Category Archives: Parenting

The Smallest Infinite

She woke up crying, but I stalled. The chapter I was reading had not ended, and besides, her nap had not been quite as long as they normally are. (And the chapter was really good.)

So I waited for her to settle back in to sleep.

But she insisted, her cries growing more anxious (and distracting), and I couldn’t finish the chapter anyway; and besides, the story would be there still tonight, and she was quickly moving from impatient to indignant.

So I crashed into her room, all smiles and songs, hoping to cheer her up and make her forget all about my most recent neglect.

With a scoop and sway, I cradled her, offering a snack or some juice or a toy to play with, a trade-off for absent mothering.

But all she wanted was me.

So I listened (this time) and let her snuggle against my chest, felt her press her cheek into my shoulder. Her fists squeezed beneath my arms, tucked against my side, and we rocked back and forth to almost-sleep, two pieces fitting neatly together.

I never know how long these moments will last. But I know eventually that they will end altogether.

And with that knowledge, I refuse to watch the clock tick from 4:24 to 4:57, refuse to remember that I should be thinking of what to cook for dinner, but before that, I should run to the grocery store, but before that I should dry the load of wet towels in the washer, but before that it’s almost 5 o’clock and I haven’t even made the bed.

So I refuse and remain in the moment, all the while knowing that before I can cook dinner and shop for groceries and dry wet towels and make the bed, she will grow restless. My shoulder will grow too sharp, her cheek too warm, her body too still. She will have rested, and she will want to spend that energy somewhere other than curled like a cat above my breastbone.

But in the time it takes for her to crave that freedom, I will focus on her lashes fluttering against my jaw. I will tap out a silent song with my fingertips along the slope her nose makes, her quiet heartbeat my rhythm. I will listen to her breaths, deep and effortless, in and out without a care.

Strangely enough, though the clock ticks on, this moment we are lying in is timeless.

And for a little while, within this small moment inside of 4:24 and 4:57 on a lazy afternoon, I can pretend that we are infinite.

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There Are No Words

Happy birthday, my magical Beanie-bell.
You have no idea how sweet you make this life.
L o v e ,
Your lucky, lucky mama

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A Glimpse of Legacy

It’s easy to feel forgettable.

And being forgotten is terrifying, isn’t it?

I don’t want to be left off the email list when someone is organizing a play date. I don’t want my friends to wonder what I’ve been up to lately. I don’t want my blog to fall under someone’s “Read When I Have Nothing Else To Do & I’ve Already Watched All the Reruns of Law & Order: SVU on TBS” folder. I don’t want to be written out of my parents’ wills. (Just kidding, Dad.)

I want to spread my words so they resonate with people, ringing in their ears long after. I want others to remember me, even if they’re just remembering to invite me to the splash pad.

I don’t want to be forgettable; I want to leave a legacy.

My daughter has taken to rocking her dolls and stuffed animals to sleep. Earlier today I caught her doing that to a tower of Legos.

She walks around with a toy cradled in her little arms, gently swaying it back and forth whispering, “Hey, hey, hey, shhhh.”

The comfort she is copying, the softness in her voice, the way she presses her cheek against a pink bunny or multi-colored blocks all remind me of the way I cradle my own children, smoothing down their baby fine hair, nestling them in that sweet, safe spot between my chin and my chest, that spot that tells them they are loved beyond measure, and not just by the arms encircling them.

And as I watched my daughter carefully tuck her stuffed elephant in beneath a tee-shirt-turned-blanket, I caught a glimpse of my legacy.

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The Small and the Mundane

It is the small and the mundane that undo me.

It is the shade of my son’s eyes, hazel and bright, as he rambles excitedly on about an upcoming field trip or summer camp.

It is the smallness of my daughter’s hand when I place a cracker in her palm, her fingers tiny but her grasp tight.

It is the lightness that is evident across my husband’s shoulders when he walks through the door, his spent energy renewed at the sight of a boy and a girl tearing across the kitchen floor, dropping whatever it was they were doing to bask in their father’s attention.

It is the faintest dusting of freckles across my son’s nose that grows deeper as the sun grows hotter.

It is the scent of sunscreen and sweat that fills the car as we drive home from a play date at the park, my daughter too exhausted to make it the three miles home awake.

It is the Saturdays when I can be selfish with my family, hoarding them from work and school and a thousand other commitments, hiding beneath the covers until a hunger for pancakes drives us out of bed.

