Dear Daughter… I promise you’ll forever be my little girl

See that pink ballerina standing next to her momma?

Let me tell you a little story about that girl. You see, she’s four-years-old and last week, her preschool sent a paper home with instructions for her to think about what she wanted to be when she grew up and return to school Wednesday dressed as her future self.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, today, and here we are. My daughter is standing beside me dressed head to toe in a pink ballerina outfit that she pulled from a tote of costume clothes earlier this morning. Hang with me here, guys, because as with any toddler-led decision, there’s more to this story…

She could’ve chosen anything, you know. In fact, at any given moment over the last several days she had declared to be a little bit of everything: a firefighter, a teacher, a superhero, a doctor, a gymnast, a police officer, a pony. Yep, you read that right. At one point, she had announced that she was going to grow up to be ‘Rainbow Dash’ from ‘My Little Pony’… As much as I wanted to encourage her independence and unconventional self-discovery, I obviously felt the need to re-direct so I gently responded,

“Sophia.. Baby, ‘My Little Ponies’ are not real… You get to grow up and someday become a real adult. And you get to be anything you want!… but it has to be real. You can’t be an animal, silly girl. Think about all the adults in the world with all the different jobs they have… What kind of job do YOU want to have when you grow up? What kind of person do you want to be when you grow older?”

She stared at me blankly, with a confused look in her eyes… “Mom! I don’t know! I just don’t know what I want to be! When I grow up, I just want to be your daughter!”

My daughter.

Oh my dear girl…

Be. Still. My. Heart. In fact, this felt more like a shot to the heart…

A piercing moment. A moment I didn’t see coming. A moment that I thought was simply defined by going through the motions of motherhood on a random Wednesday morning… but as I stood there, trying to reason with a daughter, I unexpectedly found myself in this sweet, memorable, ‘melt your momma’s heart like molten lava’ kind of moment.

These are the days we parents live for, am I right? Moments of being struck in the gut by our little toddler tornadoes who drive us so crazy. Moments we think are normal circumstances but turn out to be memories we want to cling to forever…

And here’s the thing- they don’t last long, these moments. In fact, it was only seconds later that my daughter had already moved on to something else. A new idea of what her future held. She eventually settled on becoming a ballerina, dressing herself in a leotard, sheer tights, and a pink tutu… but as the clock progressed and we continued with our morning, I couldn’t let go of that moment.

I held on… and I held on tight because listen:

I know that someday, I’ll watch that little girl walk across the stage as a high school graduate. Someday, I’ll listen to that little girl tell me all about her big scary job interview that probably went better than expected. Someday, I’ll watch that sweet girl fall in love and become a wife as she walks down the aisle in a fancy white dress. Someday, I might even get to call myself a grandma as I watch her enter the role of motherhood and deliver new life into this world. In all of these ‘somedays’, these new roles, these new titles, new positions, and new stages… there is one thing that will always remain the same and that is her role as my daughter and of course, my role as her mom.

Sometimes, often times really, it is the most simple moments that lead to the most profound memories. This was one of those moments… and while I didn’t get the big words or the life lessons out with her directly at that time, I’m writing them here tonight because I want my daughter to someday look back and understand that I heard her. I heard her words. I felt her anxiety. I felt it deep within my mama bear soul…

My dear sweet Sophia, you have a sparkle of confidence and strong self-assurance that many adult women struggle to ever attain. At only four-years-old, you already light up the world with your free spirit, fierce courage, and great big heart. You will do big things, I have no doubt. I don’t know what your future holds but I’m writing to you tonight as a reminder that you can be anything you want, even a prima ballerina or a fictional rainbow-colored pony… Whatever it is you chose to become, I promise to be standing there with you, as your proud momma, every step of the way. My dear girl, even when you become so old that you have silver in your hair and wrinkles above your nose, you will still be my daughter, my forever little girl.

Let the kids be kids

Sometimes, the irony of a moment amazes me.

Yesterday, I was busy cleaning around the house – you know, doing all the chores that seem to never end (dishes, laundry, and endless toy pickup). I walked past my son’s room and saw him lying in bed holding the iPad inches from his face. He looked happy and content as he swiped and pushed and tapped the glowing screen… Perfect. He was distracted and I was getting things done. Great. I’m being productive. Awesome. Another thing off the list. Wonderful.

But here’s my confession… it didn’t feel wonderful. Why!? Why was I immediately consumed with guilt? This was ridiculous. Irrational. Stupid. An over-reaction. A little screen time wasn’t going to hurt anyone. In fact, we, as adults, spend way more time on our phones, checking emails and scrolling social media throughout the day and we haven’t turned into zombie robots so why was I letting an hour of kidstube stress me out? If my sweet toddler tornado of a son hadn’t been consumed with the ipad, he would likely have been following my every move and every cleaned space with a new mess of toys and crumbs and chaos anyway. ‘This is a good thing!’, I reasoned with myself… Pull it together! 

Still… instant mom guilt.  Shame. Remorse. Worry. Stress. Guilt with a capital G.

