A Special Place

We returned from our family vacation “Up North” a little over a week ago now, and I wanted to share a little something here about our time away.

What I was really hoping to do is write something during vacation and post it from Mackinaw City. The beach house we rented outside of town doesn’t have Wi-Fi (a blessing when you’re trying to unplug), so my grandiose plan was to rise early before my husband, kids, and the sun and do a little writing out in one of the adirondack chairs on the back deck while facing the lapping waves of Lake Michigan…slowly watching the sun start to illuminate the grass, then sand, then water, as its soft glow expanded from east to west. Then I’d pack up my laptop, throw on a baseball cap, and run (not actually) into town to the 3-story Starbucks and luxuriate in the warm and sweet froth of my frou-frou latte while logging in to post what I’d written. And then I’d somehow sneak back to the beach house before everyone else awoke. Mommy rules!

Ha! How idyllic that sounds. And how naive I unswervingly remain despite my continual failure to accomplish anything remotely resembling these daydreams. If there were an award for over-inflated expectations, I would be the champion!

Also, let’s face it: I’m not a morning person. I keep filling my head with these cute and quaint scenarios of “making the most” of a quiet hour or two before the candor and chaos of the kids waking up, but the fact of the matter is, two things make the possibility of the aforementioned scenario highly unlikely:

  • My 3-year-old is a bonafide Pop-tart. (Translation: she literally “pops” up out of bed by 6 a.m., give or take, raring to go, and chattery as hell, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.)
  • I am a night-owl. Rarely do I fall asleep before midnight. My brain usually pops on at about 9 p.m. and goes places I wish it would leave for tomorrow right when I’m trying to wind down for the evening.

So, for the sake of comparison, it’s really only fair to describe an actual typical morning while we were on vacation:

“Mommy, I awake!!!”

Little feet pad across the bedroom floor. Lily has let herself into the master bedroom at the beach house. As I groan inwardly, I’m suddenly re-thinking our bright idea to leave that wicker chair next to the ungodly-high full-size bed in the bedroom next to ours (where Lil’s been sleeping) so that she doesn’t knock herself out while climbing down.

She starts grunting and struggling to pull herself up onto our also-higher-than-normal bed, grasping at the duvet and pulling it off me. I’m already shivering from the breeze blowing in off the Lake from the open windows, which I’ve been too lazy to get up and close. The blast of cold is a bit shocking as I struggle to pull the duvet back around myself.

I hungry!Can I play your tablet?We should go downstairs now!Can you make pancakes?I gotta go potty!Will you read me this book?Are we going to the island today?Mommy, your hair looks CRAZY right now!” A million questions and declarations spill forth from her mouth all at once.

I groan and turn over, trying to block little fingers from poking at my eyes, nose, cheeks…wherever she can try to peck at and get me to acknowledge her presence and open my eyes.

Drew groans and turns over. “Shhh!” he says, then returns to snoring.

I reach for my tablet to let her play games while I try to grab a few more winks, but I knock my journal off the nightstand in the process. Guilt ensues. I groan again. Oh yeah, I was going to get up and WRITE this morning. Hahahahaha…the best laid plans…

So much for that.


In all seriousness, though, our vacation was really great. Idyllic morning aspirations aside, I think we all had a nice mix of just-relaxing-on-the-beach days and getting-out-and-about-to-explore days. I was joking with a friend before we left that vacation for us = moving the whining and fighting approximately 4 hours north for the week, and while that is still absolutely a true statement, we desperately needed, and benefited from, a change of scenery and schedule for the week.

The scenery, by the way? Can you believe this view? I never, ever got tired of it.

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Inspiring, isn’t it?

So inspiring, in fact, that this is the place that originally spurred the idea for The Sunlit Path two years ago. There really is something about the tranquility and beauty of this place that makes just about anything seem possible. The spark of an idea for a combined writing space slowly evolved and took shape during that first year after our joint family vacation, and last year at this time we went live, sharing The Sunlit Path with our family and friends. Although our lives don’t allow us to write here nearly as often as our hearts desire, we are so grateful for this space, and for you…our readers!

We missed having Kate and her family join us at the beach house this year, but as vacation drew nearer, it became quite clear that Kate would need to stick close to home in an effort to keep Baby Stella tucked safely inside her for as long as possible. #stayputstella

The beach house, and the Mackinac area in general, will always hold a special place in our hearts, both for the memories we made there during our first extended stay two years ago, and now because of new memories we made this year as a family.

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Opportunity to Trust

My hands are folded and perched on my now protruding belly as I step up, close my eyes and gently bow.

“The blood of Christ.” She says, as she hands me the cup.

“Amen.”

As I hand the chalice back I look down to my right and there he is, my little tow-headed-three-year-old, looking up at me with the biggest blue eyes.

“What you drinkin’, Mom?” He asks, every time, just a little too loudly.

Collin passes on the wine and the other two boys always follow after him, but not my Nolan, he waits right by Mama’s side and is always inquiring about “what I’m drinkin’.”

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a pregnant woman take the wine during communion.  I think my jaw hit the floor and my eyes were as big as Nolan’s: You can do that??  My head had just exploded.

Wait. I should back up, that makes it sound like I was judging her.  No.  No, no, no, my head exploded in a good way.  You can do that!!?? This is the best news ever! EVER!

Okay, maybe not ever, but listen, Mama likes her wine, is what I’m sayin’.

**

This pregnancy has come with much joy and excitement but also a lot of anxiety and worry.  I’ll be honest, on more than one occasion I have wanted to indulge in a glass of wine….okay, fine, a bottle of wine, but I don’t because I’m too scared to do anything that might in some way harm our little girl.  What if I partake in that wine and my body relaxes too much, I have often thought.  What if, instead of calming my nerves, it actually puts me in labor?

I have a history of pre-term delivery. Our three boys were born at 36 weeks, 34 weeks, and 35 weeks gestation, respectively. Last time we tried weekly progesterone injections, which I think helped, but I still only made it to 35 weeks.  This time I’ve been seeing a high risk specialist.  These appointments started back in week 16 and were scheduled for each three-week period after that. However, by 22 weeks my cervix had shortened enough (from 3.9 cm to 3.0 cm) that I was put on a weekly appointment schedule.  Unfortunately, things haven’t really slowed down and, in fact, the progressing (shortening/thinning/effacement, whichever you’d like to call it) has actually sped up a bit.

Two weeks ago I walked into my 24-week appointment expecting to hear my cervix was in the 2.5 cm range so when my doctor told me it was only 1.9 cm I was so taken aback I had a hard time processing what, exactly, he was telling me. He laid out our plans for the future (steroid injection for her lungs if it gets below 1.5 cm) and we went over the “warning signs” again, things that would require me to come in and get checked out immediately if they occur.  I heard everything he was saying but I was completely in a daze.

I moved straight from that appointment to my regular OB appointment but was left sitting in the exam room for a bit of time.  I tried to collect my thoughts and temper my nerves but I wasn’t very successful in doing either. What did this all mean?  We are prepared for a pre-term birth, but how pre-term are we talking here?

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The thoughts swirling in my head were causing so much anxiety that I was on the verge of tears. I desperately needed to collect myself and stop processing all of this information before my OB walked in and was greeted by a sobbing patient. So I did what I think so many of us do in this day and age, I distracted myself (and my thoughts) with my phone.

And wouldn’t you know, the first thing I came across was a daily devotional email with the following meditation:

“Avoid worrying, then, about anything else for your children except whatever may contribute to bringing them up virtuously. For the rest, having entrusted them to God, try to see what His will for them is, to help them along the path in life He has chosen for them. Never be afraid of relying too much on Him, but rather seek always to increase your trust more and more, for this is the most pleasing homage you can pay Him and it will be the measure of the graces you will receive. Little or much will be given you according as you have expected little or much.”
— St. Claude De La Columbiere

My OB walked in as these words rolled around over and over in my head: Seek always to increase your trust….it will be the measure of the graces you will receive.

I left those appointments and headed straight to Starbucks to feed my feelings, as I often do when I get not-so-good news, and on the way home I cried – I turned that radio down and just let the tears flow, deep sobbing breaths and all – tears really can be cleansing.  I was scared; I am scared about her coming too early. But as I’ve continued to let those words roll around in my head: Seek always to increase your trust….it will be the measure of the graces you will receive; I have found so much peace in this situation.

A week later I jumped up onto the exam table, wrapped myself in the oh-so-fabulous paper-thin covering and looked to the sky while thinking, Lord, I’m putting this in your hands.

It’s taken years for me to learn this lesson, years and trial after trial, but I think I’m finally (finally!) getting it….each and every struggle we face in life is really just an opportunity to trust more deeply in Him.

This week, at my 26-week appointment, my cervix was down to 1.4 cm so I had the first of two steroid shots to help develop her lungs. The good news is, although the doctor has deemed her very stubborn, Baby Stella looks great and so far I am not exhibiting any signs of pending labor.  I am still very hopeful that we can make it to at least 34 weeks.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not still worried – I am, some days more than others.  Last night I was awoken by two painful contractions and my nerves shot through the roof.  But, I’m learning and each day I try harder to turn that worry into trust. Still, there are days that I’d really just like that glass of wine to calm the nerves, so if you see me tipping that chalice back just a bit too far come Sunday morning and you hear my little boy ask “what you drinkin’, mom?” let’s just smile and nod, okay?

Opening Back Up

“It was never my intention to stop writing here, to put the pen down and close shop. I needed a breather, yes, but walking away completely was not the plan….”

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KATE:

In the days following the loss of our fourth child I had so much I wanted to say, so many feelings I wanted to share. Words swirled in my head; words of pain and anguish, words of confusion and broken dreams but also words containing slivers of hope, given to me mostly by other women who had walked in these shoes before me. For the first few days I wore my heart on my sleeve, bearing each and every feeling freely, passionately. I didn’t care that people saw me crying at mass, I was mourning. I didn’t mind sharing every last detail of the moments leading up to and after the loss, I was an open book.

But then suddenly something changed, and changed drastically. My heart didn’t stop bleeding, it was still splayed open and broken, but the raw feelings of pain from losing this baby turned to guilt because in some way my loss didn’t feel like “enough” compared to what other women have had to go through. I suddenly felt like my experience wasn’t worthy of anguish because my miscarriage was an early one. I felt so alone despite the fact that so many women were telling me, “I know. I’ve been there. You are not alone.”

Then, slowly, the confusion and broken dreams shifted and began to turn into anger:

“Why?? What is He asking of us?” I yelled from my office chair as Collin walked down the hall. “Our house, our savings, and now our children?? What? Is God just going to strip us of everything one-by-one? What are we doing wrong?”

He immediately turned around and came back to me, wrapping his arms around me as I collapsed into his shoulders in tears. “That’s not what He’s doing, Kate.”

I knew he was right, God doesn’t punish us like this, but I’ll tell you what, it sure as hell felt like He was in that moment.

That night, after putting the kids to bed, we began reading the book of Job. I was feeling pretty beaten down and battered and my faith was a bit shaken. The words of this book were exactly what I needed to hear to regain my strength.

A couple of days later, with the boys’ help, we chose the name Job Simon for the baby we lost. Job was chosen for obvious reasons, Simon was picked by our oldest son who was preparing to present the Stations of the Cross during an upcoming children’s mass, Station 5: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. The choice was more fitting then I think Keaton will ever know.


EMBER:

Right as Kate was experiencing the overwhelming grief of losing Job, both my husband and I were wrestling with some big work-related decisions. Drew and I had been exploring different job opportunities for a few months, and suddenly we were both in the position of considering job offers at the same time.

At first, it was kind of exciting going through the process together. However, that was really only in those first couple of days when the job offers are shiny and new and flattering—full of all things positive. I don’t think either of us fully realized the added stress and complications that concurrent decision-making would add to the process. During a time when you need to turn inward in order to pay close attention to your heart and your gut for the purposes of your own personal decision, you need to reach outward to support your spouse in their own decision as well. Then, you have to find a way to bring all of those internalized and shared findings into one big, tough consensus. Murphy’s Law of Decision-making also applies. It states that just when one of the vested parties starts to feel a certain way about each of the decisions being considered, the other vested party will suddenly shift their course in the other direction, and your carefully crafted Jenga-structure of a game plan will come crashing down.

Sigh.

We made it through that stressful time of sorting out our individual and family priorities, and, in the end, I accepted an opportunity to return to work while Drew decided to stay with his current employer.

Once those decisions were sorted out, I told myself I’d take a few weeks off from writing at The Sunlit Path—a bit of time to adjust to transitioning back to work, time devoted to scaling that steep learning curve of a new industry and subject matter, time to allow our family to ease into our new schedule.

Then, I told myself, THEN, I’ll come back.


KATE:

Within a month of losing Job, just as I was beginning to engage with family and friends again, just as I was starting to consider sitting down to write, we were blessed with a really wonderful surprise – inside my womb was new life once again.

I clasped my face with my hands in utter amazement when I saw the two pink lines and instantly began to shake. I was so elated and so, so scared at the very same time. I held my breath for the next few weeks and prefaced every statement with “If we don’t lose this one….” Then, on a Thursday morning while the big boys were at school Collin, Nolan and I entered into the ultrasound room and breathed a sigh of relief when we saw the flicker of a heartbeat.

We shared our news privately with those around us immediately but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing publically. My emotions were so jumbled, I was happy and excited and hopeful but at the same time I was still in pain from our recent loss.

Writing about Job and the things I was still feeling made me feel like a fraud when I knew there was a new baby inside me. But writing about the new baby felt like an injustice to Job.


EMBER:

I’m not sure when I thought THEN would be. As though I’d be able to recognize it: flashing T-H-E-N letter lights, alarm blaring, as if it were shouting, “Time’s up, Ember! Your latest life transition is now complete. Please resume your regularly scheduled activities.”

Life happened, as it tends to do, and instead of things calming down after that initial craziness of starting something new, the intensity only seemed to grow around here. Work, certainly, kept me busier than I’d expected (isn’t that always the case?), but all of a sudden there was another potential client…and another…and then the girls’ school year was coming to an end…and all the end-of-year activities were upon us.

The month of June, the beginning of summer, was basically a blur. Just when it felt like we should’ve been slowing down from all the end-of-year craziness, everything ramped up, all at once. I had three product releases hitting in the span of two weeks. Drew had to travel for work. My Mom and Dad set out on a 3-week road trip out west to see family and friends, which meant transitioning the girls into full-time daycare during that time. Ah…life. It was an intense few weeks, but we made it through.

The 4th of July holiday felt like a deep breath. A much-needed one, caught just in time—when I hadn’t even realized I’d been holding mine all this time. A long, shaky inhale; a cleansing, steady exhale.


KATE:

I’ve had several months now to process and sort out my feelings and what this experience has taught me, once again, is that it IS possible to experience sorrow and joy simultaneously. I mean, I know that, but when you are in the midst of life and loss these emotions somehow feel incompatible. I have struggled with finding the words to convey exactly how these experiences, the miscarriage followed immediately by new life, have impacted me. While I tend to be an over-sharer in regards to my feelings surrounding our current life circumstances this time I feared that sharing too much of anything would give people the wrong impression, or worse yet, be unintentionally offensive.

As I type this the little girl (It’s a girl!) in my belly, now 22 weeks along, is kicking furiously.   It still brings me a bit of pain to know that she is only here because of the child we lost, but her life has brought renewed hope and fervor to this house. After a period of feeling like we were stuck in a thick patch of fog we have started to live fully again. We have a few months yet to go, but we are all eager for her arrival and eager to become a family of six.


EMBER:

The thing about breathing, if you can slow down long enough to actually do it, is that it’s pretty reliable about gently reminding you what’s important, what you might be missing out on, what you’ve clenched up and hidden deep inside and need to let out into the open.

I’d be less than truthful if I talked about life these past few months—the newness and busyness of it all—as being the only reason I stopped writing.

I admit that I’ve been scared to pick back up and write again. There were times when I allowed myself to bleed out onto the page in front of me, and the vulnerability I’d feel after hitting “Publish” was at times too much for me to bear. It didn’t matter if only a few people read it—or hundreds. As an introvert, it is inherently against my instinct to share my innermost feelings with anyone other than my small circle of best friends.

Fear begets fear, and I felt mine grow—little by little—with each new blog post. Fear of judgment, of inadequacy, of over-sharing, of being perceived this way or that; of wanting to connect with others, but fearing I’d be misunderstood…that my words would instead only push people away.

Life keeps happening, as it tends to do, and a truth I stumbled upon for a season might shift beneath the already shaky ground, transforming into something else entirely. What I thought and wrote about yesterday may not be what I’m starting to believe today. There’s something that feels fraudulent and frightening about that to me. It’s growth, I realize, it’s part of the process of living and writing, but it is often difficult to do “out loud.”

Despite the fear, I still feel that urge to write. I’m somehow not fully able to work through what I think or how I feel about what’s going on within me and around me until I let the words unfurl. And I really miss making that meaning.

When I sit still long enough, hushing out the worldly noise, I can hear the words prickling beneath the surface—feel them squirming and impatient beneath my skin—yearning to march up to my fingertips and hop out onto the keyboard. These words may be jittery—helter-skelter—scattering every which way except the way I intend, but I’m going to bite my lip and let them shakily find their way out nonetheless.


There’s no perfect time for us to return here. No clean break from the grief or deadlines, life changes or fear. Now probably isn’t the best time to start writing here again for myriad reasons, but it’s good enough. The perfect time was probably a couple months ago, or couple months from now, but you know…LIFE.

When we touched base with one another over the past few months about The Sunlit Path and whether/when we’d return, despite our never-waning life obligations, we’ve always come back to this underlying truth: We want to do this.

And so, we will.

Thanks for walking with us.

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Stumble

Stumble

The thing about The Sunlit Path is that, when you’re traveling along it with someone, you sometimes find yourself navigating twists and turns that you wouldn’t have necessarily taken if you were traveling alone.

This space we’ve started here—a place to share our dreams and vulnerabilities, our triumphs and heartaches—has been integral to healing and renewal for us both over the past several months, and we hope it will continue to serve that purpose.

Our blog is called The Sunlit Path, but we all know firsthand that this path called life is often overcast by loss, hardship, and the winds of change, which can make it hard—seemingly impossible at times—to regain your footing…and to see the sun through the clouds.

As you all know, Kate has recently been traveling down a dark stretch of The Path with the loss of her fourth child to miscarriage, and because I’ve been down a similar road before, I can’t help but find myself traveling beside her, at times, reliving the sorrow.

Also, in a somewhat sudden turn of events, I have recently gone back to work, which requires my family to adjust to a new schedule/routine.

We just want to thank you all for your patience with us right now, as we regain our footing from the stumbles that inevitably occur through loss and life changes. We hope to be back here soon, writing and sharing more about the ways in which our lives are unraveling…according to His will…and in His timing.

Thank you all so much—as always—for walking with us.

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A Letter to my Baby

Dear Baby Kono 4,

BABY KONO 4!!  I am over-the-moon excited that I am finally saying these words! We have been patiently waiting and praying and hoping that someday the timing would be right to add another child to our family. When I saw the two pink lines my heart nearly leapt out of my body; I was overcome with joy!  I had planned on surprising your Daddy with a dinner of baby back ribs, baby red potatoes, and baby carrots but in that moment I could not keep the news from him for another second, much less a day or more (those ribs were still frozen, you see) and so instead I wrapped that little test up and presented him with a Monday morning present.

“What is this?” He asked.

“Oh, just a little something.” I could not hide the smile on my face.

When he opened it he was a little surprised, “really?” he asked me; your timing wasn’t completely ours, but it was entirely God’s. I nodded and he took me in his arms, giving me, giving us, a hug.

I’ve told a couple of people about you but for the most part your presence has been a secret just your Dad and I have shared. Not that I haven’t wanted to shout it from the roof tops, believe me, I have! Your Dad has had to talk me down more than once already and we finally agreed that we’d share the news with your grandparents and aunts and uncles on Valentine’s Day – the day of love, of hearts bursting with joy – it seems appropriate.

Your Dad is convinced you are a girl.  He just knows it, he is sure.  I don’t argue with him on this stuff because usually when he has “feelings” about something he is right.  I do not have any overwhelming feelings about whether you are a girl or a boy, I am just so happy you are here, nestled inside of me. I can feel my body responding to you and I am already so madly in love, October can’t get here soon enough.

While we haven’t shared the news with your big brothers yet it’s almost as if they can sense your arrival.  They have been asking for another sibling for quite some time but recently their requests have become almost incessant:

“When can we have another baby, Mom?”

“I want THREE girl babies!”

“I want a boy AND and girl.”

Your Dad and I share a smile each time they ask and while I can’t wait to tell the world about you, I mostly can’t wait to tell your brothers about you.  They are going to be so excited!

Of course with any big news like this I have some fears, mostly around money and affording maternity leave, but each time these fears creep in I repeat the phrase “I trust you, Lord.” And I do, even though we don’t always understand God’s plan or know how the details will work themselves out He always, in some way, provides.

God’s plan is always better than mine.

I’m trying hard to remember this.

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I trust you, Lord.

I trust you, Lord.

I trust you, Lord.

The words roll around in my head over and over. I sound like a scratched record that keeps skipping… skipping… skipping…

I trust you, Lord.

I force myself to say them even if I’m having a hard time believing them.

It is snowing and blowing and I can hardly see. I am on my way to a meeting just 15 miles or so from our house.  I get within a mile of my destination when I whip the car down a dead end road and make a U-turn, heading back the way I came. The GPS is confused and keeps trying to tell me to turn right, turn right, turn RIGHT! You are going the wrong way, TURN RIGHT!

I feel really bad for skipping out on the meeting when I said I’d be there but in that moment I know I need to be home, laying in bed. Your Daddy and brothers are in shock when I walk back in the door; as I am taking off my boots your dad comes in the coat room and I collapse into his arms in tears.

“I just need to go lay down.”

I grab my rosary and my prayer books as I head to bed; in my heart I know what is happening.

I trust you, Lord.

I get snuggled in and your brothers join me, each one flanked to a side. I feel like I should kick them out of the room, tell them Mommy needs some quiet time, but a weird sense of peace comes over me and I know they are meant to be here, together with us, as we say goodbye.

The cramping comes almost instantly and my body withers in pain. My insides feel as if they are being wrung out like a wet rag, my body is trying to expel you while my heart is trying to hold on for dear life. I feel so helpless and I grasp for you because I’m not ready for you to go….

Hail Mary, Full of Grace…

Your brothers listen as I repeat the prayer over and over, louder and louder each time as if somehow raising my voice will stop the inevitable.  As your big brother Hutton nuzzles his head into the crook of my neck I close my eyes and a shiver runs through my body. Deep in the recesses of my mind I see your heavenly Father, a bright light surrounds him and his presence in my mind brings the slightest sense of peace to my aching heart.  Gently, and ever-so-reluctantly I place you, swaddled in a beautifully crocheted white blanket, into His hands.

The next morning the doctor calls with the results of my hcg quant test and confirms what I already know is true, I’ve lost you.

Oh sweet child, I am so sorry.  I am so sorry that I failed to protect you.

My most recent positive pregnancy test is still sitting on our bathroom counter; the word PREGNANT blares at me each time I go in there. I’m not sure why I haven’t thrown it away yet, I think it’s because it’s the the only tangible thing I have left of you.

Your Daddy and I are hurting so much.

I am so angry with my body. I am so worried that I did something to cause this.

But mostly we’re sad.  We’re so sad because in your short time with us you filled our hearts with so much joy. So much joy!

Sweet angel of mine, please know you are so deeply loved and will be forever missed. I’m holding on to the knowledge that some day we will be together again.

Until then….

All my Love,

Mama

One-on-One

I swing open the garage door and thrust my arm out at shoulder height, my pointer finger aimed straight at the passenger side doors: “Get in the car!”

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I spent the early part of the morning snuggled up with my oldest on the couch, he was watching a Nickelodeon show while I did some reading. It was a perfect start to the day.

But as soon as the middle and youngest came bounding out all hell broke loose, as it has a tendency of doing.  Any combination of two of these boys seems to be just fine, but when all three are together the bickering and fighting and screaming turns up a notch.  Scratch that.  TEN NOTCHES. It was not even 10 am and already I had broken up at least a dozen quarrels between these guys.  I was done! I’d had it!

I would have sent them all to their room for a breather, a time-out, but that wasn’t an option.  After two failed hearing tests and a perpetual diagnoses of “just a little fluid on the ear” Keaton had a follow-up appointment with the audiologist at 10:20 am, followed by an appointment with the ENT.

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As he climbs to his seat in the back I shut the door gently and walk around to the driver’s side.  Before opening my door I take a deep breath: inhale vitality, exhale tension (thank you, yoga). I get in the car, adjust my seat, and look into the rear view mirror, “after your appointment I’ll take you out for a special breakfast, how does that sound?”

His eyes light up, “to the place with the milkshakes?”

“Yes, to the place with the milkshakes.” I smile back at him as I put the car in reverse; Denny’s is magical when you are a child.

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Keaton’s appointment went well.  For the first time in two years his hearing improved and there was no sign of fluid on the ear.  The ENT was happy with the results from the audiologist; she was a bit surprised he was able to clear the fluid in the middle of winter.  We happily left the office with a clean report and an order to come back if the concerns happen to arise again.

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“Two?” the waiter asks as we walk in the door.

We are seated at a booth towards the back of the restaurant. I untape the crayons on the children’s menu and slide it across the table; Keaton immediately gets to work. It’s penguins again, maybe it’s penguins every time? No matter, he colors and I look over the menu.  He already knows what he wants: chocolate chip pancakes with sausage and a side of scrambled eggs.  Oh, and that milkshake, can’t forget the milkshake. I decide on the Veggie Skillet and Keaton giggles when I order a coffee alongside my milkshake.

I know he is hungry because he didn’t eat breakfast before his doctor’s appointment, but he’s a trooper. We spend our time reading penguin facts, answering penguin true/false, and putting together a penguin mad lib. He laughs audibly when I read it aloud to him and my heart swells.  I love spending time with this little boy. I can’t help but become a little nostalgic….the years, they’ve gone so fast. He’s already six. Just last night I was telling each of the kids the story of their birth; it feels like yesterday that the nurse shouted out to us in the wee hours of the morning: “you have a… Keaton!” My heart bursts at the thought, oh, I love him so!

Finally our food comes and he digs in.  I’m amazed at how quickly he eats. I pull the third pancake off of the plate assuming we’ll take it home but quickly put it back and cut it up into small pieces.  He downs the pancakes, sausage, and half of the eggs and I slide him a glass of water to wash it all down.

As he places the glass back on the table he looks up at me and smiles, “thanks mom, I needed that.”

I smile at him and I can’t help but think: No, thank you. I needed that.

___

When the demands of parenthood and sibling squabbles become more than you can bear so often a little one-on-one time spent together is far more productive then issuing another time out.

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

keaton & Nolan reading


A moment from Michigan…

Nemo_Lucy

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

cards with K 1-21-15


A moment from Michigan…

Lily_book

Life in the Small Things

Small Things Quote

When I was a little girl, I loved to collect little, itty-bitty things. Charming little figurines and porcelain dolls, books and notepads, rocks and seashells, necklaces and barrettes, and colored pens and pencils (to name a few).

Each new and exciting little object (found in nature or purchased with my hard-earned allowance) would be assigned a place of honor on my dresser or bookshelf— often atop a doily crocheted by my Grandma Bea.

My tiny treasures.

They brought me so much joy.

I’ve recently started remembering all of my dear little childhood collections because my daughter, Lucy, has inherited a similar affinity for all things miniature and novel and pretty.

Lucy discovers—and immediately finds a fitting place in her bedroom for—any new-found treasure, right there alongside her previously-discovered ones, always adding to her little collections.

I love watching her during her process of discovery—the dogged search, the moment of wonder, the fierce and immediate admiration and attachment.

I love to watch how her little mind works as she carefully ponders where to display or store these treasures. My little curator: how lovingly and thoughtfully she treats them all.

Watching my daughter brings back so many memories of happy times, of care-free days, losing myself for hours in the joy of similar small things.

As I let my mind wander…remember…I come full-circle back to the present.  A question begins to form…a realization unraveling.

Where along the way had my focus shifted from daily admiring and savoring the small things—the intricate, wonder-filled details—to mostly gazing (longingly) in the direction of the sweeping, grandiose “big things” in life?  When had I traded in my macro lens for a wide-angle view, panning out and skimming past all the small things?

For years, I’d been spending so much time working towards the so-called “big things”—you know, the announcement-worthy events that are usually cause for celebration: that promotion at work, launching a cool new product, finishing a master’s degree, getting an article published—that I hadn’t stopped as often as I should have to enjoy or celebrate the small things.

Those little moments in life that cause you to spontaneously smile when you remember them.

Those acts of love and kindness that make you tear up with joy and thankfulness.

Those encounters that underscore our natural tendency to believe that life is precious and sacred.

Small Things Collage

Of course, it’s easy to savor the small things when they come gift-wrapped in pretty packages: counting the petals on a daisy, watching a caterpillar climb a tree, a random “I miss you” phone call from a friend, learning to “pump” on a swing…

What’s harder is not becoming weighed down by the not-so-pretty small things in life: piles of laundry never shrinking, children who refuse to nap, an apparent snub by an acquaintance, a muddy entryway that won’t stay clean…

In the same way it was easy for me to get lost in the drive to achieve or earn or produce or perform, it’s easy for me to get discouraged by the unending chores, the seemingly mundane string of days, and uncooperative kiddos.

The question is: How do you savor the small things without “sweating” the small stuff?

There’s no easy answer to that question, of course. I know for my own hard-headed self, it’s a daily “re-set and try again” type of activity that will never be easy. I’m daily striving, stuttering, failing, picking myself back up, and starting again.

Despite my shortcomings, I want to share a couple Bible verses that have recently helped me find more peace within my current Life in the Small Things…

“Who dares despise the day of small things?” – Zechariah 4:10

I read this verse recently as part of a daily devotional for Moms. It really resonated with me, because I find myself griping so often about the small things I don’t like doing. When I become weighed down by that not-so-pretty small stuff, I try to remember that there’s meaning in even the most mundane and seemingly unimportant tasks. As annoying and never-ending as household chores can seem, for instance, trying to view them as acts of love and kindness for the ones we love the most can help ease some of the burden.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” – Colossians 3:23

This verse has comforted me in so many different circumstances. In that sucky job. Or with the sucky boss. The not-so-glamorous projects and tasks and obligations. Whether you’re unloading the dishwasher, making lunch for your kids, updating a project plan, or dialing in to yet another conference call, the important thing is you’re doing what you feel called to do (for now—it might not always be this way). You are providing for your family. Or nurturing your family. Helping others. Helping your team. Whichever. There is meaning and purpose and lessons to be learned in all of that, even when it feels repetitive or unimportant or unnecessary.

The season of life I find myself in now has re-ignited my own process of discovery in finding joy in the small things…and I feel so blessed to be learning this lesson I so desperately needed.

In the past few months, I have doggedly searched for joy in the small moments—the shiny and the shabby ones—and I’ve often been surprised by the moments of wonder, admiration, and attachment that I uncover.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and ye shall find…” – Matthew 7:7

This macro view of life I’ve been gifted has brought the little things—the blessings, now closer and larger—back into focus.

And, of course, time with my two most precious little treasures is the best part of this Life in the Small Things.

They bring me so much joy.

Em_signature2

 

 

 

 

{this moment}

Inspired by SouleMama, one of our favorite bloggers: “{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.”


A moment from Wisconsin…

Nolan racing


A moment from Michigan…

Sissy kiss