the one about Mary

Seven years ago, I was pregnant with Noelle. Well, I was pregnant with a child who would be named Noelle — but at the time, we did not know if she was a boy or a girl. We opted to be surprised at birth with the sex of our first baby. 

First baby. To this day, I struggle to say that. She wasn’t our first. She was our second. I lost our first to miscarriage, and it changed every part of who I was — and made me who I am. 

Broken and tired. Anxious and weary. But then, I was made new.

Pregnant with the child who would become Noelle, we truly did not care whether we had a boy or a girl, so long as we were able to actually hold this baby in our arms. But I always had a feeling that we were having a girl. 

Maybe it was a feeling — or maybe it was a preference. If I am being honest, I wanted a girl so badly. I wanted the dresses. I wanted the bows. I wanted the twirling and dancing and dolls and pink. I didn’t understand how to be a boy mom. I didn’t think I would be a good one. 

When she was born, and I saw her face, I knew. I knew she was a girl before they even told me. In my hospital bag, I had tucked away a Target sack, and inside was a pink bow and pink shoes with pink elephants on them. Somehow I knew…or I was willing it to be.

We would go on to have two more baby girls over the next few years. No more surprises — we learned at our ultrasounds who was growing inside. The babies were called by their names, their rooms were prepared in pink, and their pink accessories were not-so-secretly stuffed inside my hospital bag. 

Three girls. I got my dresses. I got my bows. I got my twirling and dancing and dolls and pink. 

Thank you, God.

And then we decided we were ready for another baby. And by way of another miscarriage, we learned our plan was not to be. 

However, not too long after — another pregnancy. Another chance to give life. 

And this time, a boy.

Leo.

Mid-20’s Ashley, first-time mom Ashley, she was afraid of having a boy because the outfits weren't as cute. 

But early 30’s Ashley, fourth-time mom Ashley, with two miscarriages and many miles between them, she was elated…ecstatic…relieved to be having a boy. 

Thank you, God.

Since his birth, I have noticed an undeniable connection between him and I. Luke will say, “I have never seen a boy love his mama as much as Leo loves you.” Of course, I am his provider. I feed him. I give him what he needs to survive. But there’s something else there. 

I love my daughters so much. They bring me such joy, and there's nothing I wouldn’t do for them. I look forward to growing into friendship with them as they get older, and more than anything, I am thrilled that they have each other as sisters. 

But there seems to be this thing between mamas and their boys. This bond. This connection. It’s there without having to do anything else. 

And I think it has something to do with Mary. 

The most beautiful mother and son relationship since the very beginning. I can’t help but feel connected to her in this deep, natural way. In fact, regardless of how joyful or exciting the Christmas season is, I have felt a longing… an impatience… these past couple of weeks. Probably much like Mary long ago.

Can you even imagine? Very pregnant with this incredibly special baby boy, traveling this long journey to Bethlehem by way of foot (or donkey if you’re lucky), only to be told there’s no room for you to stay in a clean, warm room with a bed — but you can sleep with the animals. I mean, I nearly cried when I thought I was going to have to share a recovery room in the hospital with another patient.

And there, among the animals, you give birth to your son. To the Son.

It wasn’t her plan to have this baby. She didn’t understand how she was chosen or why. But she did it.

Broken and tired. Anxious and weary. But then, she was made new.

It has been over six months since Leo was born. 



He has fulfilled me in ways that I never knew were possible. 


He has a contagious smile, now with two little teeth. 


When he looks at you, he looks into your soul — seeing all the good and the bad… and loving you anyway. 


He is such a light, as all children are. 


He commands your attention and lets you know when he wants more.


He keeps us up at night sometimes (a lot of times).  Adding a fourth child has made our van tight on space and doesn't allow for many childless outings or events, but he is not a burden. 



It is not work. It is love. 


Broken and tired. Anxious and weary. But then, I was made new.




the one about enough

Luke and I were watching some old videos of the girls before bed one night. It is one of our favorite things to do. We like to snuggle up, pull out a laptop, iPad, or phone, and we like to reach back as far as our device will go and find the oldest, cutest, sweetest videos of our kids from their younger days.

Even though our children are relatively young at 7, 5, 3, and 6 months, we still yearn for those times when they were even smaller. We ache for those times and cherish these videos.