“Sigh… I should really go play with him. I should get out a puzzle. Maybe we should do a craft or maybe I should just sneak up beside him and read him a story. Afterall, he looks comfortable where he is so maybe I’ll just snuggle in for some quality ‘mommy/son’ time with his favorite book. I should really wait to do the dishes until naptime anyway…”

…All the thoughts about all the things I SHOULD be doing instead of what I was already accomplishing and doing. I must’ve been lingering at his doorway a little too long contemplating and arguing with my inner self because all of the sudden, my son glanced up and met my gaze. He’s three years old. He looked across the room with his sweet brown eyes and without any prompt, this is what he said:

“Hi mommy. Thanks for letting me play on the ipad. I love my ipad. It’s my favorite.”.

I’m not kidding. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. It was as if he knew exactly what I was thinking and recognized my need for the reassurance that he was just fine.

Guys. Did you hear that? He was fine! In fact, he was having fun. And he was even grateful. He was appreciative. He was a smart, polite, happy, content little boy who was comfortable and having fun watching Captain America and Spiderman videos on youtube kids. And you know what else? He hadn’t even turned into a zombie robot!

My point? My ironic realization? Mommas, we are too hard on ourselves! We need to find ourselves some grace. We need to relax. We need to welcome the distraction and give ourselves permission to appreciate a little peace and quiet. We need to allow our kids be kids which means that sometimes they’ll go outside and get dirty or play and create with play-doh…. and other times, they’ll cuddle up with their kindles or ipads and have a little space to relax in front of a screen. 

Stop being so hard on yourself.

It’s FINE.

I want to be a ‘yes mom’

Let’s talk about this morning’s moment in motherhood….

“Sophia, you need to get dressed and put your shoes on!”

“Ok, mom! Can I wear a dress?”

“Yes, you can wear a dress!”

“Can I wear my butterfly dress?”

“Yes, you can wear your butterfly dress. Now get dressed!”

“Can I wear my headband?”

“Yes, you can wear your headband. But get going!”

“Can I wear my cowgirl boots?”

“Sophia! No. You can’t wear your cowgirl boots. Put on your sandals and come brush your teeth!”.

“Mom! Please!! I love my boots! I never get to wear my boots. I love them so much and you never let me wear them!”

(Well, it’s summer. It’s 85 degrees outside and boots are for fall). “Sophia. It’s hot outside! Put on your flip flops and come brush your teeth!”.

“Uhg MOM!”. I listened to her closet door open and close as I finished brushing my teeth. And then I heard her thump thump down the hallway. I glanced up and saw my sweet, stubborn Sophia, proudly standing before me dressed in her butterfly dress, her gold glitter headband, and those beloved cowgirl boots.

And gosh darnit. She looked adorable.

“Mom please… please I love them so much. They look great. I won’t be hot. I think they look really good and I really want to wear my boots.”

I sighed. A big heavy mom sigh. Because guess what? She was right. Why did I even have her cowgirl boots in her closet if I wasn’t ever going to let her wear them? And why did I tell her no? Well, it was hot outside and sandals would’ve been a better pick. They would’ve been easier to slip on and off too. In fact, that’s what it came down to. Easier. More convenient. I automatically assumed that her sandals were more comfortable and a better match but in reality, that was just my opinion… It wasn’t wrong or right. It was just my perception of what I perceived to be right. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was choosing convenience and my own power at the expense of fostering my own daughter’s independence and autonomy. Over something as petty as a pair of boots.

I bent down and brushed one of my daughter’s blonde hairs away from her face, tucking it behind her gold glittery headband. I did that big heavy mom sigh again and then I did something I don’t often do. I apologized to my four-year-old. I told her she was right. I told her that she should wear her boots. In fact, I praised her for putting together such a nice outfit and then I asked if I could take her picture because sometimes, mommy needs the reminder to say yes.

Yes.

A reminder to slow down. To breathe through the relentless requests from toddlers. To listen with intention and to respond with purpose. A reminder because while I always want to be a ‘yes mom’ and a ‘fun mom’ and a ‘do all the things mom’, I’m also a master of having a million reasons to say no. That doesn’t make me a bad mom. It just makes me a real mom. Real life, guys.

No. Not right now. Maybe later. In a few minutes. Because right not, I’m busy. Because I can’t. Because I need to finish the laundry. Because I’m on the phone. Because I don’t have time. Because that doesn’t match. Because you just had breakfast. Because you haven’t cleaned your room yet. Because it’s too cold outside. Because it’s a school night. Because you aren’t old enough. Because I said so.

Sometimes, the answer is no because it needs to be no. Sometimes, the answer is no because it’s backed by a fully logical and reasonable reason like safety, or well-being, or because I’m trying to teach a lesson or prove a point. But I must confess here that sometimes, I really have no idea or rationale for saying no and I’m really just too preoccupied with whatever it is I’m doing that I don’t even consider the request.

This morning, my daughter’s persistence overruled my perception. Her stubborn demands of “Why, mom!?” made me realize, ‘why not?’ and while I won’t always agree or cave from my initial response… today, she won. Today, she reminded me to make sure the battles I’m picking are worth picking. And today, she looks darn good in those boots.