It is the small and the mundane that undo me, because I am caught off-guard, waiting for the milestones and the benchmarks, the moments for when I make sure my camera is charged and ready, the bright color-coded entries in our family calendar that brightly and colorfully remind me how my children are growing.

But then I am sucker punched in the heart, and I am quite certain my ribcage is about to explode, just because my son leaned into the front of the car to kiss me unexpectedly before darting out and joining his friends as they march into school, or because my busy, busy toddler took a moment from her life of growing independence to crawl into my lap and lay her head on my chest.

It is the small and the mundane that I am unprepared for, and because I am unprepared for it, this love seems that much larger.

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If It Doesn’t Break Your Heart, It Isn’t Love

My heart breaks constantly because I can capture moments like these and fall under the illusion that I am actually able to freeze time, but by the time I look up from admiring the snapshot, they are off and running, moving faster and farther from my reach.

The boy you see towering over his little sister is smart and kind. He is goofy and patient. His laugh is contagious, his imagination relentless, his curiosity unquenchable. He is cautious and self-aware, but has an uncanny ability to march into any situation with a straight back and a joke on his lips.

He is a blur, a whirlwind, a tiny tornado of noise and dirt and a thousand questions and twice as many answers. He is a brain, drinking up information about presidents and ocean habitats and multiplication tables.

He is my heart, the part of me that wonders how I got so lucky, how the whole of him is so much greater than the sum of our parts.

And then there’s the girl, content in her brother’s shadow. She is funny and sweet. She is quick and affectionate. Her smile is heart-warming, her brilliance evident, her curiosity insatiable. She is daring and adventurous, but can be watchful and quiet when things are quite unfamiliar.

She is pure charm and magic, a tiny ball of giggles and sticky kisses, generous with her cheerios and squealing laughter. She is a funny bone, showing off her latest trick and making sure you are amused.

She is my heart, the part of me that aches to be near her at all times, that aches to slow down time, that aches beneath the weight of a love so heavy it steals my breath.

This boy and this girl, they are my heart, the part of me that wants to write poetry and sing songs and watch clouds drift by. They are the part of me that is better, that is inspired and awake, the part of me that knows what the grass smells like after it rains, the part of me that dances barefoot in the kitchen.

They are the part of my heart that is most fully aware of a grand and generous God.

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Your Hands Are Small, I Know

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Photography by Anna Wamsted

I’m a goner.

It all started with our church service on Christmas morning. Innocent enough, right?

But in between singing “O Come All Ye Faithful” and hearing one of three Christmas sermonettes, I glanced down at Bug sitting beside me doodling a rocket to the moon and was suddenly and violently aware of the smallness of his hands.

And how the smallness of his hands yesterday morning was nothing compared to the smallness of his hands seven years ago. Or even last year, for that matter.

As he gripped his pencil, his left hand splayed out across the page, twisting and turning the paper as his imagination explored and mapped the “eye of the moon,” I couldn’t help but reach down and fold my fingers around his, our palms nearly the same size, my grasp in mourning, his impatient.

A boy, growing impossibly fast, with no signs of slowing down, the only signs a sharpening wit, a pair of shoes a hair’s width smaller than mine, a vanishing lisp fading away with each permanent tooth emerging.

My boy. My baby. My firstborn.

Every parent will tell you that the days are long, but the years are lightning fast. That’s on Page One of the handbook the nurses send you home with after giving birth.

One minute you are rocking a newborn to sleep at three in the morning, foolishly longing for the day when that baby sleeps through the night (as if that automatically means you will, too). And then you blink, rubbing the sleep from your eyes just in time to catch a glimpse of the seven-year-old karate chopping his way up the stairs to take his evening shower, brush his teeth, and read himself a chapter of The Hardy Boys before a brief kiss and an afterthought for his mom.

The boy who spent his entire first night home from the hospital cradled in my arms. The boy who didn’t nap anywhere but against my chest until preschool broke him of that glorious habit. The boy who nestled snugly against my hip, who fit neatly beneath my arm, who tucked in effortlessly within my heart.

The boy who kicks off the blankets, who is too old to slip into the bed between Mom and Dad, who doesn’t need naps, just a juice box and a tree to climb, who asked Santa for a microscope and a pair of rollerblades, whose head reaches up to my chin, whose socks I sometimes confuse with my own, whose hands are a breath away from being larger than mine as he draws rockets to the moon.

Truly.

A goner.

