To the first time moms

As I write, there is a child heavily breathing, lost in sleep next to me. Her brother is sprawled across the couch in the living room.

It is nearly midnight.

Tomorrow, we will host a joint birthday party for these two children who emerged on almost the same day, two years apart, in late June, six and eight years ago.

It seems like a lifetime ago. It seems like last week, this hurricane that upended my life.

Your story shifts the second you find out that you are going to be a parent. Then it shifts again the moment they emerge, yowling and slightly gross from your womb, separate from but now an even bigger part of you still.

Clara newborn

You were once joined nearly completely, only now you discover that it isn’t just flesh and blood that can join you with a person for a lifetime.

It’s a million yet unspoken words.

A promise, now realized. A thousand more, waiting to be fulfilled.

Your daily life together becomes a series of shifting plots. You think you have learned one thing about parenting, found solid footing, and then the next day, the game changes.

Sleep regression. Colic. Diaper rash. Reflux. Teething. Your internet not working. Misery!

I remember how unreasonable parenting seemed at first.

The thought that I had to carry a person, who practiced Cirque Du Soleil inside of me every time I tried to close my eyes, who burned my innards with the fire of indigestion (equal to the flames of a thousand suns), who I was then expected to spend hours birthing, urging them into the world with cracking pelvic bones and willpower, and then feed them from the battered front of my body, was without a doubt the most presumptuous thing I had ever heard.

Not only was I responsible for birthing this tiny person, for bathing them and noting the number of diapers they soiled each day, I was also charged with making sure they turned into a good person eventually.

And sometimes, I also needed to take them into the grocery store even as they squirmed and cried from their car seat while I lactated through my shirt with enough milk to supply ten dairy farms.

And for all of my work, where did it actually get me? The laundry was never clean. The house was always dirty and neglected. The smallest of tasks increased in difficulty ten fold. I felt like I spent my days flailing. I didn’t see where any of my efforts were gaining any ground.

It turns out, that when you become a parent, you give birth nearly every day. Right there, in the mundane.

The broken body, shriveled breasts, stretch marks, and post-partum raging hormones that whisper that you aren’t enough are some of the “easiest” parts.

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You’re then met with the crushing reality of mommy culture. You start to doubt every decision you make for them. You wonder if each one is actually best. You wonder if you need to be making your own laundry soap and baby food. You wonder how anybody ever thought you could do this in this GMO laced world. Heck, you wonder why you’re so selfish to just want four hours of sleep in a row so badly you can cut your teeth on it.

Once you were insecure about the clothes you wore, the acne on your skin, that you didn’t share the same lunch table with popular kids.

Now, you’re worried about when the new loose pouch of skin across the front of you will recede, giving you back an appearance of maidenhood.  You feel guilty because deep down, you already miss your old life and its simplicity. When your mind was quieter than it has been since the moment they arrived. You realize startlingly that the noise may never leave you.

Now, you’re worried about how to feed your baby. How to dress your baby. And bathe your baby. You wonder why your baby doesn’t sleep. You wonder why you never seem to be enjoying any of this like all of the other parents around you. Or why your heart hurts so much when they cry as you frantically pace back and forth to help them find their way to sleep.

Your heart hurts because it’s growing three times in size. Outward, forward. Like an expanding wave of an unfolding and mysterious universe.

You’re so distraught because now life comes with a new set of insecurities, the least of which is that your body will never look like it used to. Some of worst thoughts haunt your mind as you’re trying to sleep, like the fear that this new life will never seem to fit you just right.

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The greatest of which is that you’ll somehow mess this all up, mess them up. That you will ruin everything good in them.

I thought I became a mother the day they draped that first baby across my chest. And I did. It was the big bang, a new solar system of life bursting forth. A galaxy now set to spinning outward. Unstoppable. A thousand stars dotting an endless ocean. Here there are no skies. There is only forward.

The life I thought I knew so well was gone. The way things were supposed to be irrevocably changed.

I have spent every day becoming since then. Becoming a mother, and finding with each new phase that I must go further still. 

It’s been eight years. Eight years of leaked diapers. Cancelled plans. Sick children on family vacations. Crying behind closed bathroom doors, or over a dirty kitchen sink. I waited, for someone to tell me that I can do this.

But it isn’t enough to believe that I am good at this. That I can do this.

Now I see. I see what I will be. And what I will be, I already am.

Now it is enough, the belief that I am becoming. 

And yet the sun still shines. The galaxy still spins and unfolds. We move in an ellipsis, dancing around one another, as we move forward. Together. We already are.

And yet we are still becoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What I’m Going to Tell My Daughters About No Man’s Land.

***Spoilers Ahead***

 

I have seen Wonder Woman three times now. Do not adjust your monitors, you read that correctly. Three times. And I am not ashamed.

I thought of myself, how seeing powerful women accomplish great things stirs me to greatness. But then, I thought of my daughters. And No Man’s Land.

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I know it’s just a movie, my loves. It’s only a story at the end of the day. But what we ultimately see in stories, in art, and have since time was new, is ourselves and who we want to be. We are inspired, and so we believe. And when we believe is when great things happen.

And hers was a story worth telling.

If it wasn’t Princess Buttercup, having since cinematically evolved into a ferocious amazon warrior, charging across a beach, bow and arrow in hand, then it was young Diana on horse back, riding through a field of golden flowers, hair in the wind, wildly free.

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It wasn’t just Diana and her lasso of truth, her sword and shield at the ready, it was also her inner compass that guided her to her truth, and her compulsion to always do the right thing. Even when those around her did not deserve her unwavering grace.

I was romanced by all of it. By the women who made things happen.

If it had to be one scene, though, that encapsulated why this film, this story, was so powerful, it was when Diana crossed the field known as No Man’s Land.

Frustrated at being told no at every turn, that she was not the one to help, that today was not the day to intervene, that she could not trust her instincts, that she must look away from the pain, violence and chaos around her, and not feel it when she sees the innocent suffer, she decides that doing nothing is not an option.

Diana decides to climb a ladder from the pits and lead the way.

Even if she had to do it alone.

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I’m not an idiot. I know how this world works.

I know that it can squeeze the life out of you, out of anyone that it perceives as weak. And from what we know, it sometimes views compassion and grace as a form of lacking. As naivete. With cold indifference and smugness, it will tell you that you are not the one.

That today is not the day.

That to win, you must not feel, must not count the costs. At least, not the costs for others.

That it will be every man for themselves.

That you must preserve and steel yourself against loss and sacrifice to survive.

That you must never show grace to those who do not deserve you.

I can’t tell you that it will be easy. I cannot tell you that it will be fair.

To be who you are. And to believe that you can.

But you must believe it anyway. Because what you do is not up to them.

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This is not some fleeting message of girl power.

I can’t tell you how to conquer the world. I can’t tell you how to right every wrong, because we all know that it can’t be entirely fixed. At least, not in this plane of existence.

But in you is so much life, so much goodness. And it is what you choose to do with such things that will reveal what you are, and who are you.

It is in times of joy that we know who we want to be. It is in conflict that we find out the truth of who we are.

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We are at war, every day.

Today is your day. This is the time. And we need you.

Perhaps we don’t have gauntlets. We don’t have shields and swords. We cannot always expect to conquer and restore with brute strength, and must instead prevail with our character and spirit.

With grace.

Such weapons seem far less effectual then we would like. We feel as though we are standing on the battle field unclothed, seen for what we truly are. Meek.

But every inch we move toward grace, toward love, is an inch more toward something greater.

It is with arms outstretched to those around us who hurt and who are broken, cruciform in appearance, that we will welcome grace to enter in.

It is with a heart that seeks to love, understand and give grace that we can actually see the broken around us for what they truly are without begrudging them their pain.

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It is with your will that you can choose today to step out and inspire the people behind you to do the same.

No Man’s Land is the place we cross when all other methods do not work, when we need to make a new way. I believe in a Christ who crossed no man’s land and made a way, so that we can do the same by His hand. Where He tread so shall we. In the dark of the tomb where He turned death to life, so shall we leave darkness behind, giving way to a dawn of a new type justice. One where hope wins.

Empathy knows no usual suspects. Neither do courage and loyalty, honor and strength.

In you, I see these things. Riding freely through a field of gold, arms outstretched without fear. Just as I see it before a field that we are told we cannot cross.

When they fire at you, you can take it. And when you want to throw in the towel is when you will have to fight the hardest.

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Because what you do is not up to them. Because pain makes you stronger. Because you see that what they deserve, you also deserve. But it is not the portion you are given.

Your cup, your portion, is wonder. Beyond logic and reasoning.

And so you give your portion to others who deserve the same as you once did. Because this is what you believe.

 

Walk on, my girls.

wonder woman

 

 

How You Will Actually Spend Your Summer “Vacation”

Have you felt it yet?… The sweat? Namely, the boob sweat?

Yes!? That means summer is here. Rejoice! Salve, Maria?! Don’t the longer days sound just great??

And also, maybe some blue crabs covered in Old Bay washed down with a cold beer? Or American flags flying everywhere in your sleepy small town?? And you can’t forget late nights spent chasing fireflies in bare feet. At least, that’s my summertime fantasy here in Maryland.

Now we take a moment of silence to reflect on how we made it, moms. If your kids are in school, you made it through another year of homework and worksheets, forms to sign or homeschool schedules to coordinate.

If you send your kiddos to school, you made it through another year of hurrying little people who have many qualms about the way their socks feel out the door every morning. If you homeschool, you made it through another year of arguing to get reluctant bottoms in chairs to start on time each day.

Now it’s warm. The birds are singing. The schedules have cleared. It’s summer.

Which is great, right?

 

How easily I forget how this plays out every.single.year.

The first few weeks are a welcome respite from our daily hectic routine. But after the first week, the children are “bored”, the house is a wreck and my sanity begins to decline. I forget that I actually need to be proactive, and consider just how these summer days are going to play out if my sanity is to be preserved.

I have already seen those blog posts extolling the wonders of summer bucket lists as I was scrolling through my social media feeds. One even suggested I plan an outdoor picnic for dinnertime.

I’ll pause here for a moment and let that sink in.

I wish they had said what they meant plainly instead of dressing up the idea of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut in half on paper plates into some perfect moment for familial bonding: “Hey, I know. It’s the witching hour for your children. You’re fried because it’s been a long day. The house is destroyed. Literally, it’s like a hand grenade went off in there, and it smells like stale spaghetti and cynicism. Here, I know. Let’s take all of this drama outdoors where there is sweltering humidity and mosquitoes. No really, it’ll be super relaxing.

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Everyone has some version of parenting – even the people who aren’t parents, believe it or not. And that’s totally legit and fine, I guess. But any version of parenting that doesn’t suggest lowering your standards before attempting anything with children in tow is tricking you. I mean, they are outright doing you a disservice. Life is pain, anyone who says differently (*cough* Pinterest) is selling something.

So here, parents. I made you this list of what you’re actually going to do this summer. Results may vary.

You will spend your summer “vacation”:

1.) Settling petty sibling disputes over the television remote

2.) Settling petty sibling disputes over who was sitting in that chair first.

3.) Settling petty sibling disputes over who was breathing the air in the kitchen first.

4.) Deciding to take your kids swimming, and then spending two hours actually trying to get to the pool because you will realize one child doesn’t have floaties. So, you end up at the store to buy a puddle jumper, and end up buying goggles for every child that will be lost by the end of the week. When you finally get to the pool you’ll have to turn around because you forgot one child’s swimsuit, and then…

5.) Killing mosquitoes.

6.) Wondering why the car smells the way it smells…like salty ocean feet that stepped in stale juicy juice.

7.) Staring at the magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store trumpeting all of the celebrity beach bodies. You will then question every purchase in your cart, like those Pop Tarts and Salami. Whatever.

8.) Listening to your children tell you they are bored.

9.) Listening to your children tell you they are hot.

10.) Listening to your children tell you they are bored and they are hot.

11.) Yelling, “for the love, IN OR OUT!!!” after your children have come in and out of the house nine times in the last thirty minutes seconds.

12.) Killing house flies.

13.) Struggling to put sunscreen on your octopus armed toddler.

14.) And then forgetting to put sunscreen on yourself, and getting sunburn on your shoulders.

15.) Telling yourself that when you don’t brush and/or blow dry your hair between the months of May and September, you actually have beach waves going on, so it’s all good, just don’t mind the nest of birds and scattered pop rocks up there.

16.) Picking up damp towels and swimsuits off of the bathroom floor.

17.) Picking up damp towels and swimsuits off of the bedroom floor.

18.) Remembering that you left a bag full of damp towels and swimsuits in the back of the car from last week.

19.) Helping your child squeeze the ice in the ice pops to the top so your toddler can take a bite. Then watching them squeeze too hard so the ice falls out.

20.) Watching $12 worth of ice cream melt all over your children.

21.) Bathing children who have sand in hidden crevices scientists have never discovered.

22.) Finding sippy cups and thermoses that were carelessly tossed under a seat that have been baking in the sun, and now have a pulse.

23.) Making thirteen trips to and from the car at the beach.

24.) Buying your children cotton candy  after much pleading and watching the sugar take hold.

Ellie pool

25.) Yelling, “CLOSE THE DOOR! WE AREN’T AIR CONDITIONING THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD, SO CLOSE THE DOOR!!!!” while your children stare at you blankly, and you realize that you have turned into your parents so your life is over now.

26.) Wondering what happened to all of those people who used to party at the MTV Beach house.

27.) Thinking you want to ride with down the highway with the windows rolled down.

28.) Just kidding, that’s way too loud, and now your fake beach waves look even worse.

29.) Hauling sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a kiddy pool, Disney World and a kite outside.

30.) …Only to have your children tell you they are bored and hot and want to go back inside about thirteen minutes later.

31.) Telling your children not to run when they are at the pool.

32.) Watching the lifeguard remind your children not to run while at the pool….

33.) ..And then getting a glare from said lifeguard.

34.) Putting your kids to bed late after a long busy day, thinking they will sleep in…

35.) Only to have them wake up earlier than usual and also angry.

36.) Listening to your children tell you which of their friends from school is going to Disney World or on a cruise with their family for vacation.

37.) Covering your child’s ears while you’re watching the Fourth of July fireworks. Then sitting in an hour of traffic while you try to get home.

38.) Now that you mention it – traffic. You’re going to sit in traffic.

39.) Answering all of your kid’s questions about when you’re going to take them to the: zoo, splash pad, pool, museum, movies and <insert any other summertime activities here.>

40.) Shaking a pound of sand and dirt out of your children’s shoes. And sweeping it up off the floor. And shaking out your rugs.

I think you get the idea. Here’s the truth. Summer has a magic all its own. Just now that you’re the parent, the magic is going to feel different. So, so different.

Now we have to look a lot harder to find the good stuff.

Like picking up seashells with your little one.

Having a viable excuse to just eat watermelon and cantaloupe for dinner.

Watching your children be overjoyed at the sight of fireflies.

The smell of salty hair after a swim in the ocean.

A glass of wine on a summer evening.

Watching your kids eat ice pops, drink little huggies drinks and nom on ice cream, and it reminding you of your glorious summer days of old.

 

See? What did I tell you. Magic. You just have to look for it.

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