Lessons in the Kitchen

Last December, my girls unwrapped children’s cookbooks on Christmas morning. This was one of the gifts I was most excited about – as giving something with the potential to create memories and shared experiences together always feels far more meaningful than gifting a toy that will likely be played with only a few times before inevitably collecting dust in the toybox or underneath a bed. Beyond the benefits of making memories and sweet treats, let’s consider all the learning opportunities that come with kid-friendly cooking – following directions, paying attention to details, working together, gaining new vocabulary, understanding measurements, math, conversions, sequencing, reading, sharing, waiting… the list goes on!

So six months later, here we are, finally pulling out the cookbooks for an afternoon of fun in the kitchen. (Real life, guys. Despite my best intentions, even the books collected dust for the first half of the year). Anyway, today my girls put on their aprons and together we made ‘mini-marshmallow smoothies’. It was a simple recipe, with only 5 ingredients that should’ve easily ended in some pretty tasty treats, right?

Wrong. Guess what? They were terrible! They were bland and watery and my entire trio of toddlers left the table having taken only a few sips of their smoothies. Again, real life. But this was no fail! Because you see, even a bad recipe can lead to a teachable moment.

Sometimes, no matter how closely we follow a recipe, things simply don’t turn out the way we expect. Despite our best efforts, something goes wrong. This is life. Even in moments when we spend hours planning, preparing, studying, organizing, or practicing… we fail. Not because we did something wrong, but because sometimes, the outcome is simply out of our hands.

Maybe the planned vacation ended with stormy weather or cancelled flights. Maybe the nice dinner didn’t happen because the fancy restaurant was closed or at capacity. Maybe the interview went great but someone else got the job. Maybe you trained daily but didn’t get the trophy. Maybe you eat healthy but still fight your health. Maybe you follow all the rules yet still find yourself collapsing in defeat.

You know what you do when that happens? You learn from it. You move on. You adapt. You think about what you can do differently to achieve a better outcome the next time around. For us, today, it was to add some sugar and vanilla ice cream to the blender. A pretty quick fix. But life won’t always be that simple and that’s a hard lesson to teach… and even a harder concept to understand, especially to two little girls.

Today I didn’t get into all the examples and depth that this type of conversation could’ve provoked… but what I did do was sit with my kids in the kitchen and very gently, introduce a big life lesson. As we pushed our watery smoothies aside, we spent a few moments talking together about big stuff. Big, tough life lessons. Lessons that came easier to introduce, thanks to the failure of a recipe. Hopefully the next treat will be tastier… regardless, I’m grateful for the opportunities for lessons in the kitchen. If you have kiddos, young or teenage, pull out a recipe and start baking! You never know what it might lead to!

cooking

I didn’t know.

Confusion. Shock. Grief. Sadness. Heartache. Fear.

A whole bunch of feelings that were neither expected nor invited to show up on an ordinary Wednesday morning. It was the week of spring break and my husband had taken the day off work. He was in the kitchen cutting sweet pastries from our favorite bakery into tiny bite sized pieces for our three kiddos who were eagerly ready for a day of ‘family fun’. They’d been looking forward to this day all week and while they were starting their morning in the very best way, I was hiding in the bathroom. I had been on the phone with an OB nurse explaining that I’d been fighting menstrual cramps since Saturday and I had reached the point in which they were literally bringing me to my knees. I hadn’t slept well the night before and despite numerous warm baths, Tylenol, and heating pads, the pain was just no longer something I could tolerate. As I spoke with the nurse, I admitted feeling guilty and even a little embarrassed for being a 31-year-old adult female calling to complain of cramps. I mean, c’mon, I should be able to toughen up and handle this, right?

I didn’t know.

The nurse listened and talked through my symptoms for several minutes. She gently asked me to take a pregnancy test – you know, just to rule things out. “I know I’m on my period. I’m not pregnant.”, I told her. Still, she encouraged me to take the test, “Just as a precaution. Go ahead and take it. I see the doctor coming down the hall so I’m gonna talk to him real quick and call you back.” Fine… I peed on the stupid stick. I sat waiting for those single lines to confirm what I already knew and moments later, the nurse was calling me back. “It’s negative.”, I told her. “There are only two lines.”. As I listened for her response, I glanced down and noticed another faint line slowly emerging. “Wait a minute. No, there’s another line showing up. Wait, there’s definitely a plus sign showing. Oh my God, I think I’m pregnant. Am I really pregnant? What does that mean?”.

 I didn’t know.

 I yelled for my husband and burst into tears. I showed him the test and we stood together, looking at this little stick that had always been something that brought us happy and exciting news in the past. I had never even considered that a positive pregnancy test could actually indicate a very negative outcome.

I simply didn’t know.

The nurse was gentle and careful with her words. She told me that I needed to come in to be evaluated. I prepared myself to have some very difficult conversations – to hear that there was no heartbeat and to be given confirmation that this unexpected nightmare was in fact, reality. I told my husband to stay home with the kids while I went in to be seen. I don’t know why I didn’t push for him to come with me. In hindsight, that was weird. But in the moment, I was in shock. And I was scared.

And I just didn’t know.

