thirty-two things i’ve learned about being a mama.

Last week I turned thirty-two. So I figured, why not share a list of thirty-two things I have learned about being a mama? Naturally this post is fashionably late because some tiny people demanded every second of my attention and every ounce of my energy over the weekend and I had to write this list in between preparing snacks and wiping butts and building Lego sets and refereeing wrestling matches. They are so lucky they have dimples.

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Thirty two things I have learned about being a mama.

  1. Childbirth is painful. Babies are worth it.
  2. Recovering from childbirth is NOTHING like they show on tv. It is messy and painful and exhausting and there is no mascara involved. Hollywood needs to stop the lies.
  3. It is completely normal to drive away from the hospital, or birthing center, or exit the birthing tub in your living room, with your newborn and be in literal shock that they handed you a tiny person and let you keep it. I mean what do you know about being responsible for an entire human being? Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. And our kids are just fine.
  4. Yoga pants are always an option.
  5. Simplicity is underrated. 
  6. There will always be a catastrophe the second you try to shower or nap or poop.
  7. It’s not a TRUE catastrophe unless someone is bleeding.
  8. Listening to your kids is not the same thing as really hearing them.
  9. Embrace the minivan.
  10. Comparison has the power to destroy me. And you. Fight it. Hard.
  11. Target is out to steal all of our money and also to cause enormous embarrassing tantrum scenes in the Lego aisle. To avoid the tantrum, run past the toy aisles while covering your kids eyes. People will stare, but who the heck cares? You are winning at life.
  12. Busy is not better. In fact it’s way worse.
  13. Sugar is the enemy. The beautiful, delicious enemy out to destroy attitudes and teeth and bedtime.
  14. Playing with your kids is never a waste of time. Even though your weapon sound effects are embarrassing and your super hero voices are laughable. All your kids notice is that you are there. With them. Doing something they love.
  15. Jesus loves you. Even when your patience is short and your voice is sharp. Even when you’re locked in the bathroom hiding from your hurricane of a toddler and reminding yourself to breathe. And even when you’re tucked tight in bed bingeing on Friends and anything chocolate you can find.
  16. Take the time to put yourself in your kids shoes. It will change how you parent. And teach them how lovely empathy is.
  17. Other mamas are not the enemy. In fact we’re on the same team. Act like it.
  18. Kids wake up earlier on the weekends. Netflix is your friend. Before you leave an opinionated comment about screen time, please reread number seventeen.
  19. You will always be five minutes late, no matter how many empty threats or weak bribes you throw at your kids, they just won’t stop taking time to enjoy every tiny stick and bug and spider they see. Maybe you need to take a lesson from them on enjoying the little things. Also you should probably leave ten minutes earlier.
  20. Notice the wonderful in your kids more than you notice the naughty. Then take the time to tell them.
  21. Assume the best of your kids. Of other kids. Of other parents. Of yourself.
  22. Prayer is powerful.
  23. It truly does take a village. Ask for help. Offer help. We are so much stronger together.
  24. You will never take sleep for granted ever again. Or having more than four inches of your own bed to sleep on. Or privacy. Or peace and quiet. Or your waistline. Or peeing alone.
  25. Whining is mama kryptonite. If our kids ever find out they will officially win.
  26. Selective hearing is the super power every child is born with. They perfect their skills at a very young age. Be vigilant.
  27. Dance parties can instantaneously fix almost any problem.
  28. Grace is a gift. Give it. Receive it. Live in it.
  29. Poop jokes bring kids endless amounts of joy. If you tell a poop joke you are automatically the coolest parent. Ever.
  30. Trust yourself. You have totally got this.
  31. Live a life worthy of your kids imitation. Let them see you make mistakes. Hear you ask for forgiveness. Watch you pray, read, serve, laugh and love deep. Oh, and being silly. Definitely let them see you being silly.
  32. Your kids are not perfect. You are not perfect. But you are perfect for each other.

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armpits. and pudding.

I can remember it just like yesterday. I mean it was only last week, but the trauma is as fresh as five minutes ago. We were driving to Whole Foods to buy clay for my face. (It’s a thing. It works. I promise. But more about that in another post.) We had just taken our exit when one of my children needed something super important right that very second. I remember reaching into the backseat to tend to my little angels. I was trying to reach whatever had fallen onto the floor and rolled just far enough out of my reach to make me swear under my breath. As I reached for it I suddenly realized that the terrible odor I was smelling was definitely coming from me. I dropped my arm down at lightning speed. Just as I was about to come up with a wafer thin excuse about why I could’t reach the dropped toy, I heard my husband do a quick double sniff.

The dreaded double sniff.

You know the one.

It’s not the deep inhale of a man savoring a woman’s perfume or delighting in the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. It was the quick, one two sniff, with the crinkled nose and the sideways glance. The double sniff that is typically reserved for dumpsters or newborn diapers or in this case his wife’s underarms. And then, just to make the situation more horrifying, for me, we had the following conversation.

Me: Oh crap, you just smelled me didn’t you?

Husband: Well yeah. But I’ve been smelling you a lot lately.

Me: (mortified and stuttering) WHAT?!?! What a terrible thing to say to your wife! What do you mean you’ve ‘been smelling me a lot lately’?!

Husband: I mean I know you’re experimenting with different deodorant options and…

Me: WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME!!! How many other people have been ‘smelling me a lot lately’? What did they say to you? WHO ELSE KNOWS ABOUT THIS?! This is the worst conversation I have ever had. Ever. It’s not my fault you know. They just don’t make a good aluminum free deodorant option. I am trying!!! Do you think I want to smell?

I continued on and on in my own defense. I was vaguely aware that my crazy was showing and my husband somehow refrained from laughing out loud at me.

But I knew how bad I smelled and I knew the Florida heat was out to destroy my quest towards smelling good and I knew I had most likely alienated dozens of potential friends because of my experimenting. And I wanted to scream. So I did. In my head anyway.

Why is there no middle ground between smelling like a flower but filling your pits with aluminum, and saving your body from all of the aluminum and chemical exposure but sweating like a pig and smelling like a trash can? 

THERE HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!

That day I stayed in the shadows at Whole Foods hoping that everyone else was too busy, figuring out how to sell their stocks to pay for quinoa and kale, to smell me. I paid without making eye contact and high tailed it to the car. I was bound and determined to figure out a way to a) not smell and b) forego chemicals and metals and c) never have a conversation about my body odor with my husband EVER again.

You guys, the last seven years of my life has been spent experimenting. Experimenting with food and beauty products and household cleaners, and homeopathy, and holistic medicine, and acupuncture and essential oils and on and on and on. Once in a while I experiment in the kitchen and make an amazing recipe. And just as often I try some new goop on my face and wind up with a breakout reminiscent of eighth grade. I have found brilliant doctors who have helped me heal and regain a life I never thought I would live again. I also visited a doctor who went barefoot in her office and was a clown in her spare time. She tried some sort of laser, energy, Star Trek treatment on me. When I asked her to explain how it worked, she laughed and said she had no idea.