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I Want To Leave A Legacy

I haven’t gotten much sleep this past week. I’ve consumed more coffee and chocolate than I’m willing to admit. I’m on the brink of loopy-ness thanks to the combination of sleep-deprivation and caffeine-intake.

Example? Despite my exhaustion, I had a hard time falling asleep last night because I couldn’t get over the fact that Charles Schwab couldn’t decide between using cartoons or real people for their commercials, so they ended up using a weird unappealing hybrid.

This is where my brain is going, people. Hence, a repost.

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Photography by Kathryn Clark

I look at my daughter and my heart breaks.

It shatters, because it simply cannot contain something larger than the words loveadorecherishtreasure.

I stare at her and wonder where I am in all of that beauty.

I hear her giggle, delicate and ladylike, and hope it is a hint to her disposition. I watch her discover, finding and feeling things unfamiliar, and hope it is insatiable. I recognize her sense of humor while she growls or dances or peek-a-boos over and over, as long as she has a captive audience, and hope it is unchanging. I marvel at her growing confidence, and hope it is unstoppable.

I know what I want for her.

I want to take the very best parts of me and give them to her. I want her to be witty, intelligent, honest, and affectionate.

I want to take my ugliest pieces, trade them for something shinier, polish them to perfection, and plant them in her. I want her to be meeker, wiser, sensitive, and hard-working.

I want her to be better, to be brighter. I want her to be lovely. I want to take what precious little I know I’m doing right, and teach her to do it right, too. I want to take the overwhelming amount of things I think I’ve got a grip on, and help her figure out how to do it more gracefully. I want to take the stuff I’ve gotten hopelessly wrong, sweep it out from under the rug, and scare her straight with all of my scars.

I want to teach her how to hide her heart in God. I want to teach her to speak with significance. I want to teach her poise and elegance and dignity. I want to teach her to be unapologetic and uncompromising in character. But I must learn these things first.

I want to teach her whose opinion really matters. I want to teach her that laughter heals. I want to teach her patience and gentleness and tact. I want to teach her to be flexible and forgiving in circumstances. Because I learned these the heart-breaking way.

I want her to know, to know, that she is capable and destined to be infinitely more magical.

I want her to know that she already is.

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Things I Want My Son to Know

Another recycled one, but only because I don’t show favoritism. Unless chocolate is involved.

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My boy Bug’s turn! (If you are at a loss, please read the preceding post.)

I’ve already spread most of this out over the last seven years, and he’s got a pretty solid foothold on being awesome at life in general, but still. I like to repeat myself. And so, another eternally evolving list (of the male kind).

No, really. Listen to your mother.

Don’t chase girls. Seriously. Don’t. Chase. Girls. The last thing I will need in my house is a girl-crazy, hormone-riddled adolescent who smells bad (thanks to Puberty) and has mood swings (again, with the hormones) and is taller than me. Instead, focus on your studies, or your sports, or getting into Harvard with a full scholarship, because Ivy Leagues don’t pay for themselves.

But really, you won’t need to be the one chasing them. Just remember to let them down easy. And please burn any and all love letters you may or may not receive from any given admirer. Trust me, there will come a day when she will ardently hope you got rid of the evidence. (No, I’m not speaking from experience. Why do you ask?)

You are great. I don’t just mean great, as in, hey, you’re pretty great. But as in You. Are. Great. God created you for greatness, maybe in the lives of few, maybe in a whole world of lives. He created you for adventure, for excitement, for conquest. That you inherently and organically live and play out these imaginary scenes on the high seas or in a dangerous forest or behind enemy lines is proof enough indeed that your heart is deeply tied to that need to explore and challenge and compete and win. God fashioned you with at least one grand adventure in His plan for you.

I already know that you strive to achieve greatness, even now, as a child, whether it means getting all the answers right on your homework, or perfecting a bike trick, or besting your dad in a wrestling match. But I hope you will learn to be great for something, and Someone, worthy. I hope you will be brave, and maybe a little reckless, but backed by a whole wealth of wisdom. I hope you learn to lead, and to lead honorably and humbly.

Don’t be afraid of romance. One day, you will meet a girl who will make you forget your own name. I hope and pray you wait on this girl, the girl worth all of your affection and admiration and abandonment of sanity. For the past seven years, I have prayed for her, prayed that God is protecting her and fashioning her and growing her, just for you. I know she will be exquisite, because God and I have already been planning the wedding. (Well, I’ve been planning the wedding; God’s been working on the marriage part.)