I arrived for labs and ultrasound and was immediately called in by a tech. I still remember her face. She had those eyes. You know, those sympathetic, sad puppy dog eyes. I told her it was ok. “I know why I’m here…. Please just be honest with what you see.” I didn’t know what else to tell her so I got undressed and laid in the chair. I was cold and uncomfortable and doing my best to get through this inevitable nightmare. The tech told me that she saw fluid. A LOT of fluid. There was nothing in my uterus. “Have you ever heard of an ectopic pregnancy?”, she asked. She told me that she needed to call my physician so that he could talk to me. As she left the room, I grabbed my phone and quickly googled, ‘ectopic pregnancy’. I took a quick screenshot and sent it to my husband with the message, “This is what’s happening. I’m waiting on the doctor now.”. I had no other information, I didn’t know what an ‘ectopic pregnancy’ was, and I didn’t have time to let Google do any more research for me.

I didn’t know.

The tech returned and explained that my doctor probably wanted to speak with me in his office, rather than in ultrasound so I grabbed my things and she walked me down a back hallway to a room labeled, ‘Education’. Seconds later, a nurse arrived telling me that we needed to go downstairs to the women’s ER. Ok, at this point, I was just going through the motions. I didn’t know why I was being moved from room to room. I had no idea what was going on. I was still in shock…

And I still didn’t know.

The nurse took me directly to patient registration. As the receptionist asked for my license and insurance card, I heard my phone ring. It was my husband. I hadn’t talked with him since sending that quick text earlier in the ultrasound room. “Do you mind if I take this?”, I asked the receptionist, and without even giving her a chance to respond, I put the phone to my ear and answered.

I heard his calm voice ask, “Hey, how are you doing?”.

“I don’t know. I have no idea what’s going on”.

“Ok, well, I just got off the phone with the doctor and I’m going to get there as soon as possible”, he reassured me.

Wait. What? I haven’t even seen the doctor yet!? Why did he call you?”

“Kayla, you’re getting ready to have a procedure…”

“WHAT!?!”, I interrupted him again, bursting into tears, “WHAT is going on!?”. I looked at the receptionist and before she could even muster a response, another nurse arrived to take me into a prep room. I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone, “Everything is going to be ok, Kayla. I am working on getting someone over here to watch the kids and I will be there as soon as I can. I love you.”.

Why did my doctor call my husband before even talking to me? What procedure did I just register for? Who was going to be home in the middle of the week to watch our kids?

I didn’t know.

I blindly followed the nurse and was greeted with two more as we entered yet another room. They told me I was getting ready for surgery. They apologized for the chaos and confusion and rush but also explained that all those things they were apologizing for were necessary. “This is an emergency, Kayla. This is a life-threatening situation and we are going to be moving quickly”. She explained that an ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg does not make it into the uterus. Instead, it gets stuck implanting into the fallopian tube. Based on the ultrasound images, it looked like my fallopian tube had ruptured and I was now bleeding internally… and possibly had been since Saturday when I had first assumed that I was on my period. Before I could even start to process what the nurses were telling me, the room filled with staff helping me undress, start an IV, put on compression socks, draw blood, gather my belongings… Another nurse came in and began discussing bereavement options and available support. There was a nurse documenting on her computer. There was an anesthesiologist introducing himself. There were papers to sign and questions to answer and so many things happening at once. It was blurred chaos. It was uncontrolled chaos. It was too much. I had no idea what to do. I later found out that my doctor, who I still believe is the best OB/GYN on the planet, had been busy in the background the entire time – trying his best to surround me with the support he knew I would need before all this chaos ensued. He had been preparing my husband. He had been preparing himself. He had been doing his job. He knew it was going to be a lot and more than I could bear alone. He had called my husband before seeing me because he knew this was not something I could process on my own. He knew I needed the support. This had gone far beyond a ‘tough conversation regarding a failed pregnancy’ and my lack of understanding as to what was happening wasn’t the fault of any of the staff around me. The nurses were all doing their best to get me ready. They were doing their jobs. They didn’t know. And you know what?

I didn’t either. I didn’t know.

I felt overwhelmed, like I couldn’t breathe. I needed to clear the room. I mustered every polite bone in my body and looked at the bereavement nurse first, firmly telling her, “I need you to stop talking to me about this. I need you to leave”. The room suddenly grew quiet. You guys, these nurses were compassionate and caring and doing a great job but I needed a moment. I needed space. I needed to find a way to breathe. Within moments, the room emptied. Everyone had left except for this very sympathetic nurse who was left standing at her computer. “Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I know this must be hard for you.”. I shook my head and apologized for being such a mess. I closed my eyes, wiped my cheeks, and pulled my knees to my chest. I took a deep breath and looked back at the nurse with tears in my eyes, I asked her, “Will you just stop what you’re doing and pray with me?”. I didn’t know what else to do. So right there, in that big, scary moment, that sweet nurse did exactly that. She sat down on the bed, wrapping both her arms around me, and while I sat there sobbing, she prayed. She prayed for my health. For understanding. For comfort and consolation. She prayed for the doctors and nurses. She prayed for their knowledge and expertise. For their ability to take care of me and get me through this tough moment. She prayed for the baby. The baby that two hours ago, I hadn’t even known existed. And it was in that moment that reality hit. I choked back my emotions and asked her quietly, “I don’t understand. How far along am I? Is the baby alive?”. She looked at me, this time with tears in her own eyes, “No sweetie, a baby can’t survive what has happened. And this is why you’re going into surgery. You too, are at risk and we need to take care of you right now”.