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Now it’s time to share all that stuff with you. So wrapped up in between motherhood posts, and homeschool stories and dreams of saving sisterhood, I will continue to share with you my crunchy catastrophes as well as my biggest victories. Maybe you are on a healing journey of your own and some of what worked for me might help you. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes. Maybe you have had similar experiences and knowing you are not alone will be encouraging. Maybe you’re perfectly healthy and you can’t relate to my story at all but you want to laugh at a stranger. Whatever reason brought you here, welcome.

I’m excited to inform you that I think I may have found the answer for my armpits. I’ll share more when I’m absolutely sure, but I’ll give you something to research and think about in the meantime.

Magnesium oil.

It’s a miracle worker. Our bodies need way more magnesium than we give them. And our armpits tend to stop stinking when we use magnesium oil as deodorant. Now I have sensitive skin and straight magnesium oil is a little irritating for me so I am currently experimenting with exactly how much to use and how to dilute it so that it keeps me stink free but not in pain. Then you can benefit from my suffering. You’re welcome.

But seriously, read about it, I’ll be back soon to discuss the results of my experiments. Oh and I’ll talk about acne and how clay can heal your skin. Because that is a train you need to get on. And since you’ve stuck around this long and read more about my armpits than any one person should ever have to, I want to share the recipe for one of our favorite treats as a thank you and please come again. IMG_0080 I found the recipe for that gorgeous raspberry chia pudding right here. IMG_0081 Then I made our go to avocado chocolate pudding. Yes I said avocado. And yes it is delicious. And yes one of my kids will eat it and the other one won’t because he says it looks like poop. Oh well, more for me. IMG_0086 And him. Because he loves pudding and I love him so I’m willing to share. A little bit. How do you make this pudding you ask? I’m not a food blogger so I don’t have the fancy recipe card plug in yet or anything, but this is so easy I think we’ll be okay with out it.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding
serves 3-4 (or one if you’re a pig like me)

Ingredients 

  • 1 medium avocado
  • 1/2 c medjool dates
  • 1/2 very ripe banana
  • 2 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of sea salt
  • a small amount of coconut milk or water

Instructions

  1. Remove pits from dates and soak dates in warm water for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Throw all of the ingredients, except for water/coconut milk, into a blender and puree. (It is important to note that a high powered blender like a Vitamix is the best for this recipe. However, I don’t have a Vitamix, in fact I blend this up in my tiny little NutriBullet. I do have to stop several time and scrape the mixture down the walls and keep going, but I promise it’s worth it!)
  3. While you’re blending you will find that you need to add small amounts of liquid to get the pudding to the right consistency. Slowly add water or coconut milk, but be sure to not add more than you need because you want pudding, not soup. I typically end up adding a tablespoon or a little more but I do it a tiny bit at a time.
  4. Now put your pudding in the fridge for a while and serve it cold. Topped with raspberry chia pudding. Or coconut whipped cream. Or almond butter. Or use it as a pie filling. Or make fudgsicles. The opportunities are endless!

There you have it. I hope it made all of the armpit talk worth it. Let me know how your pudding turns out, better yet take a photo and tag it to #thecrunchyconfessional so I’ll be sure to see it! And now i’m off to watch Friends on Netflix until one of my children wakes up needing a snack and sixteen cups of water before they go back to sleep. Sweet dreams everyone. IMG_0090

this is why i love hashtags.

I love hashtags.

A lot.

I considered naming our new puppy, Hashtag because I thought it was hilarious. Don’t worry. I was mostly joking…

If you know me. You know I love a good hashtag. The more ridiculous the better. But poor old hashtags aren’t usually taken very seriously. Take, for instance, this conversation with my husband tonight.

Husband: Is it okay with you if I go out tonight? I know I’ve been gone a lot this week. (He’s the best.)

Me: Oh no, it’s okay. I have a blog post to write anyway. I’m going to write about how much I love hashtags.

Husband: (long pause) (hysterical laughter)

I knew I could get a good laugh out of him by putting it that way. But I wasn’t lying, exaggerating or being sarcastic.

Hashtags are one of my very favorite things. Ever.

Now before you laugh at me hysterically too, let me tell you why.

Hashtags were created to connect people and build community.

I understand the selfie hashtag probably isn’t building too many new lifelong friendships (Maybe it is. Who really knows?) And I 100% recognize the destructive nature of many hashtags that exist. This post is not to dispute that or say that all hashtags are created equal. This post is meant to hopefully give you a little chuckle at my admitted obsession, but also to show you the wonderful power of this weird social media feature when used one of the ways I believe it was originally intended.

I love community. I live for relationship. Connection. Sisterhood. Family. Team. People.

I have spent the greater part of the past six years fighting chronic illness. For several of those years we weren’t even sure what I was sick with. It took every. single. ounce. of my strength and energy to feed and clothe my kids. Some days I succeeded. Most days my husband had to come home from work early after yet another phone call and desperate plea from me because I simply couldn’t finish the day on my own. (Did I mention he is the best?)

So there I was. A stay at home mom, struggling with things all moms of young kids struggle with, and also fighting for my health. Fighting for my life back. Watching life happen around me. Craving connection and friendship but too sick to leave the house for play dates or girls nights. During that time I found the strange new app, Instagram. I’m going to sounds dramatic again, but I literally had no idea how much that little app would change my life.

I started documenting our life. The lame life that it was at the time.

I added filters with gusto.

Mayfair! Valencia! Early bird! Lo-fi!!!!

I was reckless and out of control. Isn’t everyone when they’re falling in love?

But my life didn’t really change until I discovered hashtags. I remember browsing the suggested user list on Instagram and seeing lots of number signs followed by words. Finally I started to get the hang of it. Filters AND hashtags? I was unstoppable.

Slowly I began to see the potential for real connection through these hashtags. I found parenting hashtags, crafting hashtags, chronic illness hashtags, clean eating hashtags. I browsed them for hours. It’s a little embarrassing. But true. When you spend most of your time in bed, you find yourself with lots of tag browsing time. As I scrolled and scrolled through these tags filled with photos, I began to visit the galleries of the people I was finding. I began to connect with other moms. Other crafters. Other photographers. We built relationships. We started doing life together. And not just the picture perfect parts. We talked about the hard. The ugly. The scary. The overwhelming. We started to talk outside of social media. We read books together and had online book clubs. We grieved miscarriages and illnesses and hard moves and life’s ever-changing seasons. We celebrated birthdays and new babies and grand adventures. We told the truth. We admitted our weaknesses. We encouraged each other. We took the crazy technology in this modern world of ours and we did what people have done for centuries.

We made friends.

And even at that, some of you will chuckle. And say, “Friends? From social media? Yeah right.”

To which I say, I understand your skepticism. My husband chuckled at me the first time I referred to my friend Jess as such. I believe his exact words were, “She’s from Instagram. She’s not your friend.” As if she weren’t real or the connection we had couldn’t possibly exist.

Two years later we’re still friends and my husband would be the first to admit that the friendships I have made through social media are some of the most wonderful relationships in my life.