Luke found one that we hadn't watched in a little while. Some of them, I know by heart. I can remember what the date was or why we were taking the video...I can even remember what I say or what the kids say...like the script of a favorite movie you just want to keep quoting (and annoying your friends as a result). This one, however, I had forgotten about.

The girls were being cute. Little Noelle, toddler Charlotte, and baby Shiloh. Luke was speaking to them in a soft voice, asking them questions and capturing their adorable responses. Where was I? What was I doing?

I was storming around the house, griping about shoes not being put away and how I have to clean up everything. You hear it all on the video. You can't see me at all, but you know, you know, I was there. I wasn't interacting with my girls. I most likely took the opportunity to do anything but be on camera so as not to preserve the extra baby weight I was wearing or the stress acne that had erupted on my face. Never thin enough, never pretty enough, never perfect enough to be preserved forever in a video.

At first, we laughed. It was kind of funny hearing me go on this mini-tyrade in the background. And then, I became sad. This. This is what my children will have of me when I am gone. A video of just my voice, bitching about some shoes that needed put into a basket.

This sparked something inside of me that said, "Enough."

Actually, it screamed, "ENOUGH!"

Enough.

I have always placed a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to make sure that my house is put together, cleaned up, and organized. However, these desires strengthened ten-fold during my most recent pregnancy. Call it "nesting," but I almost think I developed a weird OCD-meets-manic-meets-neurotic mindset where if the house was dirty, if things were out of place, I would feel physical illness. My head would pound. My stomach would knot itself. My neck would ache. It was a feeling like nothing I had ever felt before. I couldn't sleep if dishes were in the sink. I couldn't walk by a spot on the floor without getting a rag to clean it up. I couldn't deal with toys left out, books on the couch, or laundry piles on the floor.

And when I say I couldn't deal, I mean that I would express my frustration in crying, yelling, and really just throwing a big ass fit.

While those feelings have lessened over the past 6 months since having Leo, I do still feel that pressure. I worry that we will have unexpected visitors who will see our mess, and then they will think less of me as a mother, wife, "housekeeper." I worry that my children will tell their friends that our house is a mess. I fear that if everything isn't "just so," people may get the impression that I am not OK, that I am not handling motherhood well, or that I am in over my head.

Luke has never placed this pressure on me. It is all self-imposed. But where did it come from? Honestly, in college, I was a slob. It was a well-known fact. My roommates would laugh at the fact that I would barely have a clear patch of floor in my room. Sometimes, I would stand at my doorway and take a flying leap over piles of clothes, magazines, and shoes, just to make it to the bed. It was the ultimate game of Hot Lava.

I don't remember feeling stressed or anxious about the mess then. I don't know what switched inside of me, except that maybe it is an undying, unending, never-satisfied desire for control.

In many ways, my life is very chaotic. I have four children that are ages 7 and under. My husband works a lot of hours at times, and we are building a house that has taken up 80% of his free time. Between transporting my children to and from school and activities, volunteering both at the school and in my community, working on my own businesses that I run, and keeping up with the general tasks of life, there is nearly zero time for self-care or self-control.

Cleaning my house and forcing my children to comply is one way that I can exert control. But it is not healthy. It is not right. And it will stop, today.

Everyone agrees that a clean home is desirable because it is about taking care of what we have. It is about treating our possessions with care. It is about having pride in ourselves and our home. I would never want to "let it go" to the point of embarrassment or filth, but is there enough wiggle room to allow a toy to stay on a rug overnight or a sock to get put in the laundry basket the next day or a shoe to take its time finding its way to the bin?

Hell yes there is.

I will not let something that takes 30 minutes to clean up ruin the chance for me to be an interactive, present parent.

When my husband graduated from residency, he made a speech in front of his peers, supervisors, and future colleagues. This is customary for all residents to do. He stood up there in front of everyone and said that his "wife was the Pinterest queen. I walk around the house and wonder, 'How does she do it all?'" While that earned several smiles and sweet giggles from the audience, I immediately felt like a fraud. I thought, "He sees me as the Pinterest queen...the one who 'does it all,' yet I feel less like a queen and more like a horrible, evil wench who pretends to have her shit together, when really she does not. Even my husband can't see it."