You know that feeling when a parent sees their baby for the first time? That feeling of overwhelming love and adoration and joy for a child they’ve only just met? It’s indescribable. And it’s the most accurate way to describe what I was feeling in that moment, except opposite. I felt like I had spent the last two hours moving through a storm of chaos with whirling winds, pouring rains, powerful thunder and scary lightning and all of the sudden, everything had stopped. Everything was calm and I was suddenly filled with this fierce, overwhelming, and profound sadness. I was sad for the final realization that somehow, sometime, some way, human creation had failed. I felt like I had failed. I felt like a piece of motherhood had been stripped from my identity.

The rest is a blur.

I woke up from surgery with my husband by my side. He had rushed through the hospital door only moments after I had been wheeled into the surgery room. We had missed seeing each other by a few minutes but he tells me that my doctor had warned him over the phone that he wasn’t going to wait. “I’m not gonna be able to wait on you, Jeremy. But I promise I’m gonna take care of your wife.”. I had three little incisions- one on my belly button, one below my belly button, and one on my hip. They told me they had removed my right fallopian tube. They told me that I could still conceive if we wanted to try again. They told I needed to take it easy and that it was ok to cry. They told me there were services and support groups available if we needed them. They told me that my husband and I needed to talk together to make a decision regarding we wanted to do with the remains.

Big stuff, right?

Big, awful, painful, scary, heartbreaking stuff.

So why am I sharing such a personal story? Why am I writing about such a private and traumatic moment? Why do I feel the need to expose the world of social media to such a sad moment in my life?

Because I am a writer and I have a story to be told. Because I am a verbal processor. Because right now, I feel empty and my only coping mechanism is to sit in front of my laptop and translate my heartache into written words. Because I hate to admit that I know there are countless other women who can relate and recall the very same feelings I’m feeling now. Because I want those women to know that they’re not alone. Because I also want the reassurance that I’m not alone. Because my heart aches and my body hurts and I need to talk about it but I’m at a loss for spoken words. Because the loss and grief are real. Because something failed in those first few weeks of creation. And because I lost a baby and that truth hurts me the most.

On March 27th, what I assumed was a ‘hard’ period turned into a surprise pregnancy. That surprise pregnancy turned into a devastating miscarriage. That devastating miscarriage turned into a life-threatening situation and an emergency surgery. That emergency surgery turned into a whole bunch of heartbreak with grief counseling and bereavement discussions and a day filled with uninvited and unexpected chaos and sadness and pain.

1 in 4 women experience loss.

I am now part of the 1 in 4.

And now… I know.

One last thing- according to that statistic, 25% of women have experienced loss. One.in.four. This is not uncommon, guys. This is happening every day and oh does it hurt. Do you know a friend or loved one who is part of that statistic? Maybe it’s you who can relate to that awful number. I pray that’s not the case. But here’s my point… before this week, I had always tried my best to understand the sorrow my friends felt with the loss of a pregnancy. I had always tried to walk with them through the survival of a nightmare I never fully grasped myself. I was a friend who saw their heartache and wanted more than anything to remove their pain, but never knew what to say or how to do it.

After a week of resting and recovering and basically taking each day by the hour… Here’s what I think I know: I think there is nothing that can ease our pain. There is nothing that will ‘fix’ our sorrow or ‘make it better’ for our friends or ourselves. Bad things happen every single day. They happen to all of us, this is a guarantee. So while our stories of loss may be different, our details different, our experiences and reactions different… we share the same pain and that pain offers connection, in the most authentic and unfair way. I don’t know why miscarriage or pregnancy complications happen – to me or anyone for that matter, but I do know it won’t help to direct our anger at asking questions regarding WHY. So right now, I’m leaving that alone. Right now, I’m focusing my energy on giving myself permission to feel my feelings. I’m taking it easy.  Beyond those things, here is what I’m hoping… I’m hoping that maybe as the pain softens with time, I’ll be able to use this awful experience to help others get through the same scary, awful heartache. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to offer some stronger empathy, deeper compassion, and better consolation to those hurting. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll be able to use my story to replace someone else’s feelings of guilt and fear and loneliness with understanding, reassurance, and support.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my story.

If you are a person of faith, I would appreciate your prayers.

test

Tough Conversations

Talking to our kids about big things like protecting their bodies and safe versus unsafe touching can be a pretty heavy, uncomfortable, and overwhelming task. As parents, where do we start? How far do we go? How much do we share and what age do we even begin?

I’m overwhelmed with the uncertainty of all those questions but you know what? The answer is now. We begin right now.

According to statistics, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been or will be sexually assaulted in their life. 15% of those assaulted will be children under the age of 12. Pretty alarming numbers, right? I read those statistics and think about my daughter’s kindergarten class of 30 children- according to those numbers, 6 of her peers are at risk. 20%. You know what? That warrants some tough conversations.