Slowly I progressed, became stronger. I began to see hope, believe in healing. As I crawled my way back to some sense of normalcy, I realized how dear these friendships were to my heart and knew I needed to pursue building them further. So far I have spent time in “real life” with seven of my friends from Instagram, and their families. I chat with several more on a regular basis. And in September I’m speaking at a homeschool conference for a couple hundred women, almost all of whom have been connected because of Instagram. And it all started with each of us browsing hashtags and finding people we connected with.

Do you see the power? The wonderful potential?

However, as with all things wonderful, we must not be blinded by the beauty. Remember it doesn’t end with liking a photo or retweeting a tweet. If that’s all the depth there is then I understand why people think social media is a waste of time and takes away from real life and real friends and real community. But I would argue that when used the right way, social media, and all of its endless hashtags, has the power to build and ignite community in a way that our world has never seen before. If we take the extra steps. Go out on a limb. Take a road trip and meet that friend. Go to a conference even if you’re nervous about it. Step out from behind the screen and hug in real life. If meeting in person isn’t possible yet, talk on the phone, FaceTime, send care packages. Allow social media to be a tool to create community, not a substitute for the real thing.

Community encourages, challenges, loves, grows, listens, believes, and heals. And I think hashtags are one of the best community building tools around.

#callmecrazy #ilovehashtags

keep the training wheels. toss the tv.

I adore my children.

I believe that most who know me, know this is true.

However.

Lately I feel like the president of the Crappy Mom Club.

Impatient. Short fused. Ugly voice. Snapping at my kids. Forgetting gentleness. Telling them we’ll cuddle later. Yelling across the house when I hear bickering. And on and on.

There are a million things I want to blame it on. I’ve considered deleting this post a dozen times already. But this is the real. The raw. The ugly.

Last night Ezra was fighting sleep. Like always. And not listening to me. Like always. And watching a movie. Like always. And I snapped. It wasn’t kind or loving or even remotely thought through.

“Ezra! I am so sick of your attitude!”

He looked at me. Held my gaze. I saw in his eyes the same nasty glare that was in mine at that exact moment.

“I am so sick of you!”

I gasped. He quickly said, “Sorry mom!” And rolled back to his show.

I, however, was not so quick to recover. What is happening to my child? Who was that? The past couple of months I have watched him struggle to listen. Fail to obey simple instructions. I have seen him become angry. I have watched my sweet boy react physically when a friend or his brother upset him. He has started bursting into tears the second something doesn’t go his way instead of communicating with words.

And I have blamed my frustration. My stress. My bad attitude. My terrible parenting. On my kids and the way they drive me wild.

Then I felt the tap tap tap on my shoulder. The tap I hate because it means I have done something wrong. The tap I trust with my whole heart because I know it is my Jesus making me more like him.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

My sweet child. Listen to me. Those boys you love. The ones you hold so dear. They will only become the men they are meant to be if you guide them there. Speak gently. Love fiercely. Teach wisely. And live a life worthy of emulating.

Truth I already knew.
Truth I forget all too often.
Truth so heartbreaking. So convicting. So very clear.

Truth overflowing with hope.

I grasped tight. I clung desperate. I claimed that hope as my own.

In the book, Home-Making, by J.R. Miller (one of the best books ever written, in my opinion) the truth is shared as this.

“Selfishness in parents will spread the same unhappy spirit through all the household life. They must be, not in seeming but in reality, what they want their children to be. The lessons they would teach, they must live.”

Oh my heart. My aching, heavy heart.

How dare I act one way and expect my children to act another.
How dare I speak with courtesy and compassion to a stranger, yet pour my frustration out on my babies.
How dare I forget each word I utter has the power of life and death.
How dare I act like the very person I never want to be.
How dare I think I can raise Godly men without first falling daily at the feet of my Jesus.
How dare I think anything good will pour from me when my cup is dry.
How dare I give anything less than the best of me to my boys.

How gracious is my God to gently remind me. Lovingly guide me. Tirelessly teach me. How to be the mama my boys need.

Every time I think I’m ready to take the training wheels off. Think I can handle this parenting thing on my own. Think that I’ve got this.

Tap. tap. tap.
He reminds me.

Parenting always requires training wheels. We are never perfect. We never have it all figured out. And his guidance, his wisdom, his grace, his love, is how we make it through. How our children become their very best selves. How our mistakes are forgiven and relationships are restored.

I think I’ll keep those training wheels. 

I’ll choose not to become overwhelmed by how imperfect I am. How many things I need to work on. How many ways I fail. I will focus on being the best version of me I can be today. Breathing deep and asking myself,

“Is this the way I would want my children to act in this situation?”

Simple enough in theory. Overwhelmingly difficult in execution. Life changing power in this new habit.

Today is day one of this venture into more purposeful parenting. More humble loving. More depth in relationship. And within this large idea of how to be better, there are several practical changes I know we need to make in our household. Changes long thought about but too overwhelming or scary to face. Until now.

Because let’s face it. Our kids are worth being better for. No matter how hard it might seem.

So we start small. One change at a time. Change number one is an enormous thorn in my side. A terrible habit that formed slowly and gradually became a regular part of our daily routine.

Television. Way. Too. Much. Television.

Well, Netflix, YouTube Toy Reviews and Disney Movies to be exact. But too much screen time all the same.

What started as a show or two a day became much more and the worst part of this habit is that for a year or more, Ezra has fallen asleep at night while watching his beloved “calm down shows.” Sometimes it takes hours for him to fall asleep, we’re talking midnight or later, but I so desperately craved quiet time to myself, that at the time it didn’t matter what the cost. So what if he watches shows at night? It can’t be that big of a deal. Can it?

The past several weeks as I began to feel more strongly about kicking this habit of ours, I started reading articles and watching videos about the effects of too much tv and young kids brains. The science behind it has brought me to tears on more than one occasion. How easy it was to stick my kids in front of the tv and not think about how detrimental it really was because I chose not to do the research.

The more I have read. The more I have learned. And the more convinced I am that the majority of Ezra’s behavioral issues lately are a result of way too much screen time. Too much stimulation for his little brain. If this sounds dramatic, I promise you it’s not. Below I have posted a fantastic TED Talk, delivered by a doctor who has done extensive research into the effects of tv on a young brain. It is well worth your time to watch.

How could I watch that and not be changed? How could I see Ezra’s shortening attention span and his disinterest in books and games that are “boring”, and not see the connection?

I made a mistake. 

But we’re changing it. 

We have already cut tv completely out of our days, except for Hudson’s nap time when Ezra watches a couple shows. It’s been about a week and it has been ROUGH at times, but the boys have begun to engage in much more imaginative play. They are playing together more. They are creating games. They are also bickering more. But at least I know that means their minds are engaged.

Tonight is the night I have been preparing Ezra for. Tonight we are not going to watch any shows at bedtime. Him or me. I am committed to not watching shows of my own when my boys are awake, so they know this is a change for the whole family. (I’ll still watch a Star Trek episode or two after they doze off… obviously.) I need prayers for strength and resolve to not give in, but I think we’re ready and I know a couple of rough nights will be totally worth it on the other end. The next goal will be to cut out Ezra’s shows during Hudson’s nap time. My ultimate goal is not to have them never ever watch a show again. My goal is for shows to be an occasional treat. For movie nights to be something looked forward to and not expected. For interest in books and play to be chosen over the desire, or the tantrum, demanding mindless entertainment. For me to engage my kids in my daily tasks instead of having Disney Junior babysit while I clean the house.

