary to see success. And that, dear friend, was a big deal.

For a lot of people, running is a fun group thing. You might train every weekend with friends and sign up for races together which is what I am starting to search for in this season of life. But I have discovered that despite my attempts to make that particular season of my running life a social one, it is quite pivotal that it wasn’t. The healing that took place that summer needed to be an individual and personal healing. I needed to be alone on those trails and on that track and on that treadmill. I needed those solo drives to the race site. God moved and worked and displayed grace upon grace in those hours and I think I would have missed it had I been wrapped up in chatter.

Running is one of the dearest things to me, even though I don’t go nearly as often as I would like. When I walk out the door and push the “start” button on my running app I become my best self. I become the me that knows both my weaknesses and strengths and accepts them lovingly. I become the me that is patient with myself and with others. The me who recognizes her need to space and decides that’s OK. And in the long months waiting to conceive my son, running reminded me that God made me strong and whole…talk about humbling. It is a friend that has seen me through and meets me right where I’m at.

What about you? What was or is or will be your conduit to healing? What is your escape from a life that doesn’t currently feel like your own? If you don’t have the answer to that then I urge you to find it. We weren’t designed to tread water. No. No, there is so much more to be had. So much more.