Our children only know what they know. Their understanding and awareness of this great big world they live in will come primarily from the talks they have and the events they experience. If we don’t teach, guide, and educate them through these tough topics, who will? How will our kids know what is unsafe or inappropriate if we fail to talk with them about it? The more we talk, the more knowledge our children acquire. The more knowledge they acquire, the better equipped they are to handle situations. The better equipped they are to handle situations, the more likely they are to have a plan and know what to do if or when something happens. So despite our potential discomfort as well as our perception of our children’s innocent and naïve nature, we need to start the talk….Whether your child is 3 years old or 13 years old, equip your children with knowledge.

Literacy is one of my favorite ways to teach my children about lessons and life. I recently purchased the book, “God Made All of Me” via the recommendation of a friend and found it to be a really great tool for parents to introduce such a tough topic, especially for younger children (as the book’s intended audience is ages 2-8). Though Christian connections and gentle information, this book teaches children that their body is theirs and something to protect. It teaches them about safe vs. unsafe touching, the difference between secrets and surprises, and what to do as well as who to talk to if or when something makes them feel uncomfortable or unsure.

It’s mom approved guys. You can find it on Amazon for $11.99. Check it out.

God Made All Of Me

If only I could keep you little… (a letter to my daughter)

My dear girl, you’ve always loved bedtime stories. Happy ones, silly ones, rhyming ones, teaching ones, nonsense ones… There’s just something about being able to wind down and snuggle up together with a cozy blanket and good book that makes this a time to love and look forward to.

The bedtime story we chose recently was a sad one. This beautiful book full of colorful illustrations, charming expressions, and page after page of happy images and smiling children provoked quite an unexpected conversation with you, my dear daughter… So what was it that made it sad?

It was sad because this book was written in such a way that it captures the emotional paradox of motherhood’s excitement for all the amazing things a child will do and become… as well as the mother’s reluctance for having to let her children go in order for all those things to occur.

“If I could keep you little”, by Marianne Richmond.

Now I don’t know this author personally, but I wonder… did she realize what an impact her simple rhymes and charming pictures might have on those reading and listening to her work? Did she realize how deeply her stories might resonate with our souls? I wonder if she ever imagined that her sweet story might bring a 5-year-old child to tears… because that’s exactly what happened.

You see my dear, it wasn’t me with the tear-stained cheeks. This time, it was you. You’ve always demonstrated such a love for literacy and mature ability to really listen and understand the words you hear and the illustrations you see. This time, those words and illustrations broke you. Specifically, the final page of the book that read,

“If I could keep you little, I’d keep you close to me… but then I’d miss you growing into who you’re meant to be!”.

It was that final line that all the sudden led your lips to quiver, your nose to crinkle, your lips to tighten, and your eyes to fill with tears. Genuine, raw, honest tears. Tears for being afraid of growing up. Tears for being afraid of losing the close comfort and loving nurture of your parents. Tears for overwhelming sadness with the realization that someday, you might grow into a loving mother, a devoted wife, and a responsible adult no longer under the roof you currently call home. All of those things I hope and dream for you one day yet also struggle to accept myself as I watch you grow.

It was in that moment, my dear girl, that you looked up at me with your beautiful big brown eyes and sobbed, “Mommy! I NEVER want to grow up! I never want to be far away! I never want you to leave!” … “I want you to be with me forever!”.

aaavalynn

Cue more tears. Except this time, they were mine.

Within a few moments, this simple children’s story broke you. And the brokenness that consumed your naïve little heart broke me. You wiped your tear stained cheeks and begged me for the reassurance that I would, in fact, be with you forever and never let you go… This broke me because as much as I don’t want to accept that truth, the author of this sweet story is so right. If I don’t slowly let you go, we’ll both miss the opportunity of watching and seeing the amazing girl you’re meant to become.

This time, I couldn’t give you the reassurance you wanted… but what I could do, what I DID do, was give you the reassurance that we have many years before we have to really ‘let go’. I explained to you that I’m clinging to these everyday moments just as much as (if not more than) you are. I explained to you the reality of passing time and moving days, as evidenced by your clothes that are shorter, your shoes that are tighter, your books that are easier, and your schoolwork that is harder. I also gave you the solid reassurance that I will always love you fiercely, no matter how old you become or how far away you might live.

My dear girl, tonight I’m thankful for this gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, heart-bursting story by Marianne Richmond. I’m thankful because it led to a sweet moment and an opportunity to remind you that while I have a million reasons for wanting to keep you little… I also have more than a billion exciting reasons for wanting to watch you grow.

If you aren’t familiar with this story, I highly recommend adding it to your wish list. It’s a good one guys! And if you do decide to purchase it, go ahead and pick up a box of Kleenexes too… because I’ll bet that you’ll need them!

Click here for a link to the book, “If I could keep you little”

 

Technology…

I love it. I hate it. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel entertained. The accessibility of it keeps me well-informed. The convenience of it sometimes disconnects me from others. It’s a paradox.

You know, when I give my kids their tablets, it’s usually because I need a shower or a break or just a moment without being pulled in 5,000 different directions… and despite all my mom guilt and resentment with the use of screen time, sometimes I really welcome the distraction those magical devices bring to my children. It’s not something I’m proud to admit. It’s certainly never my grandest moment as a parent. But it’s real life and while I’m speaking some raw and honest truths here, let me just go ahead and lay it all out…  

Why do I feel guilty? …because technology makes me feel like a lazy parent.

