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Dear Mama

I met my adventure-loving, heart-stealing son face-to-face almost 14 months ago.

I loved him right away. I loved him as he was growing inside, as I felt him moving, rolling, kicking. I sang to him, talked to him, and ate in ways I thought would benefit him. I held him as soon as he was born; I could hardly believe he was right there, skin touching, even though it should have been easy to believe after 4 hours of pushing him into day light.

I marveled at his tiny toes and rocked him for hours and talked with my husband regularly about just how lucky we were (and are) to have such an amazing little kid bestowed upon us.

I have a secret, though.

The way I feel now about motherhood, about him is the way I thought I would feel when he was first laid on my chest. Nolan grew on me over the span of a year. I feel like I need to remind you that I always loved him when I say that, like maybe admitting he grew on me is saying I didn't love him enough in the beginning, that I somehow failed as a mother right off the bat.

The first year, or maybe the first 10 months (I can't remember now), were not easy. I repeated often that motherhood is or was harder, but better than I expected.

Maybe I've said that too much in writing and in person as I tried to explain away why everything about me was so different (or at least it seemed to me), why some days I couldn't remember what I was told 10 minutes ago or the only stories I had to tell were about something I'd learned about motherhood.

Sometimes it feels like there are secrets about motherhood that you aren't let into until you're living them. It's okay to voice those things. It's okay to say I had no idea how hard this would be when I signed up. It's okay to laugh about the silly things you said in a tired fog, take a real break, do something that's not baby related or say I don't know what I'm doing.

It seems silly to me that so many of us are doing the same things at the same time by ourselves- in different ways, sure, but if we're respectful of each other's choices, we should be able to do more life together, shouldn't we? I'm still working toward solutions for this one, but sometimes a simple "it's normal to feel that way" is enough to tide me over or take the edge off.

It's normal to feel like some parts of my day are mundane. Nolan can repeat the same activity over and over and over...I don't have to think his actions are interesting at every moment. ( Often, giving myself permission to feel less than thrilled means I end up transferring the energy I'd spent on fighting my feelings and carrying guilt to look for ways to enjoy the mundane parts. )

Dear Mama,

It's okay to struggle through the process of learning to be a mother.  No matter what you may think about mothers' intuition, doing anything well requires effort. Keep on truckin'. It'll pay off.

Get educated (but stop before you head starts to swim in all the parenting theories out there), and then do the best you know how to do for yourself, your child, your family. Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. (<--Not concerning myself with irrelevant opinions is a practice for me. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I am not.)

Ignore all suggestions that you are spoiling your child by hugging, holding, or otherwise responding to their cries.

Remind yourself every day that you are equipped with whatever you need to be the right mama for your baby.

It isn't likely that one action or inaction is going to make or break you or your child's spirit. If you notice something about your parenting choices you don't like, don't panic; just move on and make the appropriate change.

All those cliches about enjoying them because time moves so fast? I'm pretty sure there's truth in there. Take time every day just to marvel at your kid.

I'm rooting for you.


While Kiddo Sleeps

Kiddo is still sleeping!

Maybe Fridays are his catch-up days?

I have a lunch date in an hour-and-a-half. The clothes I intend to wear are laid out (not on to avoid probable spit-up and drool stains), the diaper bag is ready, keys, coat, every thing out.

Of course, I could do some housework, but being here for a few minutes seems like a better idea.



I have very good news for you...

It's Friday (!).

No matter how trying your week has or hasn't been, I'm hoping your weekend is one of refreshment and joy. Does that sound a little too sappy?I really do hope that. This is morning, got-a-good-night-sleep, and on-her-2nd-cup-of-coffee Sarah.

If you're not a morning person, I don't recommend coming to my house for breakfast.

Actually, you probably shouldn't come to my house for breakfast (or any time in the morning) if it's short notice and you're not ok with the sight of unshowered, make-upless, spit-up-on Sarah.

(Short notice is kind of relative, depending on what is going on with Nolan. He is the boss in this house.)

Do I make my life sound too glamorous for you?

I will let you in on a little secret.

This life? It's not glamorous at all. I will get dressed, made-up (granted, my make-up routine is pretty basic. It works for me and does good things for my mental state), and feeling pretty. And then? Spit up. On the shirt I was hoping to prance around in for the day.

Depending on the amount of sleep and coffee I've had, that can either cause me to take a deep breath, say a little prayer, and move on or laugh...or all of those things.

But you know what? (And you knew that was coming, didn't you?)

Nothing in life compares to my son's smile and laugh. Oh, sweet Jesus, I cannot even describe to you how my heart fills up, almost to the point of bursting when he giggles because of something I've done. I do some pretty ridiculous stuff just to make that happen.

I mean, really, over time, I've become less and less worried about how I am perceived..but I'm pretty sure I have (almost) no shame now.

Can I throw out one bit of advice to the new mamas out there?

I'm certainly no expert, but I can offer this:

Do what you can to make sure you get a break from being a mama once in a while. Take people up on their offers.

If you really don't have any help, do what you can to get a gym membership+ child care.  If you don't have enough money, talk to a few gyms. Some will cut you a deal based on your income.

I'm serious.

I love my role as a mother, but sometimes I just get tired (in more than one way.) Being completely responsible for someone is unlike any responsibility I've ever had.

But I know if I can just get away for a little while..for something small, like a bath, a shower, a quick workout..I nearly always come back, refreshed and ready to fully engage with my gorgeous baby again.

If you live close to where I am and you need a refresher (what mother doesn't?), let's make plans.

I know what it's like.

This motherhood thing is pretty awesome

but it's not meant to be done alone.

Oops! Sorry, no pictures today. Baby's awake, so it's time to hit publish and head out. Happy Friday to you and lots of love.


Be a Doctor

This afternoon, my class dwindled down to one student. This has been happening a lot lately. Most of my students are pregnant and/or have children; this, in addition to program requirements mean they tend to have a lot of appointments to keep- almost all of them (maybe all of them?) taking place during the school day.

It turned out that my one student really needed someone to listen to her.

Perfect timing.

I listened. Most of what I heard should not (and will not) be published here. But there is one thing I can tell you, and it is should be repeated (many times over).

Alexa* was in the part of her story where she explained to me the sort of advice she gave to her children regarding the future.

You're going to be somebody. You're not going to be a nobody. People you don't know are going to know you.

But Mommy, how can we do that?

You can be a doctor.

I'll admit to you right now that I thought she was talking about money making a person "somebody." All of my students live in poverty, so making lots of money is a common aspiration, as you might imagine. Alexa went on.

When you're a doctor, you meet a lot of people that you might never have seen in your life and might never see again. But you talk to them, you find out what's wrong, and you help make them better. You make their lives better. That's the kind of thing that makes you somebody.


Although I don't think that being a doctor is the only profession that offers a person a chance to "be somebody" (and in the context of the conversation, neither does Alexa) and I believe that all humans have intrinsic value, I'm inclined to agree with Alexa. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree (or something else)?

*Name has been changed to protect privacy and conversation has been paraphrased.

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Not Enough

Tim and I had The Talk with our kids on Wednesday. (We have no children of our own, but my husband is a youth pastor. I have lovingly dubbed everyone in grades 7-12 who comes through our doors "our kids" a long time ago.)

Now I can write about it.

Now I can tell you why I feel such a need for that half marathon training. For something to help me in my travels from here to there.

We are leaving.

So much wrapped up in just a few words.

So much that I will not be able to say here, right now. Because I went to bed too late last night and got up too early, I know the words will not come out...even though I have been thinking about what I want to write here for days.

Two nights ago, I told my kids what a privilege it's been to be a part of their story, that we are not leaving because of them, that I would take them with me if I could...I cried, then got myself together...then cried again. I told them that they could be honest about how they were feeling, and some of them were. I tried to reassure them; I tried to cheer them up.

We all went home, and then? A new day crept around the corner and the sun did come up, as it always does. For that I am thankful.

To my kids,You are joy in human form. Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young. Instead, give them reasons to respect you. Learn how you were made and embrace that; don't try to be someone else. Give those who take care of you more credit than you think they deserve; they probably deserve even more than that. Ask lots of questions. Explore. Try new things.Continue your study of true love and try to emulate it.Please, please know that you matter to many on this earth. You were made uniquely. And I am really going to miss you. So come over for pancakes, soon, okay?

Lots of love.

These words are not enough. I have been involved with my kids for my entire married life; it has changed me, softened me, taught me about loving in word and in deed. But now things are about to change for everyone involved. We are all going on adventure of sorts.


An Unexpected After Taste

After going through an entire bag of quinoa flour, I can tell you one thing: I am not a fan. As far as flours go, it boasts a pretty impressive nutritional profile, but there is an after taste. I suspected as much in my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins, but agave nectar, maple syrup, and chocolate chips did a good enough job of hiding it. And although I have read that quinoa can be used to completely replace all- purpose flour, listen to me- don't do it. It won't work like you (might) think it will.

Those tortillas? While they're certainly healthy for you, they ended up as thick, dense, doughy (which sounds good to me, but wait for it), sour cream-y tasting pancakes. The dough was sticky, and while I could have added some whole wheat flour to help the tortilla process along, I wanted to know if a wheat-free version would work.

This one didn't.

However, that didn't stop me from trying to eat them anyway. I tried them with my latest favorite concoction (greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, and real maple syrup)...Nope. I threw my tortilla pancake away after 2 bites. (I knew it was gross after the first taste, but I was hoping that enough pumpkin dip would help me out.) Later on, I tried heating some up, and smearing them with peanut butter. The heat pretty much hid the aftertaste, and I was left with an acceptable vehicle for one of my favorite spreads.

I am not giving up on homemade tortillas. Or that recipe (I know it works; I've tasted homemade tortillas made by Kristen herself!). Just one particular variety of flour.And those tortilla pancakes, although not satisfying for my taste buds, led to something a whole lot more satisfying than delicious and healthy food. (I know! Can you believe I just wrote that?!) My original tortilla-related post led my dear friend, Kristen, to Raw Motherhood (the author of which is another adored Kristen in my life) where she read this:

"...maybe it doesn’t have to be a battle. instead, maybe this struggle can be an opportunity to worship my Creator. a choice i can make many, many times throughout the day. over and over. 'i choose you,' i can say. when i’m tired or frustrated or haven’t seen an adult face for 8 hours. maybe i can let my Father into the deepest parts of my being that are longing to be filled.  and while i fill this deep void with worship of God, i can fill my stomach with food that i enjoy."

And then she- the Kristen doing the reading of the Kristen doing the writing- said to me (and I'm passing this on to you with permission), "Lately I've been hard on myself for not allowing the Lord to fill my void.  As if that were a one-time occurrence.  As a fellow slow learner, I hadn't considered that this may be a choice I have to make over and over again.  Instead, I thought that the Lord should fulfill me and that was that.  No, silly Kristen.  You'll feel empty again.  That nagging void will reappear.  And at first this was disheartening.  But then?  I thought about how it means I get to experience the filling part over and over again.  How I can choose to rejoice in a Creator that lovingly responds to me without limit.  As many times a day, hour, moment I need Him.  I think I'll work on saying, "I choose You" this week."

And lots inside of me clicked. I'm a slow learner, without a doubt. I'd read that excerpt from Raw Motherhood before. I'd commented on it. But sometimes when I say something, it's because I know it in my head. Sometimes it takes my heart much longer to digest.

I've been struggling quite a bit lately. There is more to the story, of course, but part of it is that I so easily forget to allow myself to be filled. Allow. I don't do it myself, but the filling is there, waiting to happen, when I stop looking for distraction, when I sit and listen, when I plug into the resources that are just waiting for me. Sometimes the filling looks different every day, but if I am going to live, thrive, and give myself away in this world, I have to continue getting filled up. If I neglect the filling, I will wither (in my heart and my mind) until I feel barely alive. I know this to be true. But if I don't? I am full of life. And THAT is the me that I like to have around.


Small Things

Enjoying the small things (also the name of one of my favorite blogs!) is a gateway drug, I tell you. Once I made the decision to embrace food as a part of my  adventure, I got excited. Hopeful. I wrote out a list of things that I honestly want to do and that are also feasible in the foreseeable future (I did not write about my dreams of hiking the Grand Canyon or hiking all over the Californian coast . I wrote down immediate, every-day life things.) I didn't write down things I thought I should do. I did write down things that made my heart swell a little at the thought of them. You know what? Reading that list surprised me a little. Maybe you could try it? Write down things you really want to do in the next few weeks, things you think you could actually do, and be honest. No judgment, no "shoulds." Maybe you'll get to know your own unique self a little bit more. I know I did.

My sweet mama gave me a piece (okay, maybe it was the equivalent of 2 pieces. I'm calling it a piece) of her homemade, all-whole-foods banana bread last night, so I decided to make it the star of my breakfast show.That's my mama's banana bread (recipe to come!), toasted and spread with some Olivio spreadable butter; lots of chopped spinach, one egg, and 2 egg whites (I am normally a completely whole-eggs girl, but this morning, I wanted to make room in my tummy for butter) cooked in a little more Olivio, and of course coffee... my current favorite mug. If you ever get the chance to go to The Chicago Diner, go! It is my absolute favorite restaurant.) Plus a little Stevia in the Raw. 

Could I tell you a little bit about my mama? Thinking about who she is makes me all melty inside. She's more my friend now than ever, but you know what? I've been told that once a mama, always a mama. And she is. I'm 25-years-old, but when Rosie Lauterback thinks that I've been wronged, all 5'3" of her gets huffy and like she's wants to knock somebody out. (She also continues to hide Easter baskets and stuff Christmas stockings for all of her kids annually.) She told me once that she used to feel intimidated a whole lot more easily than she does now, but "when you become a mother, you just do what you need to do for your kids." She does, but now that her kids are grown, she does what she needs to do for a whole lot of people. She invites hoards of people over to the house for often impromptu (and usually large) meals. 

She likes to take care of people (and she's good at it!), she'll try something new despite fear, and she's not afraid to "start over" during any given moment. She's human, you know? So she's not perfect. She comes with mistakes and disappointments, but she tells those stories as a tool for encouraging the people she meets. She's honest, and she sees no point in hiding anything anymore, because if bare naked honesty can help somebody else out, why not, right?

My mama gives out affection to anyone who will come over to the house and eat her homemade, lovingly prepared meatballs (I don't eat meat, but I used to, and I know she makes the best.). People who have been running low on love just drink up her smiles, her laugh, her I'm-the-mama-hen-and-I-will-take-you-under-my-wing concern.

And you know what?  She's a lot of fun. She loves her husband. And she knows how to laugh.



The Heart is an Ocean: Chapter 2

I haven’t been blogging a lot. I haven’t been answering my Facebook or email messages as quickly as I prefer.

I have been eating big bowls of ice cream and having conversations with neighborhood children (They knock on the door. “Can you come out and play?”). I’ve been digging through my heart with my husband and a few friends. We’ve been pulling out roots, getting our hands (and faces, clothes, and hair) dirty, making piles of weeds. We’ve been planting something beautiful.

I have a secret to tell you. I’m a little nervous about posting it, but I am assured by the thought that nothing is made better by hiding it in the dark. So here I am.

I have believed that I am not enough for quite some time. I have lived in moments, days, weeks even, when I saw my value as someone who has been handcrafted by God. I saw that he chose to make me the way I am, and I have embraced it. I have rejoiced it. But always, always the familiar weed of ,”you’re not quite as valuable as….” has sprung up in my heart. Over and over again. I have compared myself often, and I have come up short. I have made life to be more about me than it really is, than it really should be, in an effort to feel validated. I have not celebrated victories that are not my own like I could, because while I was happy, excited, impressed, I sometimes felt lesser standing next to them.

There. I said it. I thought about not writing it. I thought about not admitting the lies that have been living in my heart for…ever, maybe. I thought about pretending that I’m stronger than that, that I’m better than that. But this has become a place to be honest about just how much dirty laundry I have hanging around. To pretend that I’m strong when I’m not would be oh-so-foolish. I can’t see the cobwebs, the stains, the holes like those who know and love me can. 

And maybe you knew; some of you have already given me some great advice that I so badly needed to hear. I didn’t know what to do with it, but now, maybe I have an idea. I have to keep weeding. I have to keep planting beautiful things.


Body for Life

Beauty can be cultivated or found every day, but victories are chosen.

Last weekend, I wore a bathing suit. I didn't search around for a cover up. I didn't throw on a t-shirt and shorts. I didn't think about whether or not I looked good. I didn't worry about my pasty white skin or the jiggle in my legs or what anyone thought.

I just put on the only bathing suit I own (a hand-me-down from a family member) because it was appropriate for playing with children in "the big pool" and splashing in the baby pool. It worked well for holding the hand of  a little one-and-a-half-year-old while he walked around the perimeter of the pool, looking for stones and bugs, and watching his older brother and sister swim without floaties.

I wore my bathing suit to enjoy what life had to offer, to chase children through the yard, and play with them on a trampoline.  I didn't think about my thighs or whether my belly was even a little bit bloated and only changed clothes when I needed to in order to make a lunch date.

I'd recently read this: "C.S. Lewis said,'You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.'" I've been mulling, mulling, mulling over it. Turning it around in my head to inspect every angle. I haven't been picking on myself while doing that. While I have a tendency to project more serious problems onto my body, and while I am prone to insecurities, my body is just this thing I have. That I need to take care of, of course, just like I need to take care of any thing I am borrowing. But it's not who I am. No matter how pasty the skin or bloated the belly. It's just a body.

So I used it for the reason it was given to me: for living life.



Do you know who I love?

My girls.

I try to love them individually, not collectively, although my term for "them" suggests differently. I fail all the time.

I'm not sure if it's the weather, or the time of day, or the fact that I'm in weekend mode on a Thursday afternoon when I have to go back to work in less than 2 hours, but I am semi-seriously considering laying a few things out each year for my girls. Because I desperately want to see them blossom, and I don't want any perception of anything I said, did, or didn't say or do to get in the way of that.

What if I were to give out a disclaimer?
Here are a few things I might say:

1. Sometimes I don't know what you need. And although I know you might be going through something difficult, and you might not know how to tell me, could you please try? Because I'm trying to dig into a lot of girls' lives, and I miss a whole lot of signals in the process.

2. Depending on my day (or week or month), what has been said to me previously, or something else going on in my life, there are times when I cannot handle complaints about something my husband said or did. I try to be objective, but in the end, he has the best part of my heart a human can have, and there are times when I will be a little (a lot?) defensive. Please don't take this as a personal assault.

3. My absence from your game/play/party/concert doesn't mean I didn't want to be there. When I was choosing my own hours as a substitute teacher, I went to a lot more of my girls' events, and I still would have liked to attend more. Sometimes there are other commitments that get in the way of keeping a schedule that might seem ideal.

4. I'm human. I say thoughtless things and make lots of mistakes. I have bad days, and sometimes I'm grumpy. But overall? I love you. I try to get better at loving, but I love you imperfectly because I'm not Jesus. So when I fail you, try, please try not to let it rock your world too much. Try not to let it get you down. Try not to let it lead you to make big conclusions about life. Because I'm just a person who wants to hike with you on the best path.

And if you're ok with all that?
If you're ok with learning from and teaching someone a little older than you,
if you're ok with acting as a team to scale walls and keep from tumbling down steep inclines,
if you're ok with silence while the sunsets, keepings secrets, and digging for treasures, well, then,
we're going to have a grand adventure.