There’s a reason why every fairy tale features a gallant prince for an equally fair damsel. It wouldn’t be much of a story if it just involved the girl. You have to be part of this too, and I hope you learn to be passionate and uninhibited with your love for this young woman who is fully intended to be prized. Above that, I wholeheartedly pray that you will try daily to be the man she falls in love with, years and years after you first meet, that you will make her feel pursued and treasured the way God whispers to her innermost heart. I hope, while you whittle out this grand adventure, that you are continuously inviting her along, to live the adventure by your side.

God knows best. And so does your mother. So let me give you a hug and a kiss whenever I want to, even if it means stopping in mid-karate-chop. You can bounce off the walls later. I only ask for a hug and a kiss when I absolutely need one. Remember that.

Remember, too, that God called you, and you answered. I have the luxury of seeing you, at seven years old, safely in the palm of God’s hand. I get the unspoken pleasure of watching you learn and thirst after the Lord, eagerly drinking in every story, every verse, describing our glorious God. I hope and I pray with an earnest heart, that you continue down this path, that you never fully satiate that hunger this side of Heaven. Even today you are constantly teaching me of the Lord’s grace and warmth and interest in our little lives.

I hope you always remember, no matter how feebly you might remember from time to time, that God had His sights on you from the start, and that you trusted Him at least once. I hope that you know you can only be your greatest if God is your rock. And I want you to know that one day, you will lead others, whether it be your family, or people within your job, or maybe even other followers of Christ. Make sure the path you lead them down is heading toward a divine place.

I love you. More than life. You are tremendous, and hand-stitched by One with perfect foresight. God was deliberate enough to pick out only the very best parts of me and your dad, and weave them into even better pieces that are all your own. You are my firstborn, my reward despite my disobedience, my identity and my purpose. You make me swell to immeasurable heights with pride, you sometimes frustrate me because I know you are capable of near-perfection, you bring me to tears because you are becoming quite the impressive young man.

I consider myself beyond undeserving to be your mother, to be the woman you loved first, the woman you always side with, the woman you, even now, at all of seven years old, try to constantly encourage and protect, even if it is just from Dad’s teasing or tickle wars.

I love you in a severe and unspeakable kind of way, and know that I count myself the lucky one.

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Things I Want My Daughter to Know

This post is from the recycling bin, because I’m running out of words, and the kitchen still hasn’t figured out how to clean itself. 

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There are a lot of things I want both my children to know, and I’m sure that when I tell it to them, they will wholeheartedly and eagerly disregard it for at least the first couple decades of their lives. A lot of what I want them to know comes from the things I wholeheartedly and eagerly disregarded from my parents’ wise lips, or from my astounding siblings, or from my own ridiculous (and oftentimes embarrassing) lessons. But that is neither here nor there.

Since I am of the same gender as my daughter, I thought I would start with her. And so, an incomplete, possibly ever-growing, list.

Listen to your mother.

Don’t chase boys. No, really. First of all, nine times out of ten, they can outrun you, if it were to come down to an actual footrace. I chased a boy once (literally) when I was in the second grade. His name was Benjamin, and my friend Christina caught him first. Even though I was more aerodynamic than her, I was kind of a runt, and I have a sneaky suspicion that he actually let her catch him. Being the slower runner probably saved me a little bit of heartbreak and rejection, so…just don’t go down that road.

But on a more serious note, don’t chase boys. There exists somewhere in history a love letter written by me and given to a boy. Hopefully it was destroyed. What can I say, I was a writer, even back then. There also exists several instances (somewhere between two and five) when I made it painfully and desperately obvious that I adored a certain boy, or two, or five. Out of these 2-5 times, I succeeded exactly zero. And these boys either a). don’t even remember my debilitating crush on them, or b). remember. I can’t decide which is worse.

My goodness, you are beautiful. You might have a difficult time trusting this, especially when things feel all weird and awkward and bony, and your ears or eyes or nose just don’t seem right for your face, and you’re self-concious about your ankles or knees or teeth, and you had to get glasses or braces or (God have mercy!) both…there will be plenty of times you don’t feel pretty, and maybe times when other people intentionally make you feel unpretty, but remember two very important things: for one, you come from good stock (seriously, stop laughing), and secondly, God created you with beauty in mind.

I absolutely know you are going to be stunning, but more than that, I hope I can teach you to be breath-taking within, to make your heart beautiful and generous and elegant. I hope I can teach you that your worth lies deep within your mind and tucked sweetly in your soul, that people need kindness and gentleness more than they need something pleasing to look at, that being genuine is so much more lasting than being gorgeous.