Why do I resent it? …because I feel like it turns my kids into zombies.

Why am I afraid of it? …because the enormity of the internet terrifies me.

Parents, have you heard of the ‘momo challenge’? This ‘game’ is circulating all over the news and social media and is (one of) the very reasons I find the internet so terrifying. Momo is a disturbing character who reportedly appears in the middle of child-directed content (like YouTube or kidsTube) and encourages viewers to perform increasingly dangerous tasks. Momo asks for photos as proof of task completion and threatens those who do not perform her requests. The requests start small but apparently escalate to more serious acts including self-harm and suicide.

WHAT?

This cannot be real but according to various news outlets, there have been 3 deaths allegedly connected with this awful ‘challenge’. Now listen, I’m a pretty cautious person and try not to believe everything I read on the internet, but this seems serious. A quick search on google revealed various articles and videos warning of ‘momo’s’ grave dangers, as well as skeptics claiming that the ‘momo challenge’ is an urban legend and actually not real due to lack of live captured footage. Listen, I don’t know what to believe but I do know this: 

My children watch YouTube kids.

My children use their devices.

My children are not supervised every waking moment that their swiping and navigating throughout their tablets. (Please don’t judge me. The games and apps they use are ones I’ve downloaded with trust that they’re educational and safe. I’m doing my best over here while simultaneously realizing there’s room for improvement).

My children are young and naïve.

My children might be being targeted.

Yours might be too.

Parents, we live in a digital world full of opportunities for engagement, learning, and connecting. Technology is everywhere. In fact, my 5-year-old daughter even has a ‘tech class’ as part of her kindergarten curriculum. Technology isn’t going anywhere and we can’t hide our kids in a safeguard bubble. So what can we do?

We can have conversations. We can monitor the content our children use. We can talk about the dangers of the internet and social media. We can stress the importance of reporting things that make us feel uncomfortable. We can make sure our children know that if something doesn’t seem right, they should come to us. If something is bothering them, scaring them, or pressuring them… we can make sure they know that we are here to help them.  

Technology is awesome guys, but it can be dangerous.

The world is a great place, but there are some seriously sick people out there.

Make sure you’re talking to your kids.

Handmade Valentines

I’ve always been a lover of all things vintage and old. An old soul. A person who would rather receive a handmade card over any overpriced sentiment from Hallmark; a tattered book with notes written throughout over any digital version available to download; a blanket hand-quilted by my grandma over any soft plush found at Kohls; or an antique piece that’s been in the family for years over any gift found in store or online.

My husband would probably tell you that I’m his hardest person to ‘buy for’. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate the occasional ‘new and fancy’ surprise. I do. In fact, I think it’s safe to say we all enjoy the occasional flowers, shiny jewelry, high-end fragrance, or upgrade to something that’s otherwise falling apart. All of those things are nice gifts… but I tend to be the person who expects more. Not more ‘stuff’, but rather, more thought. More consideration. More time. More love. More of those things that simply can’t be purchased with the swipe of a debit card. It’s not the designer brand or expensive price tag that impresses me. The key to my heart is those things that do, in fact, come from the heart.   

Today I want to share a story. A story related to the beauty of giving things that come from the heart. A story of my five-year-old daughter who ran off the bus last week, full of excitement as she explained her need to bring valentines in for her upcoming class party. This was no surprise to me. In fact, like any parent of a school age child, I anticipated having to take her into town so that she could pick out some popular character covered cards to hand out to her friends.

 No mom, I don’t want to buy cards”, she explained, “I need to make them.”

 ‘Whoa… slow down girl’, I thought, ‘This would be a really big task if she truly spent the time making cards for her entire class and while there are few people who appreciate a thoughtful and meaningful gesture more than myself, I couldn’t help but to push for some clarification. I mean really? This could all be taken care with about ten bucks and a quick trip to target. Making valentines for 29 kids and 2 teachers seemed a little ambitious and over the top.

 Are you sure you want to make them? Maybe we could go to the store and just look through the aisles to see if there’s anything you might like to hand out?”

My daughter looked up at me with her big brown eyes. I could tell she was carefully thinking before giving me a response.

 “Ok, mom… I’ll look.”

Great. Off to Target we went. We found the aisle full of candies and cards and after about 5 minutes of careful contemplation, my daughter placed a 35 pack of mini valentine Oreos in our cart. Perfect. Done. Another thing I can check off the list.

Fast forward to last night (two days before her classroom party)…

 “Mom! I have to bring my valentines to school tomorrow! I still need to make my valentines!”

What? Cue confusion. I grabbed the box of pre-packaged Oreos that was sitting on top of the refrigerator and reminded her that we already had ‘valentines’ ready to put in her backpack.  

 No mom. Those are the treats I’ll hand out. Remember? I told you I wanted to make my valentines…”

 Oh boy.

 Are you sure you want to make valentines too?”, I carefully asked, “You’ll have to make over 30 cards and that’s going to take a lot of time to complete AND they’re due tomorrow so if you really want to do that, you’re going to have to finish them all tonight…”

She furrowed her sweet brown eyes and looked at me as if I was speaking a different language.