Even reading those goals I get a little overwhelmed. My palms are sweaty. I’m a tad nauseous. But I mean it. I’m sticking to it. And if you want to follow our journey, or even better, want to join in (we’re stronger in numbers) visit or share on the tag #purposefullyunplugged on Instagram.

Thank you Jesus for grace.

dear instagram. an open letter.

Dear Instagram,

You don’t know me, but I am so thankful for you. And I feel like it’s time you know why.

It might sound dramatic, or maybe not since I think this was your intention from the beginning, but either way it’s the absolute truth.

Instagram has forever changed my life.

How you ask? How has your tiny little app made such an enormous impact on my life?

My love for art has grown. But I could have just gone to a museum.
My purpose in photography has matured. But I could have bought an inspirational photography book.
My creativity, my technical skills, have developed by learning from photographers who inspire me. But I could have taken a couple college courses instead.

So what makes Instagram special?

Somewhere in the midst of all this learning, an even more wonderful thing was happening. A vibrant, supportive, encouraging, loving community was developing all around me.

And what a gift it has been.

Because of Instagram…
I have developed friendships that cannot be confined within this tiny square.
I have met women who challenge me daily.
I have an army of moms I learn from, am inspired by, who I call friends.
I have hugged some of these usernames in real life.
I communicate regularly with dozens of mamas I never would have met without the gift of Instagram.

There are countless others with stories just like mine.

And I found every friendship, connection, inspiration, through Feature Pages.

Every. Single. One.

Feature pages on Instagram are so much more than a brief moment in the spotlight and maybe a couple new followers. Feature pages pave the way for connection. Feature pages provide inspiration. Feature pages allow community to flourish.

There are thousands of close-knit communities on Instagram. That’s the beauty of the world you have created for us. Let me tell you about the community that has played an irreplaceable role in my life.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the mom community on Instagram is a force to be reckoned with. These are some of the most sensational women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Ask any one of us and we will talk you ear off about the countless friendships we have made through Instagram. We will tell you how we support each other. How we choose to be real with each other. How we share the good, the bad and the super ugly. We have watched each other’s kids grow up. We send birthday gifts. We grieve together when tragedy strikes. For a lot of us, hardly a day goes by that we aren’t texting or calling or group messaging, just to check on each other and laugh about a stressful day.

Being a mom is wonderful, exhilarating, exciting, overwhelming and exhausting. And often a little bit lonely. The opportunity for community that Instagram provides, has created a beautiful way for moms to connect. Mamas who probably never would have met otherwise.

And all thanks to Feature Pages.

Suddenly. Without warning. Those children’s photography Feature Pages have been shut down by Instagram. Feature Pages that have the support of, and are run by, the mama community. Feature Pages that only feature photos tagged to them. Feature Pages that always credit the original photographer. Feature Pages that have brought thousands of us together. Gone. No explanation. No warning. Confusing emails. Tidbits of information. No clear answers.

Why is this happening?

We love Instagram.

This letter is not about arguing or fighting or demanding anything. We are so thankful for this community. We trust that Instagram has the best interest of its users and community at heart. We have wondered if these pages being shut down is in response to the few profiles that steal photos, or the inappropriate role-playing sites. If so, then thank you for taking action to try and protect our photos and our children.

But please hear our humble request.

Please don’t take our community from us.

We are more than willing to make modifications to our feature pages to follow any new or existing guidelines that we were not aware of. We are willing to change our methods. We are willing to answer questions. We ask only that someone from Instagram address what is happening and tell us how we can work together to protect and grow this community. We asks for our accounts to be reactivated so that our community can continue to grow and encourage and love each other.

You have said the purpose of Instagram is to, “capture and share the world’s moments”. In all of that sharing, something amazing is happening. Thank you for that. Thank you for this community. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart. And for the mama community on Instagram.

Kelsey
{@_cherishthemoment}

saving sisterhood.

Little girls with string tied between their beds. Hiding giggles in pillows as they pass notes, dolls, and sisterhood back and forth on their homemade contraption. Footsteps coming. Flop down fast, try to trick daddy. Make him believe dreams are the only thing awake in this room. He peeks in the door. Sees eyes squeezed too tight, smiles playing at the corner of mouths, and hears the faintest attempt at fake snoring. He grins, closes the door, knowing this is more important than sleep.

It always will be.

This aching. This longing. This need. For each other.

Community. Connection. Sisterhood. Family.

Life is born and the first cries from a sweet new babe’s mouth beg for comfort, to be held close, to be wanted. Needed.

We are women. We were created for community. Designed to do life side by side.

But the world says no. Society screams stop. Experience teaches us to hold others at an arm’s length. View them as a threat. Assume the worst. Give no benefit of the doubt.

Then we turn on ourselves. Become more harsh than any critic would dream of being.

I must have it all together. Be the most successful. Be better than everyone. Then I will know success. I must dress flawless. Emulate airbrushed lies in magazines. I must devour the right parenting books and produce children who never bite me or throw tantrums in store aisles. I must keep up appearances. Put my best foot forward. No matter what the cost. This is where happiness is found.

Eventually our world screeches to a stop. Life happens around us. And we believe all of its lies.

We know we will never be what SHE is. We will never be that good. That talented. That beautiful. That successful. That carefree. That skinny. That crafty. That funny. That desirable. That intelligent. That perfect.

Comparison is the poison that devastates community.

Does it really matter if you breast feed or use formula? Cosleep or have separate rooms? Does making my own baby food make me a better person? Does slinging verbal abuse in the comments section of parenting articles mean I win? Does gossiping about the popular girls make you prettier? Does a brand name give me more worth? Does hurting someone else ever make me better? Happier?

No. No. Every time. No.

Defeat threatens. But hope prevails.

I have heard a whisper. Felt a stirring.
And I know that I am not the only one.

The rumbling is off in the distance but it is steadily growing louder, more powerful. I hear the voices, the hearts, the souls, of thousands of women who have decided to say…

Enough is enough.

Comparison will not steal my joy.
Comparison will not poison my sisterhood.
Comparison will not win.

Community.

Community is making a comeback.
Possibly one of the greatest and most important comebacks in all of history.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Think again.

When community thrives, when selflessness a servant’s heart reign, selfishness dies.
When community is the goal, competition, comparison, and mommy wars lose their sting.
When community exists, lives change.

Where community lives. Love reigns.

Imagine this world.

Open your eyes.

The rumbling is all around us. Community coming back to life.
In neighborhoods, in churches, in offices, in blogging communities, on social media.
Women are realizing we need each other.

Friendship rediscovered. True connection. Life to the full.

When you stop looking at someone, and their talents, and all of their beauty, and their allegedly Pinterest perfect life, as a threat, your eyes are opened to who they really are.