I do get asked a lot, "How do you DO it? How do you take care of your kids and get involved with so much and keep up your house and brush your teeth?" I hear, "You are Super Mom" or "Wonder Woman!" I do not say this to brag about myself -- in fact I get very embarrassed just like I did in the story above. It highlights to me that I am doing a terrible job of keeping it very real. We are all guilty of posting and sharing the shiny, glittery moments on social media and leaving out the ones we wish to hide or forget. We all know how to crop a photo the right way or find the best lighting or pick the most flattering filter. I am no different. I am no Super Mom or Wonder Woman. I am a human who struggles, just like everyone else.

As part of this cathartic post, I wanted to share photos of our everyday, real life, right now. These are less for you and more for me. I need to be OK with sharing my imperfections, my flaws, my real self. This is the only way that I will eventually learn to accept myself for who I am, and hopefully find myself IN the videos with my kids and not just complaining in the background.

Join me as I thank God for every messy, out of place flaw in these photos.


I am thankful for this unicorn backpack, this pink sippy cup, and this outer space coat, because it means I have a healthy, happy, adorable little three year old who enjoyed her morning at preschool. 

There will always be no less than 4 bags in my van at all times, and that is OK because those bags hold books for my Bible study, notes for the committees I volunteer for, and diapers for my precious babies. And yes, there's another coat -- how blessed we are that our children have coats to wear and keep them warm.

I am thankful for baby dolls in the back seat and that sweet, purple drawing of "mama" with 28 arms. And that car seat is way overdue for a cleaning, but it keeps my girl safe, and that is all that matters right now.

I thankful for my iPad and my Kitchenaid mixer -- modern luxuries that add a lot to my life. I can't go anywhere without my Yeti cup, and that list of paper is where I was jotting down all the Christmas gifts we have purchased for family and friends thus far. Signs of a teething baby and a newfound sunglasses obsession. Blessings on (cluttered) blessings. 

I have been working on this pile of laundry for 3 days now. This is all clean...but needs folded and put away. I will no sooner get it put away and have four more loads to start over on. What a problem to have.... more clothes than we know what to do with. Tiny socks and underwear belonging to tiny humans. Thank you for my tiny humans.

Cereal bowls from this morning's breakfast. Kids learning to take their bowls to the sink. Evidence of plenty of food in our house and full bellies before a good day at school and work.


The messy floor of a bedroom shared by three sisters. Wrapping paper scraps because their favorite thing to play is "Christmas." Toys that will be wrapped up, unwrapped, and wrapped up again. Blankets that cuddled them through the night. 

Maybe these photos make you think less of me. Maybe they gross you out. That's alright if they do. Just don't come over unannounced, OK?

But if these photos help you to see that you are not alone. That other houses are messy...that other lives are even messier...I welcome you to come on over, anytime. Throw the laundry on the floor and make yourself at home. 



the one about the tree housE: About Time

It has been almost three months since I last updated about the house.... or about anything really. I have mentioned it before, but I struggle with writer's block from time to time. I find that I struggle most with it when I have something really big and heavy weighing on my mind, and I really want to just confront it-- address it-- word vomit all over it-- and then I can move on. I am trying to discern how best to move past my block this time, and if history has taught me anything, it is that I should just keep writing and see what happens.

So, the house. We are asked weekly, sometimes daily, by friends and family -- "How is the house coming along?" I usually say something, "Well, it's coming!" Or, "It's still there!" Or, "It's a process!" All of those things are true. The house IS coming along. The house IS still there. The house IS a process.

Back in February, when we tore down the old house and started on the new, I said, "I just want to be in by Christmas." At the time, that was 10 months and an entire baby away from actually happening. But here we are, a couple weeks away from Thanksgiving, and that baby is almost 6 months old...and I honestly don't know if we will be finished by Christmas. In fact, if I am being realistic, I would say there is no way we will be finished with the house by Christmas -- let alone moved in.

And that is just going to have to be OK.

I've pictured waking up there on Christmas morning so many times in my mind that I can see it so clearly. I can smell it. I can hear it. I see the tree standing tall in the great room.  I see the kids bumbling out of their new bedrooms, eager to see that Santa came. It is hard to let go of expectations, and I was leery of getting my hopes up to begin with. It felt like Christmas was so far away -- but as with most things, time zooms by and here we are.

We are not failures because we missed this deadline. We will, eventually, celebrate our first Christmas in this house -- this house built on dreams and love and hard work. I have a feeling next Christmas will roll around just as quickly as this one did.