 “MOM. I told you I wanted to make them. I want to make my valentines.”

 Alright… Point taken. We went to the craft closet and gathered some paper, stickers, hearts, and markers. She sat down and I watched her as she worked with her heart. Every once in awhile, she wrote a letter backwards or ran out of space mid-word and when that happened, she got up, threw the half-complete valentine away, and started over. She worked hard. She didn’t care how long it took her. She didn’t care that she was missing out on playing barbies with her sister or dinosaurs with her brother. She had already spent the entire day at school and she didn’t seem to even consider taking a break to relax from her busy day. This girl was on a mission. She had nothing to prove and nothing to gain. She simply wanted to do what she had been telling me along. She wanted to make her own valentines.

 And that she did.

29 students. 2 teachers. 2 ½ hours of ‘crafting’. 31 cards total.

You know, I don’t know what the kids will do with their handmade cards. I imagine they’ll love their Oreos. I’m sure they’ll get tons of candies and cards. Maybe they’ll keep my daughter’s work or maybe they’ll toss it aside… I don’t know.

But here’s what I do know… I LOVE those valentines. I love that she held her ground and insisted on this vision for some good old fashioned handmade cards. You know sometimes us parents get too caught up in efficiency and completion. We get caught up with finishing tasks and checking things off our list. We get caught up in trying to get everything done and we forget to listen. We become dismissive and distracted. We forget that some things may take longer, take more thought, take more time… and that’s ok. In fact, sometimes, most times, those are the things that turn out the greatest. The things that mean the most and the things we remember the best.

Happy Valentine’s day friends.

May you all get a handmade valentine or two…

A Mother’s New Year’s Resolution

I’ve always been the type of person that rolls their eyes in response to the standard, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” question. I can’t help it. In fact, if I’m being completely honest with you, you can probably expect that eye roll to be accompanied with a heavy sigh and gritted teeth as well. I’ve never really made resolutions. (Gasp! I know! Don’t judge me yet!) Listen… I’m a concrete, black and white, type of thinker and if I want to make a change in my life, I don’t need the beginning of a calendar year to jumpstart something new. I’ve never really understood these dramatic declarations of mastering new hobbies, quitting bad habits, losing weight, spending less, or exercising more, all because of a simple numeric change in our calendar year. If you want to set a goal, make an improvement, or make a change… then do it. You are in change of you! You call the shots! Not a calendar.

With that said, something in my mindset has shifted over the past few days… For some unknown reason, I can’t stop thinking about this whole new year’s ‘question’ that has become so popular and prevalent in our society. What is your new year’s resolution? Is there something you need to change? Is there something in your life that you could improve? Do you have unmet aspirations perhaps not yet realized? What can you do to better yourself?

When I think about those questions, my concrete mindset shifts to taking a step back and defining who I am… I need to declare that before I can resolve to change, aspire, or suggest who I want to better become.

So who am I?

I am a mother.

I am a stay-at-home parent.

I am the world to three sweet toddler tornadoes who demand every ounce of my being throughout every single day.

I am so many things to so many other people but as I reflect on the direct definition of who I am… I consider my defining trait without any hesitation to be MOM.

So who or what can I improve or better aspire to become? Well… perhaps prioritizing motherhood to such a high level is unfair. Perhaps it’s unfair to my husband. Perhaps it’s unfair to my friends and family. Perhaps it’s unfair to MY SELF.

If we allow motherhood to consume and exhaust all of who we are, then what is left for everyone and everything else? When was the last time you spent quality time with your spouse? On any given night, do you finally get the kids to bed and resolve to watching tv in silence and/or going to bed yourself without even asking how your husband’s day was? What about your friends and family? When was the last time you called your sibling or went out to dinner with your friends? Most importantly… can you recall the last time you did something solely for yourself? Have you recently made any time for that thing you’ve always said you wanted to do? For me, it’s to run a marathon. Read more books. Even that cliché goal of ‘exercising more’… it’s something I don’t make time for because it’s never my priority.

My priority is my family and there is nothing wrong with pouring my heart and soul into my children. They are, in fact, my world! However, I find myself overlooking and sometimes forgetting who came before them. It’s a beautiful thing to be so fiercely wanted and adored by the very beings we brought into this crazy world… But those sweet little people can leave me pouring from an empty cup. They love with such fierce intensity, demanding all my affection, attention, and time, that by the end of day, I have nothing left for all those other things I strive to be.

My children are my WORLD but my world needs balance.

So this year I’m making a resolution.

A commitment to finding balance. I want to restructure my priorities and improve upon all those other things that define who I am. I want to give myself permission to call myself more than a mother, NOT because I don’t love what motherhood has given me… Motherhood consumes me, in the most exhausting and rejuvenating way possible! It is the hardest thing I have EVER loved! It is a privilege and no doubt, my greatest accomplishment. But I want to accomplish more. My family and friends need more. I deserve more.

So here’s to a fresh start, a new beginning, and a year of calling myself not only a devoted mother, but also, a loving wife, a consistent reader, and a committed runner.

Happy New Year, friends!

 

%d bloggers like this: