Each Day a Page

My mind has been everywhere this week.

Baby’s coming. The boy started kindergarten. The girl is potty trained. I have to paint my kitchen (I know that seems slightly more trivial than the other stuff, but just hear me out.) 

I can’t decide what to do with my kitchen. It’s yellow now and it needs a fresh coat of paint and love, and I can’t decide if I should update it and simply paint it yellow (albeit, a different yellow) like it’s always been. Or if I should welcome something new and try something else. 

But…the kitchen has always been yellow. But now…we have options. Now things can be different. But do I want it to be? The kids have only ever known yellow in the kitchen. It was the first color I picked for our new house seven years ago. What if I paint it green or blue and it doesn’t feel the same??

And, really, does everything have to change right now?

It’s all looking different. All of a sudden. 

Life. 

It seems like all of a sudden all of the pieces shifted. Into place? Or out of sorts? I’m not sure. 

Do you ever feel like that as a parent? Heck, as a person? Things suddenly change and you can’t tell if it’s wrong or if this is the way that it was always supposed to be. 

I’m trying to grab all of these moments and hold them and not let them go. I’ve been staring at my children lately. Just staring and watching and trying to take this mental picture that I can keep and always have. I have to have it. 

I have to remember how amazing they are. Right now. 

Soon mommy and daddy welcome baby number three. They’re excited. I am, too. I remember this small season of mourning when I was preparing to welcome baby number two. I shed tears. Because it wouldn’t be just the three of us anymore. It wouldn’t be just my son and I every day. We would become a team of three. Those little nondescript moments of just the two of us would become a thing of the past. What if it all didn’t feel the same?

I was excited, but I knew that we were leaving something behind. I knew that things would get just a bit more complicated. A bit trickier. And, if I’m being honest, a bit louder. 

Now I feel the same way, all over again. The boy is at school so it’s been just the girl and I. And we have had some fun. I brush her curls and smell her and just hold her close every chance I get. Because she’s about to become a big sister. Her life is going to change and she’s not even aware of it. She will have new responsibilities as she grows. I want her to remember that she was treasured. That she won’t ever be just a middle child to us. That I saw, I see, HER.

Even worse, soon she’ll go to school eventually. And I’ll be down to one again.

I’m back and forth with all of it. At first, I didn’t know what to expect about having more than one child around the house. Now, I’m used to it and all of the chaos that accompanies it and all of the messes and stains and handprints on windows. Now, it feels like that’s just the way that it has always been. There are supposed to be Cheerio’s all over my kitchen floor and toys in my bathtub. Right?

I feel in some way like we get these chances in life, and we only get them for a season and we have to make the most of them. Only we don’t always know that they are chances, they don’t feel like opportunities. They feel like chores or tasks or just a plain old Monday. We don’t even realize the gifts that we are given.

I had just my son for a time. My chance to savor him and love him. Then I had two to love and kiss on. Now it becomes three. I only get so many chances to get it right. To make it perfect. To make it count. Before it all changes again. 

And while those changes aren’t things we should necessarily mourn, instead we should see them as something we prepare ourselves for and are being prepared for, it’s still a host of question marks looming in the air. 

Is this life really mine? Am I on my way to baby number three? To a new decade of life? Really? 

My life doesn’t always feel like my own. It feels like I’m wearing a pair of shoes that I really like, but they’re just a size too big. Not quite right. Or maybe it’s all alright and I’m just on my way to the person and mother that I’m supposed to be. Maybe our family is on its way to the place that’s for us. Maybe all of that other stuff just led me here, to this spot. 

And, seriously, can you all offer some painting advice for my kitchen? Oak cabinets, neutral counter tops. Go. 

I remind myself that we are training, preparing to let go. That all things are a part of a season, and with each season is give and taken, want and plenty. Every day, whether we realize it or not, we are building something, crafting something. More importantly, the Father is at work in us and is crafting in us a story. He writes it, not us. I just feel like Piglet on Winnie the Pooh sometimes, on a very blustery day. But, I’m not. I am His treasured child. His wanted child. His loved child. I’m not some myopic, shriveling thing to be tossed to and fro. I am His.