Wait for the man God picked out for you. Or at least the one I pick out for you. (Chances are, he’s one and the same!) See, God and I, we’ve already been talking about this boy, and God promised to make him great. The thing about being a woman is that our hearts are usually much larger than the cavity beneath our bone suggests. A lot of things in this world threaten to shrink our hearts, fold it within itself, suck out some of the juice so that it fits neatly in some pre-conceived notion. But God created us to be pursued, to be romanced, to be swept off our feet. He ought to know; He Himself runs after us with a passion unmatched. And if you are worthy enough to be prized by the Creator of all things lovely, you better make sure the man you choose to bestow your good graces on knows it, too.

I fully believe Great Romances exist, and I hope you will, too. I hope you wait for the man who actually makes your heart flutter, for years and years after you first meet, whose gaze you hold unquestionably and without distraction. I hope you wait until your romance becomes a reality, when things like chores and bills and sticky, screaming kids bouncing between the two of you are all a part of the greatest love story you know. I hope you wait for the one who makes life exciting, despite the mundane, an adventure, despite the routine, and abundant in love, even when you’re at each other’s throats.

God knows best. Furthermore, I know second best. Remember that. FOR-EV-ARRRR. (Anyone?…Anyone?…Smalls? Squints? Hercules?) Honestly though, this is one that I will never doubt with my head, but daily have to practice in my heart. So just know we can work on this together.

I feverishly hope and have been praying for years (as in, ever since you’ve been floating around in my womb) that you will learn to trust and love God with a zeal unquenchable. I hope and pray that you will follow Him more purposefully and less haltingly than I ever did in my youth. I hope you learn from me, from my words and from my actions, that in God alone can we be perfectly satisfied.

I love you. Like, a lot. Sitting here, now, down the hall from where you are peacefully sleeping, we are best friends. You literally light up when you see me. We may have a few years of this, maybe ten or twelve if I’m lucky, but I’m not disillusioning myself into thinking this will last throughout those tumultuous teenage years that are bound to sneak up on me. I hope you still think I’m cool when all your girlfriends are off fighting with their mothers. I hope you know, even if you only know subconsciously, that I am obsessed with you, that I see you, and I see the very best parts of me and more, and that I only want you to be so much better than I ever was, in every aspect of life, and that I fully believe that you can be.

I hope you know, beyond any semblance of a shadow of a doubt, that I violently love you.

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The Human Growth Hormone, or Make It Stop

Okay, so I just got back from eating lunch with Bug at school, and I’m pretty sure I left a few pieces of my broken heart littering their hallways.

I know my kid is growing exponentially. He’s like, six feet tall. Ish. But when he was around the other kids, kids I haven’t seen since last year, kids that are roughly my size (embarrassed), the realization that he is actually a not-so-tiny man hit me like a sucker punch.

When Bug was in kindergarten, I joined him for lunch often (coincidentally on the days they served Square Pizza) and our little table talked about not having to take naps anymore, or their favorite Pixar movie, or how they wished their moms had come for lunch, too.

Last year, we sat around the tables talking about superheroes and what they were going to ask Santa for on their Christmas lists, and how the girls team could never catch the boys team during recess.

Today?

We talked football.

Seriously.

One kid asked me if I had caught the Titans/Ravens game. I said I had, and then he started asking me if I had seen certain plays of the game. One kid asked me who my favorite team was, and when I told him Auburn he said, “You know they only won the national championship last year because of Cam Newton, right?”

Cue screeching tires sound effect. (Is there a button or something for that?)

Did I just get smack-talked by a second grader?

When I recovered, I laughed and agreed, saying yes, a couple of Auburn’s key players from last season did go pro, but there’s several on the offensive line who can still make things happen for the Tigers…and then he blinked and informed me, “Cam Newton plays for Carolina.”

WHO ARE THESE KIDS? Is this that unknown result of consuming too much HGH environmentalists warned us about? When I was in second grade, I’m pretty sure I was still learning how to walk. (Or something.) I do remember buying a Troy Aikman poster with my Scholastic Book Fair money once, but that was in fifth grade. FIFTH GRADE, people.

I am not prepared for this.

If I sat Bug down and made him sit still, do you think this whole growing up nonsense will slow down? At least long enough for me to process it. So, like, indefinitely. I can handle indefinitely.

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