A woman. A wife. A mom. A heart and soul as weary, as exhausted and as lovely as you are.

This movement. This powerful force of women who challenge, encourage, and inspire me every single day. This wave that will change society forevermore. It starts small. Nearly too small to notice at first.

It starts with weary moms at Target smiling at each other so we know we’re not alone.

It starts in book clubs, and spinning classes and yoga studios.

It starts when we stop looking at each other through the eyes of comparison.

It starts when a tragedy happens and thousands of women on Instagram reach out to a family experiencing unbelievable loss.

It starts when we ask real questions and have real conversations and discover how desperately our soul was longing for friendship kindred.

It starts when we call out the beauty and the talents and the extraordinary we see in women around us.

It starts when we believe that we are our very best when we do life together.

It starts when a new mom has meals delivered to her door and her toilets scrubbed.

It starts when we introduce ourselves at playgrounds instead of staring at our phones.

It starts when there is no fear of judgement…
In asking for help.
In revealing our weaknesses.
In being vulnerable.
In speaking of the uglier parts of life.
In asking forgiveness when we are wrong.
In dying to the disease of pride.
In asking women we love to journey with us.
In admitting we need each other.

It starts with you. It starts with me.
And it is so time.

We’ve got this.

To Ezra and the littlest h. A letter about loss. And love.

Dear Ezra and Hudson,

My sons who I love.

Sit down, scoot close, cuddle tight, listen big.

I have so much to tell you but the words are quite hard. Bear with me, be patient, it’s worth it, you’ll see.

Two of the people who love you the most, the deepest, the fiercest, the loudest, they’re gone. Jesus, he holds them in his hands, he needed them home, so they had to go. But forever you must know, how extravagantly they love you and how although their faces will never light up as you enter the room, so much of who they are is forever inside of you.

Your grandpa, what a man. Tall and skinny, brilliant but not so witty. He smiled easy, spoke wisdom, and only ordered water at restaurants. His shorts were often too short, pinched pennies caused holes in his socks, he backed into the garage door twice, in one week, and he was the last to get a joke. He prayed for you before I dreamed of you. He woke at five o’clock in the morning every day to play tennis with me, not because I would one day win Wimbledon, but because for that hour he got all of my attention, and I got all of his. He never gave up on me no matter how hard I refused his hugs, and the only thing he loved more than your grandma, was his Jesus.

If he were here, you boys would be his delight. His eyes would shine at the shout of, “Grandpa!” a role that breaks my heart to never see him play. He would make you promise to work harder than you think you can, read more than is recommended, take the scenic route every time, and never EVER get a credit card. And above all he would make sure you did all that while falling desperately in love with your Jesus.

Your Auntie H, she proved family is not decided by blood. Louder than a blow horn, and more beautiful than we could convince her to see. The day after I met her, I couldn’t imagine life without. I still can’t. She laughed too loud, ended up at the Mississippi River in a quest to be six hours in the other direction, she reminded me how important it is to play, I reminded her how important it is to be on time. At least I learned something. She collected earrings, and Starbucks gift cards, and friends. So many called her theirs, I still don’t know how I was lucky enough to be called hers. She stole your grandpa’s pen once, she held me at his funeral, and she was listening to a recording of his sermon on grief when her life ended too soon. Our God is a God of details.

After she died, I found a sealed letter in her room addressed to, My Koslowskis. We were hers, she was ours, and this will always be true. My firstborn, she helped you learn to walk, my tiniest you forever carry the h in your name for her. If she could see you now, you would be deaf from the decibel level, and overflowing with a love only h knew how to give. Unconditional, unending, fierce, loyal, without judgement, and contagious. The love I try every day to emulate, because with it she changed the world. She would make you promise to love well, be true to you no matter how many people stare, look for the hurting and be Jesus to them, occasionally lose your directions and find an adventure instead, and wear the biggest sunglasses you can find, like, bordering on ridiculous, big. Because bordering on ridiculous was exactly what our h did best, and we adored her for it.

Oh sweet boys, grief is a confusing place. One day the pain, so new, too raw, overwhelms and envelops, life is a fog. Then, life continues, as it tends to do, and one morning you wake and go about your day. Only when you lay down, once the sun is gone, do you realize that their memory was not your constant companion that day. You whisper their name but their face takes an extra second, maybe two, to become clear in your mind. And grief springs brand new. Too many days without them has made their memory dull, it’s not okay, it cannot be ok, they’re too important to fade. So although life moves forward, we will alway talk, always share, always remember these two who love you so dear.

These two who are so intricate a part of who I have become, who your daddy has become, that there is no way you will not continue to be shaped by them. Short shorts, bad time management, and all.

xoxo

(No) Miracle On 34th Street

Several months ago, long before we knew we would be temporarily moving back to New York, we dreamed about spending Christmas in New York City.

Escape the Florida heat. Stroll around the city as fluffy snowflakes landed on our noses. Watch our kids exclaim over the lavish Christmas decorations adorning the city we love. Dance across the giant piano at FAO Schwartz with an oversized grin because my life, and my family, are just so wonderful.

It was a lovely thing to dream about.

Then we found out we would be in New York for several months, including the holiday season. My hopes began to rise. Friends of friends offered for us to house sit for them and in exchange for feeding their cat twice a day, our Christmas dream would become reality.

Perfection.

As Christmas approached we planned and talked and researched the best way to spend our time. There were lists and budgets and anticipation. Two days before Christmas Eve we told Ezra that we would be going to the city and that our first stop would be Santaland.

At Macy’s.

In Herald Square.

The largest department store.

In the world.

Because we are insane.

But when his eyes doubled in size, and his jaw dropped, and he literally blushed and had to hide his face in his hands while he did a little jig, I knew this was the best idea I’d ever had.

Enter Christmas Eve.

The morning of Christmas Eve I was greeted by two of the grumpiest kids I’ve ever met. While I tried to simultaneously shower, pack, prep breakfast and hold my pants up while the cranky two-year old tried to pull them down, my husband packed the car full of the ridiculous amount of luggage and gifts and groceries I told him had to go. Because I bought more groceries than normal and told him it was so we could pack lunches and dinners and not have to spend money on expensive city food. He would thank me later, I promised.

We finally walked out the door and as it locked behind us I smelled the poop. Sent my husband back inside to change Hudson and I took Ezra to the car. Running to the car, so excited to be heading to Santaland, he tripped and slid on the concrete. His hand skinned open, I yelled to Johnny, who was locking the door for a second time, to grab band aids and neosporin.

Five minutes later we were finally on our way.

Traffic was light and we arrived without incident at our friends house in Harlem to pick up our key and to meet their newborn son.

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Hudson proceeded to show them every single thing in their house that will need to be child proofed and for his grand finale he pulled a mountain bike over, onto his face, and proceeded to cry hysterically, hyperventilate and nearly pass out. We decided it was time to leave.

We arrived at the Subway station and were immediately THAT obnoxious family. You know the one. There’s a massive crowd of people and the one family carrying their enormous stroller, complete with child inside, down the stairs, creating a great big bottleneck.

Merry Christmas Harlem!

We got to the ticket counter and two seconds later Ezra was jumping up and down, holding himself, gritting his teeth, and yelling, “I have to go pee! SO BAD!!!”

Of course you do.

Johnny took him back to our friend’s apartment to use the toilet, and we taught them yet another valuable parenting lesson. (You’re welcome guys.)

Two trains, and approximately six staircase bottlenecks, later, we laid eyes on Herald Square. I wish I could say how much I enjoyed the sight, but in reality I was too focused on not clipping anyone’s ankles with the stroller and making it to Macy’s before the Santaland line closed. In fifteen minutes.

We rushed past the gorgeous window displays and the shady, fake Santa Claus trying to get people to take photos with him for tips, and in the Macy’s doors. So close!

I don’t have adequate words to describe the chaos that is Macy’s on Christmas Eve. Chaos is actually the only word that comes to mind. I found an employee as quickly as possible and was pointed towards the elevators. Eighth floor here we come. The internet said seventh but I took the employee at his word.

Eighth floor.

Nothing.

I knew it.

Annoyed at the cheerful employee who led us on a wild goose chase, we got on the elevator again. This one only stopped at even floors so we returned to the main floor and waited for an elevator that visits all the floors.

The Santa line closes in five minutes. Stress.

We finally got on the elevator and a helpful employee heard where we were going and said we actually want the eighth floor. What?! We were just there. He assured me Santaland is on the eighth floor. I silently apologized to the previous helpful employee as we disembarked.

We found Santaland this time, right there on the eighth floor as promised. As we approached the sign, two minutes shy of four o’clock, a cheerily dressed employee bellowed, “The line to see Santa starts here! The wait is THREE AND A HALF HOURS!! No I am not joking but I do know some good jokes if you want to hear them.”

Three and a half hours? I could fly from New York to Orlando in less time than it would take to see Jolly Old Saint Nick. I was totally prepared for a wait, I even brought snacks. But in all of my internet research, an hour and a half was the longest I had read. There’s no way we’re staying.

But my boys. Oh my sweet, excited boys.

I approached the joke telling employee, and her less amusing, suit wearing, coworker.

“Is there any way to see Santaland and not actually wait in line to see Santa? Even a peek?”

Man in suit didn’t miss a beat. “No.”

“Not even some of the decorations?”

Man in suit, “For that I would direct you to the ninth floor. Holiday Lane is there.”

“Oh.”

Man in suit, “But ma’am, if you step off this line you will not be able to get back in line later.”

“Fantastic.”

I headed towards my babies, wondering to myself if there was really a toddler in the world who could wait in line for three and a half hours for ANYTHING without a total meltdown. Maybe that two-year old exists. But I seriously doubt it.

I explained to the boys that we wouldn’t be able to see Santa but that we were going to see some really wonderful Christmas decorations. Ezra’s face fell but he was more brave than I had imagined. I was the one holding back tears as I watched his sad eyes and remembered his excited jig just days earlier.

We made it to the ninth floor. Holiday Lane turned out to be another name for Buy Your Boxes Of Ornaments Here Lane. We left.

As we bundled up to head back into the cold, I remembered the shady Santa outside. Somehow he didn’t seem so creepy anymore. I tried to take Ezra over to meet him, but he dug his heels in and wouldn’t budge. I honestly couldn’t blame the kid.

Six more staircase bottlenecks.

Two trains.

One elderly woman befriended by Hudson who jabbered her ear off for five stops.

One older gentleman playing Christmas carols on the accordion.

Two grapes rolling the length of the subway car.

Several loud screams of, “Oh no! Oh no! My gwapes!”

And we were back in Harlem.

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We picked up the car, the kids screamed for five minutes and both fell promptly asleep. As we pulled up to our home for the week, we just sat in the quiet. Neither of us moved. We needed a break.

We finally unloaded, and entered the apartment. A cozy home, complete with a sweet cat and more knick knacks than I could count. Uh oh. We tried to stay one step ahead of Hudson as he explored his new dwelling, all while unpacking and settling in. That is until Johnny had to sit in the hallway, weak, realizing he’d hardly had anything to eat or drink all day. While he regained his composure, I navigated a tantrum, a broken Christmas ornament, repeated attempts at biting each other, and tried in vain to use my patient voice.

We rallied, with bedtime as our goal.

We fed the kids, they invaded the personal space of the wonderfully patient cat, and Johnny ran to the store for things I had left at home. So much for careful planning. While he was gone, Hudson slipped and landed on his face. He came up with a mouth full of blood, once again hyperventilating. Once I got him to breathe, and realized the blood was from a tongue bite and nothing more serious, I hid in kitchen and it was my turn to cry.

This was supposed to be fun.

I am not having fun.

My daydreams were so much prettier.

I just want to curl up in a ball.

Not because I think my life is supposed to be perfect or easy.

But because when stress overwhelm, loneliness, fear and self-pity threaten and I become my least favorite version of myself.

And there’s the lesson to be learned.

Or relearned.

We were never meant to carry this load alone. We are not only supposed to share the pretty parts of us. Whether it be something as trivial as a stressful day in New York City with kids, or the deep heartache of a life altering hurt, we were designed to need God and each other.

On Christmas Eve I needed God to grant me peace and grace and, assure me that I am indeed strong enough to mother two very spirited young men. I needed him to acknowledge my heart ache and to remind me that nothing is too trivial for him to concern himself with.

And when my husband came home I needed him to stand with me in the kitchen while I made a late dinner. I needed him to crack jokes and hug me and remind me that two and four is a tough combination but that we’re in this together. And that they are so very worth it.

Those simple moments.

Moments spent pursuing intimacy with God, with my husband, with my boys.

Moments that bring peace and perspective, and return me to the beauty of life.

In those moments I am reminded why Jesus came to this earth so long ago. It was to pursue us, to serve us, to save us, to show how deeply he loved us by dying for us. Not just the pretty parts of us. All of us.

That is the pursuit of intimacy at its finest.

The Son of God desires intimacy with me. With you. And in that intimacy we can find the strength to endure the rain showers and the thunderstorms of this life. And perhaps even dance in the rain.

That is joy.

That is beauty.

We didn’t get to sit with Santa, but tonight, an old truth rings new in my ears. So I guess we got our miracle after all.

Oh holy night. Indeed.

Not Tonight Babe, I’m Watching Star Trek. A Blog Post About Priorities.

Toes warm inside Husband’s boots. Giant sweater pulled close. Breathe oxygen deep. Crisp, cool, alive, it refreshes and restores. Eyes filled with majestic towering trees, the lake nearly frozen, snow silently landing, creation loudly singing His praise. Settle back against an ancient log, the smell of smoke from the fire brings a million memories to life. Tucking a blanket around my legs, then another, I open my bag. Touch a beloved novel, catch a glimpse of my worn journal, find headphones just begging me to listen, nearly dig to the bottom for my camera. Instead, I contemplate each, then set them all aside. Today I will just sit. Just be. Just rest. For as long as I want.

My eyes close, my heart at peace.

I awake to screaming. Blood curdling, terrifying, someone is in horrible danger, screams. My eyes fly open, maybe someone has fallen through the too thin ice…

I jump to my feet and as the brain fog clears, my vision steadies, the screaming continues, reality envelops.

I am in my bed.
It is five o’clock in the morning.
The screaming is coming through the static filled baby monitor on my bedside table.

Good morning to me.

After a half asleep argument with my husband about who got the baby yesterday, it is determined that today is my turn. I mentally give my husband props for the falling back asleep trick he just pulled and then wonder why men were given the ability to fall fast asleep while their child screams. Jealousy is my primary emotion as I drag myself out of bed.

It’s pep talk time.

“Alright, I’ve got this. I don’t need more than five hours of sleep. The baby waking up early only means extra cuddle time. The early bird gets the worm. I’ve been wanting to become a morning person. At least it’s not four o’clock in the morning. I asked for this. I miss my campfire in the peaceful forest. How dare he wake up two hours early.”

My internal monologue deteriorates rapidly as I approach my son’s door.

Enter mom mode. This is a mode no one, except for moms, can truly understand. It’s similar to the fight or flight response.

Be a mom. Curling up in a ball is not an option. Deal with it.

I open his door, I look at his ridiculously gorgeous face, and I call out GOOD MORNING! I’m convinced he can see straight through me. I hope he at least appreciates the effort. It is morning. But good is an overstatement and he knows it. He’s got that look in his eyes. The one that accuses, this is a sweat pants all day sort of day isn’t it?

We get up. We don’t get dressed. He does get a diaper change. We watch more Netflix than recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. He eats an entire carton of grapes, and a couple cookies. Breakfast of champions. Then we watch more Netflix. It is now eight o’clock in the morning.

We wake up Big Brother. This infuriates him. There is the flailing of limbs, some hair pulling. Finally he opens his eyes and asks for eggs. Eight thirty.

Our day continues on, much like the days before and the days to come. There is playing, there is schoolwork, there is perhaps a grocery store run. There is fighting, sometimes biting, there are tears and there are apologies. Often there is a meeting that I either drag my children to and attempt to pay attention while also keeping them occupied, or I Skype into the meeting and although it’s nice that no one can see the giant hole in my sweat pants, I sort of miss being in the same room as other adults.

When Husband comes home I glance at him and keep making dinner, usually asking him for help with something before asking about his day. Occasionally the picture I envisioned as a young, romantic, single person, sneaks into my mind, and guilt overtakes that I haven’t rushed to the door and thrown my arms around his neck declaring loudly how much I missed him all day.

I did miss him. Truth is, I miss myself too.

I finish dinner, and the boys wrestle with their daddy. The sound of his laughter and their hysterical screams and squeals, brings tears to my eyes. Not because it’s so beautiful how they love each other, even though that is true. The tears come because I have forgotten how to play. I am very good at making it through the day, going through the proper motions, and loving my family deeply. But fun, play, hysterical laughter, they seem to have been misplaced.

After scraping dinner dishes, and mopping up a floor soaked by a rowdy bath, bedtime is so close I can almost taste it. If both of my children are asleep by ten o’clock it is cause for celebration. If they are both asleep by nine o’clock, or earlier, then I assume that if I pulled the curtains back I would see pigs flying down the street. Whatever the time may be, once they are asleep, I typically fall into bed, with my dinner, which I prefer to eat late, and in peace. I immediately plug in my headphones and press play.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see him looking at me. You ladies know the look. The look you try to pretend you don’t notice because you’re just so weary and you need time to yourself. Finally, wishing I had perfected his fall asleep on command trick, I look over at my sweet husband. He smiles. I respond.

“Not tonight babe. I’m watching Star Trek.”
(Yes. Star Trek. Don’t judge.)

I look back at my screen but all I see is the hurt in his eyes.

While the crew of the Enterprise saves the universe once again, I mentally argue with myself. I explain over and over why I need this time, how important it is for me to unwind, how every second of every day someone needs something from me, how exhausting it is. And then I glance towards my husband, I see his back turned, his own headphones pouring out empty entertainment. And I know I’m being unfair. It’s not his fault his children are sucking the life out of me.

You guys, I adore being a mom. I love my children obsessively. But those two tiny people are so ridiculously needy. And in meeting their needs, most days, I’m ignoring mine. The hour, possibly two, that I get to myself each day, I spend watching Star Trek, or scrolling through social media feeds, instead of hanging out with my husband, and then we aren’t connecting and nobody wins. I wake wondering why I am constantly depleted. Wondering when I became such a crappy mom. And wife.

If I had my guess, I’d say it was around the time I let mom mode take over and forgot everything else.

I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only one stuck in mom mode.

For me to be the very best mom I can be, I have to make time for things that give me life.

I have to write.
I have to take photos.
I have to read.
I have to talk and laugh with my friends, without kids climbing on my back.
I have to go on dates with my husband.
And hold his hand.
I have to spend time reading my bible and praying.
Really praying.

These things are not optional. They are not add-ons to life, things I’ll do if time allows. Because let’s be honest.

Time never allows.
I have to find time.
Make time.
Steal time.

Because I can only be the best mama version, the best wife version, of myself when I’m the best version of my whole entire self.

This is not a how to blog post with pretty bullet points explaining how to successfully balance your life and be the Pinterest perfect wife and mom. There is a place for those posts I’m sure, but this is not it.

This is a mama, still in the thick of it, figuring out how to be mom without losing herself in the process. This is brutal honesty, shared because I am convinced that I am not the only woman trying desperately to be all things to everyone she loves and falling flat on her face in the process. This is, I hope, the start of a much needed conversation and community centered around encouraging and inspiring others who struggle to balance life, while learning to laugh at ourselves in the process.

In a world filled with comparison, competition, and jealousy, it is no wonder so many incredible mamas think they are failing. It is no wonder so many single people think there is something wrong with them because no one has married them yet. It is no wonder that thirteen year old girls are throwing up their lunch after a photoshopped image showed them how they “should” look.

So here I am, in the thick of rediscovering myself, as me, as a wife and as a mama, sharing my story to perhaps encourage you that you are not alone. And to invite you to join me on this journey of prioritizing your life so you can fully live. And love.

I have started a brand new facebook page called, TO HOLD YOU DEAR. A BLOG. If you can relate to this post, head over, like the page and let’s all encourage each other along the journey.

Start today.
Start with baby steps.
Today I’m not going to worry about my to do list. I’m just going to play. I’m also going to lock the door when I go to the bathroom so I can breathe. And I might even skip Star Trek for the night. Maybe. I said baby steps.

So much love, and grace to you.

The Sick Donkey Noise and Frozen Corn.

I have no food in the house.

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I don’t think any of us have eaten lunch. We did eat eggs and toast (well the boys ate toast. I have yet to find a gluten free bread that I can swallow without gagging. I think I’ll try and bake one myself…) at more of a brunch time so I suppose we’ll make it till dinner with a little snack.

Except I don’t have any snacks left.

Better have Husband pick something up on the way home.

It’s a rainy, dreary week outside and we’re all going a little stir crazy.

The little squish has figured out how (or been taught by his hero, and older brother, Captain Ezra) to climb onto my favorite dark teal green armchair, the one I found on Craigslist and dragged Husband all over Orlando the week we moved here to try to find the owner’s house, and it nearly didn’t fit into the car, but that’s another story for another day… so they climb onto the chair, hold their arms out to the side like wings, and free fall, face first, onto the mattress that Captain Ez sleeps on. Well, he sleeps there when he’s not climbing into my bed and sleeping with his feet in my face. When that happens, Husband sleeps on the mattress on the floor, under the pirate comforter. Much to his chagrin.

The problem is that Captain Ez is almost four years old, he has refined his falling technique. The little squish is not as refined in his falling skills. He wobbles, one foot on the seat, one foot on the arm of the chair, and he looks at me for approval while he falls blindly, usually ending up on the mattress, sometimes the floor next to the mattress, in a position that looks as if he will require medical attention. He’s usually fine, giggling hysterically at his incredible talent, and probably also at the new gray hairs that spontaneously pop up on my head every day, and does it again. And again. And again.

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This was right after a face plant on the ground, with some help from his big brother. He’s okay now, and jumping again.

It’s cute to talk about, but the reality is that I cannot get anything done while this child is awake. I turn my back and he is playing inside of the dryer. I make eggs and he has somehow retrieved a handful of butter knives from the silverware drawer (note to self: install better child locks). He thinks that couches are mountains to be climbed and that their summit is to be jumped from. The other morning, Husband let me sleep in. I staggered into the living room, still groggy, to his cheerful, “Good morning. Hudson ate his own poop.” Fantastic. While trying to cook he usually entertains himself by bowling with potatoes and onions. He likes to pick up babies, which turns into more of a tackle and then a barrel roll, with said baby in his arms, since he is not as strong as he thinks. He has quite an impressive throwing arm, unfortunately he thinks that most things were invented just to be thrown. Oh and while he does all of these thinks, he squints his eyes, looks at you sideways, and smirks. I swear it’s true.

Mischief is this child’s middle name.

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But oh my word, those blue eyes and those blonde curls and his sweet, sticky, fingers wrapped around your neck in the tightest embrace. How can he be so wonderful and so exhausting all at the same time? How can I not get enough of him but also cringe just a little when nap time is over? How can I dream of the day when this tornado child stage is over, but also not want him to ever outgrow his irresistible troublemaking?

And then there is his role model, the famous Captain Ezra. He’ll be four this summer. FOUR! And, much like his brother, I adore every single hair on his head, his preschool humor has me rolling on the floor in hysterics, and his imagination routinely takes me back to the magic of my own childhood.

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But the whining! Oh the whining! Not to mention the selective hearing!

Throw in the tantrums and I’m helpless.

It started a few months back, we like to call it The Sick Donkey Noise. Not a very creative name, but it should give you a pretty good idea what his favorite whining noise sounds like. To get a better understanding, make some donkey noises. Go ahead. Do it right now. As loud as possible. Now keep making those noises but also groan like you have a horrible stomach ache as well. Now morph those two noises together. Excruciating right? Now imagine hearing this noise A LOT. Like A LOT A LOT. Like every day, dozens of times each day. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know he’s doing it. It’s become his go to response, for everything. He doesn’t ask, “Mom, can I please have some milk?” He starts making his Sick Donkey Noise and then in between groans he whines, with every bit of whine he can muster, “MILK!!!” So it goes something like this…

The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!! The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!! The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!!, The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!! The Sick Donkey Noise, MILK!!!

and on… and on…

Now before you question my parenting techniques. I do not get him what he’s asking for when he’s whining like this, I speak with him, I make him ask me the polite and appropriate way, which he does immediately, proving that he KNOWS how to ask, he just has some weird habit of speaking like an animal when he wants something. The best part of it is that his little brother, who wants to be exactly like his big brother, routinely goes over to wherever The Sick Donkey Noise is coming from, observes and then assumes the same body position as his big brother, and begins making the same, horrible, noises as his big brother.

The Sick Donkey Noise. Times two.

Oy vey.

Now, I don’t like to complain. And the reality is that when this happens I can usually be found turning my head away to hide my laughter because the situation is highly comical. Most of the time. But then there are the days when I have cleaned up potatoes and onions off the floor too many times, I have rescued my 19 month old from six precarious situations, I have gotten zero things accomplished from my very important to-do list in my head, and I am still wearing my pajamas at dinner time, and I get a tiny bit cranky.

And then, before I can stop it, out it comes.

We all have one, we know what it sounds like, but we can’t always stop it.

My ugly voice.

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Ezra hangs on my back while I’m changing Hudson’s diaper and instead of asking him politely to get off my back while I change the baby, and tell him that we can cuddle in a minute, I snap at him to get off right now!

Ugh.

Or Hudson, deceivingly agile and strong at his mere 19 months old, climbs the sofa and begins hitting the television screen with a dinosaur, or toy hammer, or his hand, and instead of walking over to him and distracting him with another activity, I yell his name from across the room, louder each time, until he stops. It’s rarely effective, and it’s always bad parenting.

Sometimes I get stuck in an ugly voice funk. It can last days, embarrassingly even weeks. I hear myself when I talk to my kids, I feel the sharp edges, I see their hurt eyes, I observe them using the same tones when they get frustrated, then I tell them it’s not okay to talk that way.

Then I see it.

I see them emulating what they hear.

And I feel so gross.

I think we’ve all been there as parents. Or as anyone who ever took out their frustration on someone they love. It’s a strange phenomenon, that tendency to put our best selves on for strangers and acquaintances, yet with those we love, those we hold the most dear, when stress overwhelms we let our words carry a sharpness, our tone far from loving.

Ezra asked me the other night, “Mommy, why are you being so mean today?”

Oh my heart.

I felt like looking in his eyes and using the old break up line…

Don’t worry. It’s not you. It’s me.

What a cop-out. In any scenario. You are causing pain to someone you love and then telling them they shouldn’t be upset because it isn’t their fault. So what? All that matters is that they’re hurting, no matter whose fault it is.

What if Jesus was stressed out and overwhelmed by all of the problems he deals with on a daily basis? The real problems. World hunger. Orphans. A hurting world. People rejecting him. Broken families. And on and on. The burdens that our Jesus carries every day are far heavier than any stress or mild frustration or even personal crisis that I have ever had to deal with. He has every excuse in the world (literally) to lash out, groan at me in frustration, or use his ugly voice to reprimand me.

Yet he never has.
Not once.

Deep breath.
I can do better.
I must do better.
My babies deserve better.
Their future babies deserve for them to be taught better.
The creator of love demands that I am better.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

This is my heart’s desire, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that to be true. But the truth is, I can love better, I think we can all love better. And I believe that love will change the world. And it will start right here at home.

Oh and I found a snack. We’re all eating frozen corn out of the bag that I was using as an ice pack for Ezra’s head after he took a dive and knocked it pretty hard. Medicinal AND nutritious (well not actually that nutritious…), multi tasking at it’s finest.

I love them.

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And the best part is that they love me too.

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