And He is writing my story. 

Now if He could give me an inclination about this whole paint color thing…

 

 

Moms: Why you need to hang on to the friends that matter

The subject of friendship is one that I have wanted to broach for the longest time on my blog.

Before, I would have approached it from an angle of someone who thought she had mostly figured out how to balance having children while still maintaining friendships. My husband is wonderful at making sure that I get time out of the house. I stay connected on social media and know who goes where. I had a handle on my friendships, I thought.

Now, I’m writing this from a newly refreshed perspective. It turns out that I have much to learn about how to manage parenting children while simultaneously investing in the people who matter most to me. Go figure, someone with still much to learn!

There are a host of blog posts and online articles out there “training” child-less people on how to approach their friends who are parents. They state what their expectations should and shouldn’t be, how to be courteous and understanding of their parenting friends and their new needs. I am one person that loved those articles. I thought that they were incredibly useful and they even validated some part of me.

That is until I actually sat down and talked to a friend of mine who isn’t a parent. She was warm and humble, non-accusatory and thoroughly recognized that she indeed did not have a clue about what it means to be a parent. That she knows it is something that she can’t fully understand until if and when she makes that journey for herself. She also pointed out, though, how left of center all of that talk makes her feel.

75858_466089691313_5509027_n

Hanging around a group of parents when you yourself are not a parent can feel like you are hanging around a group of physicists, engaged in a full-on conversation about their work. Or like any person would feel amongst a group of people who are having a conversation in an entirely different language. I remember feeling that way as some of my friends made the transition to becoming a parent. How left behind I sometimes felt, and how insignificant our relationship seemed afterwards. 

Awkward. Out of place. Unappreciated. Unacknowledged.

Where’d the love go?

The truth is that there is sometimes an underlying tone to these articles: parents are the ones doing worthwhile work and you’re not, and it’s just not something that you’ll ever understand.

Even from my little blog, in my small corner of the inter-web, I couldn’t help but wonder, and have been in deep thought over it since discussing it with my friend, if I ever make people feel that way. I had always thought that though I wear the hat of motherhood, even though it is such a large part of who I am, it’s still only a part. Parenting for me is like the vast oceans all across the Earth. They cover most of it, but they’re sill only a part of it. 

I’m still the same old Ashley that likes sushi, a good book, smelling shampoo and candles. I’m just softer, I can run on less sleep and might appreciate 13 minutes of silence more than pre-children Ashley might.

I’m still me.

Right?

1916111_1285185771868_2399697_n

Do I remind my friends of that fact?

I think I have failed at that last part on occasion. Or maybe even more than I have ever realized.

Moms, listen up. Because this is important. 

You may be covered in spit up, day old food or God knows what else as you are reading this. You may be going on three hours of sleep. You may have a colicky baby, a toddler in the throes of the terrible two’s (three’s, four’s, five’s..) or a preteen who thinks they know way more than they actually do. You may legitimately have a lot going on. You may not feel like you have even a moment to look up from what you’re doing, but you need to.

Even if only for a minute, you need to come up for air.

Our work may be beyond a 24/7 job, but we still need to work on ways to find meaningful connections outside of the home. Your sanity inside of the home depends on it.

You need to come up for air and let the people around you love on you. Build into you. Remind you that you’re funny, and breathing and alive. Remind you that there is a life outside of the home. It takes a community to raise a child, of this much I believe. I think it also takes a community to raise up a person from the muck of every day, wipe their tears and remind them that they’re special. That they are cherished. That they are seen, and heard and noticed.

And if there is one job that I can think of where a person needs meaningful friendships, it’s motherhood. If there is one job that I can think of where a person needs a kind word, an encouraging word, a good laugh, a safe place to cry – it is motherhood. If there is one job that can be incredibly isolating, and make a person feel more alone than ever, I say passionately, that it is motherhood. 

1012679_10201183389488952_536004786_n

If there is one person who needs outside love, support and warmth, it’s a mom.

We need our friends. You need friends that you can call when you’re at your wit’s end with your children. You need friends that you can call and ask any manner of baby-related question. You also need friends that might not be so fluent in the jargon of breastfeeding talk or sleep training. You need friends from all walks to help your soul fire on all cylinders.

Confidants, sages, comforters, uplifters, jokers, effervescent dreamers and pragmatic problem solvers.

And the beautiful part? They still need you. They still have room for you.

It just all becomes a touch trickier post baby. But more worth it than ever before.

THESE are the good ole days

Moms, do you ever go through seasons where you find yourself falling into a state of deeper love and appreciation for being a parent?

It’s been a gift for me recently, this new sense of wonder. My eyes opening wider just slightly, my heart brimming and soaking up the things mundane like never before. This ethereal tug that every day seems to have? Yea, I’m noticing it more and more. The music in the sound of my kids laughing. The glow of a happy home. The magic that is the steam emanating off of a fresh cup of coffee – yea, there is definitely something heavenly about that.

I’m a nostalgic kind of person. I love rehashing “old times.” There is comfort in it for me. Most creatures can’t remember into last week, let alone yesterday. But humans? We have a deep sense of recollection. We hold the ability to store up treasures in our heart that help us connect the dots of our lives on a rainy day, during the times when life is a bit more unforgiving. We mourn if/when we lose those memories, either to the effects of time on our bodies or to disease. We instinctively know that memories are something to be cherished. 

And God commands us to remember. Remember His word spoken, His promises foreshadowed. To write such things on our heart.

P1040066

His commands to memorize His word are like insurance for when the harvest is gaunt. Because no matter what, if you have the truth, if you have hope, then you may just have everything. Memories are almost the same for me. I’m not talking about a quiet refusal to let the past be the past. It’s a contentment with the past where you can find a comfort in it that I speak of.

The days are only worth committing to memory if we commit ourselves fully to them.

Then they are worth remembering.

Then they are worth recalling.

I wonder what I would consider the “good ole days” of my life. For any of us, it’s usually times past. I guess that makes sense. Times of youth. Times of ease. Times when maybe dear relatives were still here with us.

487982_10200445043030752_447210231_n

Very rarely, though, in this life where we see through a mirror dimly lit do we get the chance to have an unabated picture of the entire mosaic. God has shown me lately. These days? These are the good ole days. I would have thought that it would be times with friends, in the spring of my youth, that I would want near me again when I’m old and grey. Now that I’m a mother, now that I see how fast my children are growing, that ideal has changed.

I think I’ll deeply miss this house being busy. I would miss the noise. I would miss little hand marks on my glass front door. I’ll miss toys peeking out from under the edge of the sofa. I’ll miss my daughter’s searching eyes, eyes that cause me wonder and stare. I’ll miss playing play dough, watching my son’s imagination take shape and form right in front of me. I’ll miss being needed, little bodies that just want to lay on mommy to fall asleep.

P1010641

I silently pray and tell myself that this is what I will miss one day. But these days, they will be my comfort. My contented sigh when my soul aches. My children. When they are gone, when they are grown. These years have made me realize that there isn’t much that I can’t do. That there isn’t much that I don’t want to do. That if I can parent, then I can learn. And if I can learn, then I can grow. They have given me back my youth, only this time, with eyes wide open and a pliant heart that can firmly grasp it. It’s a second chance in a way. If you have children, you get two chances to grow up.

These are the good ole days. Moms, these are it. These are days worth remembering. This is why I write. This is why I take pictures. This is why I give them five more minutes or another storybook before bed. This is why I repeat myself about leaving shoes out in the kitchen everyday. This is why I hold them when they sleep. This is why I pray quietly, this is why my eyes sometimes silently fill with joyful tears in the car when no one else is around.

These are good days.