It's not to say that there hasn't been a ton of progress since my last update. The last time I wrote about the house, we had just picked light fixtures. The whole house didn't even have siding on it. The porch wasn't on yet. We have come a very long way since then, and that was only a couple of months ago.

Siding is all up. Porch is built. Spray foam insulation is in. Dry wall is up. Hardwood floors have been laid. Tile is going down. HVAC is getting hooked up and electricians are coming back to install our lights. Ceilings and a few walls have been painted. The rest of the house will be painted soon. Carpet and flooring for the lower level have been ordered. Then it will be installing cabinets, hooking up appliances, hanging doors and trim -- there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am starting to see it. It's a tiny, faint, gentle flicker of a light, but it is there.

I struggle dearly with patience. With adjusting my expectations. With staying positive when things get difficult. I am choosing to believe that this journey we have been on with the Tree HousE has been entirely on purpose. God is teaching me how to wait. He is helping me to grow, adapt, and adjust my sails when the wind changes direction. So much of this experience has been beyond our control. Like being angry with the weather -- there's simply nothing you can do about it and getting upset changes nothing.

I want to be honest with you. This project has been a huge challenge in our marriage. When you go into something like this, you think that you and your spouse may argue about what color to paint the walls. You envision disagreements about the type of countertops you purchase. What I never imagined was how much of Luke's free time would be consumed by monitoring the progress of the house and doing many tasks himself. Many nights each week, Luke is out at the house from just after dinner until he finds me asleep on the couch waiting for him to return. Many weekends are spent with him out there and me at home with the kids. We don't have date nights anymore, and on the off-chance that we get a couple of hours to go out together, a trip to Lowe's or Menard's is always included. With Luke assuming the role of general contractor, he is required to be accessible by so many people, and unfortunately, it feels like his family has the least access to him of all. I don't write this to make anyone feel sorry for me. I don't write this to make him feel or look bad. I am simply stating a reality of this house project that we simply did not foresee. In our 10 years of marriage, we haven't really faced too many daunting challenges. We've had ups and downs. We've bought houses and sold houses and moved a few times. We've done the "live off of a teacher's salary" thing and the "study a million hours a week" thing. We've had four beautiful children and lost two pregnancies. But nothing has tried to drive us to insanity the way that this house has. He misses going for runs after work or playing basketball at church with his friends. I miss having conversations that don't involve the words "square footage" or "budget" or "estimate." We have had to reach for ways to connect amidst a nearly impossible amount of distractions, tasks, and to-dos, but at the center of it all is a united dream of us sitting on our new couch in our new house, him drinking coffee and me drinking wine, looking out our new windows at our old woods, together.

Thanks for going on this journey with us. Here are some updated photos:

Spray foam insulation.



Dry wall going up.



Laboring over which shade of white we should choose for the great room/kitchen/hall (we chose the lower left -- Benjamin Moore White Diamond).

White Diamond is perfect.

Wood floors going down -- thank you to Heintzelman Hardwood Floors.

Working on finishing the interior doors. Fireplace will be refinished soon.

Kitchen floor tile.

Great room ceiling fans going in.

Exterior lights installed (don't mind the touch-ups/caulking needed on the siding).


Painting has begun! This is the lower level family room. Sherwin Williams Dark Night (deep navy/teal) as accent and Rock Candy (airy gray) throughout. 

 

the one about the state of the motherhood address

Each year, the president gives the State of the Union Address. It's a whole televised thing -- so don't plan on watching Dancing with the Stars that night (learned that the hard way).

The purpose of this speech is for the president to update Congress on the happenings of the country and tell them what is important and what needs to happen next and what should have happened then and there's a whole bunch of standing and clapping for long periods of time.

Well tonight, I give you my State of the Motherhood Address. It's not televised (and thank the Lord because you don't want to see what I'm wearing). For now, you are my Congress. Feel free to stand and clap if you feel so inclined.

I have been a mama for going on 8 years now. I have 4 beautiful children. My youngest is almost 4 months old. I should know what I am doing by now.

But I don't.

Not even close.

Each day, I wake up in a fog of wonder. It's like a fun little mystery game. "What will I mess up today? What paper will I forget to sign? Whose life will I ruin with giving them 'the slimy' turkey at lunch? Will my child eat a vegetable today?" The suspense literally kills me.

My baby is close to 4 months old, but I still wear my maternity pants. Even worse, I still wear my maternity leggings. Who needs a stretchy panel of fabric at the waistband of an already stretchy waistband? Me. I do. No need to feel sorry for me. I chose this life.

And when I am not wearing my maternity leggings at 16 weeks post-partum, sometimes I am not wearing pants at all. In fact, last week, the doorbell rang, and Charlotte yelled through the door at the stranger, "MY MOM CAN'T ANSWER THE DOOR RIGHT NOW BECAUSE SHE'S NOT WEARING ANY PANTS." What's better is that I did attempt to throw on the first pair of pants I could find where I was standing, which happened to be the laundry room, but they were my husband's...who is skinny...and his pants didn't go up past my thighs. See also: maternity leggings. So the door went unanswered, and I still wonder if it was the Publisher's Clearinghouse or one of those MasterCard commercials where Justin Timberlake makes house calls. We shall never know.

Meals are hit or miss. Typically, the relationship is the longer I work on preparing a meal, the more the children will hate it. So, if I spend 87 minutes cooking something from a cookbook and it actually has real food in it, their world will crumble. Life will be over. There will be slouching in the seat. There will be wiping any sauce off with a napkin. There will be crying. Oh, and the kids will cry, too.

But if I spend 30 seconds slapping two pieces of bread together with peanut butter and jelly in the middle, or even better...if I let them eat cereal for dinner...I am The Dinner Goddess. Worship at my altar.

My new favorite thing is to do online shopping while I am awake at 3 o'clock in the morning with Leo. When the packages arrive in two days, I have no idea what they are because I have no recollection of what I purchased. Santa is real, Ya'll. I can't wait to see what comes in the mail on Tuesday.

My van has become some sort of apocalyptic survivor mobile. I am convinced that should the world fall apart and we need to seek refuge, we could survive for at least a week by living in our van. I am sure that at a moment's notice, I could assemble several Happy Meals from the leftover remnants between and under the seats, complete with a cheap plastic toy for everyone. There are plenty of half empty water bottles to go around, and that rogue sippy cup under the seat is surely housing some sort of concoction that will kill all the zombies.

I'm clumsy now. Fatigue will do that to you. I wake up with bruises from running into objects on my trek to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I have been hobbling around for three weeks on a bum foot, and I have no idea how I hurt it. The other day, I bent down to pick up something from the floor and busted my own lip on the arm of our rocking chair. I looked around, pissed, wanting to know whose fault it was...and I only had myself to blame.

The days are long. The nights are longer.

Motherhood. It's not for the weak.

Each day, I make 1,000 mistakes. I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. I don't fit the description of a perfect mother, but the older I get, the more convinced I am that she doesn't exist.

Things are messy right now. And loud. Often smelly. Often it's me who is smelly. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all the things, so I try to make time for the important things. Read the books. Do the crafts. Sing the songs. Eat the ice cream. Buy the little plastic toys that they watch grown adults open on YouTube. I used to say, "There's always tomorrow," but you know what? They will be older tomorrow. And just a little bit bigger tomorrow. And a little bit less my babies tomorrow.

If I were to give this State of the Motherhood Address a year from now, it would probably look a little different. There may be a completely new set of challenges to deal with and obstacles to clear and phases to grow out of. But I am sure at least one thing will remain the same...







...giving life to my children gives me life, even if it sucks the life out of me.

That, and I may still be wearing my maternity leggings.


The One About the Tree HousE: Lights! (Camera! Action!)

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Doesn't it sound exciting to make decisions regarding every detail of your home? I will admit, I bought into this idea when we decided to build (vs remodel). The thought of picking out all the light fixtures, all the flooring, all the cabinets, all the wall colors, all the everything, sounded super fun and like a dream come true! And don't get me wrong, there have been (fleeting) moments of fun throughout this "picking process," but it also has been one of the most overwhelming tasks that both Luke and I have ever taken on.

This week, we spent nearly 3 hours with our architect walking through the house and identifying where light switches, outlets and light fixtures should go. This is important because the electricians are coming this week, and they will need to know the plan. It is amazing how you can think and rethink where a switch should be placed, and what lights should be tied to that switch. Do we want it on the right side of the wall or the left? Do we want to control this light or that light? Where will we need outlets? Should we have recessed lighting here or flush-mount lighting there? When you purchase a home that is already built, you kind of just get used to where switches are or you change your furniture layout to correspond with the outlets. With this opportunity, we can say exactly where we want things to go, which is awesome, but who are we going to blame when we hate the layout once we move in? Ourselves. We blame ourselves.

So, the pressure to get it right, and on the first try, is pretty heavy. We don't want to screw it up. We don't want to have to rip something out and start over, even though that happens frequently in projects like this. My motto has become, "Everything is figure-outable. Everything is fixable." I tell myself this when I feel overwhelmed by all the choices to be made. Or, as I texted Luke today, "No one is dying. It's going to be OK." It is imperative that you keep things in perspective. While it might feel like the end of the world if we buy the wrong toilet, it truly is not the end of the world if we buy the wrong toilet.

All that to say that yes, we are still moving right along. The HVAC and plumbing people have been working (and the basement looks like a tornado swept through it with all of the broken up concrete from placing pipes and vents and all kinds of other things). They should be finished soon. The electricians are coming this week. After that, we will be ready for insulation and dry wall.

We made some lighting decisions this week at our new "favorite" store, Menards. I know it's not a glamorous, prestigious design hub, but we have found a few gems in that store and have taken advantage of their 11% rebates when possible. By purchasing the bulk of our building materials (from the framing to the siding to the decking to the, yes, toilets) during rebate weeks, we have been able to earn 11% of our purchase price back in the form of store credit. We have then used that store credit to purchase more materials. We are hopeful that we have saved some money this way.

A couple of my favorite purchases from this week include:

These wall lights.





These master bathroom vanity lights (2 sets).




This is the light I would like for my office. Luke didn't want to buy it yet (because I think he thinks it is ugly), but it will be mine. It will. We aren't calling it the "Mom Room" for nothing.




We are also repurposing a couple of industrial work lights from one of my dad's work warehouses. These are heavy-duty, porcelain coated lights that we will have rewired to be used in this bar/pass-thru area from the kitchen to the great room. We are going to use two of them in this space. We love the idea of taking something old and giving it new life...not to mention, this was another money-saving move for us. These lights were free!



Other exciting updates include our front door being installed (color yet to be determined), the concrete porch and steps for the front entry being poured (LOVE the way it turned out), and the back deck is being built. We are going with a natural-colored composite decking material that will hopefully hold up well over time without the need to replace buckled or warped deck boards. This deck will serve a nice place to enjoy morning coffee, evening wine, or just a great back entry to the great room. There will be a metal railing, and the steps will lead down to the existing concrete patio that we were able to keep from the original house.


Front door and porch steps


Back deck in progress

Luke and his dad have been working hard on the design for the front porch roof. We have gone back and forth on the size, style, and shape of this space, but I think this design is definitely a winner. It's so awesome having Luke's dad lend his architect hands to us for this project. We will definitely keep his designs along with many other artifacts from this project so we can remember all the phases and progress.




We are officially just about 6 months into this whole process. Considering 6 months ago, there was an existing 75 year old house on the property that has since been torn down and this has taken its place, I think we have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. In another 6 months, I pray we are all moved in and enjoying this house that we have poured our hearts and souls into from the very beginning.



the one about how I take it back

"Hurry up!"

"Please hurry!"

"Let's hurry!"

How many times have these phrases been whispered, blurted, yelled, or sometimes screamed in some guttural war cry in the direction of my children? Hundreds...if not thousands of times. Whether we had an errand to run, an appointment to attend, an event to go to... I have hurried my little ones probably everyday of their lives in one way or another.

There have even been plenty of times where I have expressed similar sentiments to my husband, my friends, my parents, or even myself in the privacy of my own mind.

"I just wish she had a little more independence."

"It will be easier when they are older and don't need me as much."

"I can't wait until they can do ________."

"When will this pregnancy be over?"

All of these thoughts point back to the same root meaning -- hurry up.

It's so easy to play these thoughts on repeat when I am sleep-deprived. My brain is consistently foggy. My emotions are on high alert. It is incredibly tempting to look forward to next year, or the next ten years, and think life will be infinitely easier when my children are in different phases of life.

But it never fails. As soon as I get my wish. As soon as my children start growing up and needing me less, I am full of regret.

I take it back.

I didn't mean it.

Let's try it all again.

Don't get me wrong. I cannot possibly put on a pedestal the nights where I was up every hour on the hour with a fussy baby. I can't forget the time I tried to potty train Noelle using the three-day method and quit after day one. I won't glamorize the incessant time outs or the handful of times we have walked out of a restaurant with our food in to-go bags because our child(ren) threw an epic fit. These are not parenting moments that I wish to relive, but rushing through them wasn't the answer, either.

While each new phase brings along excitement and new adventures, it also leaves behind a tightening in my chest...a longing in my heart... for the days that we will never have again.

I take it back.

Don't hurry.

Please.

The minutes, hours, and days are going to pass in the same speed, whether we wish them away or not. And before we know it, our babies...the ones we held and rocked and stared at for hours on end in their first months of life...will be walking through the doors of their elementary schools, and we will be so lucky to even get a look-back or a wave.

At least that's what my oldest baby is doing today.

Today, she starts 2nd grade. But wasn't she just in Kindergarten? How did this happen so quickly? And how do I get things to slow down?

Many times throughout this past summer, when my patience had worn thin, my energy level was on empty, and my creative juices were dry...and my children had watched their fill of the Disney Channel and even the weirdest Youtube videos of adults opening Easter eggs full of cheap toys couldn't entertain them...I thought to myself, "I can't wait until they are back in school. Things will calm down and return to normal."

But damn. I take it back.

I miss her already.

And next week, Charlotte will be headed out the door for all-day preschool, three days a week, and I will miss her, too. All the times I have been frustrated with her...the times I have wished she wouldn't want one more tickle on her back when I just want to go to bed...the times I have groaned in disbelief when she asks for a snack 20 minutes after eating breakfast...I will take those back, too.

They are only small for such a small amount of time. Too soon, you are called to send them out into the world, which is probably the most painful thing ever because it is literally a living, breathing, piece of your body, heart, and soul walking around in that great big space without you. You love them so much it hurts -- a widely-used cliche, but the only fitting way to describe it.

Too soon, you are worrying about friends (and enemies). You are worrying about parties (and not getting invited to parties). You are worrying about love interests (and broken hearts). You are worrying about getting into college (and then them actually going to college).

The future, though colorful and bright, can take its time. At least for me, for right now, I am in no hurry. I can't be in a hurry. It's all going too quickly on its own.

We don't have time to go back and get your blanket.


I take it back.


We don't have time to see one last animal at the zoo.






I take it back.


We don't have time to read one more story.





I take it back.


I can't wait until...



I take it back.




the one about when I was 17

Tomorrow, I will be 33 years old.

When I was younger, like most teenagers, I would project forward and try to anticipate what my life would be like at each upcoming stage. When I am 25, I will be _____________. When I am 30, I will have _____________. And while "33" wasn't really a milestone age that I looked forward to very much, I know that I had some prediction of who I would be, what I would be doing, and how my life would be unfolding.

And honestly? I don't know how I am stacking up.

I have a four year bachelor's degree in elementary education that I "used" for six years full-time and three years in the part-time realm. I now walk past an entire shelving unit in my garage stacked to the top with teaching materials on my way to the deep freezer to retrieve yet another box of frozen waffles for my hungry children demanding "breffast."

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

I am greeted by the kisses of four beautiful children each morning and I place my kisses on the foreheads of those same four beautiful children each night. And twice, over the past nine years, I lost two babies to miscarriage. Babies I can't think about because it hurts too much to go there.

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

I am a weary traveler on this road of motherhood. Wherever I go, I carry a bag of diapers, Minnie Mouse undies, fruit snacks, pouches of puréed vegetables, and 13 Shopkins toys. I am still wearing maternity jeans because why should I wear anything with a button or zipper ever again? I'm sure there's spit up on my shoulder and at least one booger in my hair. I haven't slept through the night in 7 years. I pass other mamas on the same journey and raise my Starbucks cup in solidarity.

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

I spend my days folding endless piles of laundry. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. Wiping chins and wiping tables. Refereeing arguments over junk toys. Transporting tiny humans in my mini van. I answer 36,815 questions a day. I am an expert at preparing meals that my children refuse to eat. I find solace in long afternoon drives with four sleeping beauties and a McDonald's Diet Coke. I vacation at Target.

I didn't predict that when I was 17.

And while my life may not be exactly what I had scripted many years ago, I find myself extremely grateful for the mess, the chaos, and the opportunities for growth. The adventurous times, the predictable times, and all the times in between. The memories, the mistakes, and just the simple opportunity to get up and try again each day.

Here's to "33" being far better than I could have predicted when I was 17.