The ABC’s of Me

I have about a million posts in draft.

Ok that is not true. I am using hyperbole here, but I have a bunch going on and I can’t bring myself to actually finish anything. So last week, my friend Jennifer did this fun little post that is also pretty informative and neat, and I thought “hey! I can do that!” So here we go…

A- Age: 37

B- Biggest Fear: death. I can’t think too hard about any of my children or Cortney or my parents or my brothers or me dying. My brain can’t shut the scenarios off and I follow them through and have panic attacks. I have what my therapist likes to refer to as an “Anxiety Disorder.” Trying to think about my life without my loved ones, my loved ones being in pain, or what will happen to my conscious after life sends me spinning.

Well. This is proving to be a jolly post.

C- Current Time: 3:30pm on a Monday

D- Drink you last had: coffee

E- Easiest Person To Talk to: Cortney. Sorry, babes. You never should have let me start talking to you all the way back in 1996. Now you’re stuck with all my words.

F- Favorite Song: I don’t think I have just one favorite over all the rest. But I love “Nightswimming” by R.E.M. an awful lot.

G- Grossest Memory: the time Eddie had the worst aqua dump in the history of aqua dumps while I was pregnant with Charlie. And while Cortney wasn’t home.

H- Hometown: Zeeland, Michigan!  Feel the Zeel!

I- In love with: Well, Cortney, of course. But lately I am also in love with this root beer beer called Not Your Father’s Root Beer. It’s actually on my summer bucket list to enjoy a tasty “root beer float” with this and some of my homemade vanilla bean ice cream.

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J- Jealous Of: anyone who doesn’t have to worry about money all the time. Also people who just have to cut out soda to lose 20 pounds.

K- Killed Someone? ‪only with the evil eye O_o

L- Longest Relationship: Cortney is definitely my longest romantic relationship–it will be 12 years in September. But my longest friendship would probably be with my bestie, Tonya since we met as mere tots in Sunday School.

phil and liz wedding_erin 167

M- Middle Name: Ann

N- Number of Siblings: I have two brothers, Mike (who is married to the Lovely Ashley) and Chris (who is married to Sarah). I gained a sister, MacKenzie when I married Cortney (she is married to Dave) and another brother, Cody (who is married to Liz). I like to say I have eight siblings now.

O- One Wish: That my kids make choices that keep them safe AND happy.

P- Person who you last called: the dentist office.

Q- Question you’re always asked: “When is this due?” which is closely followed by “How many points is this?”

R- Reason to smile: Eddie slept in undies (rather than a pull up) last night and woke up dry, Alice is rolling to her side, and Charlie was a rock star at his first dentist appointment today.

S- Song you last sang: “Drop the Leash” by Pearl Jam. Because it was on the radio.

T- Time you woke up: The first time = 6:15am when Eddie came in to tell me he stayed dry.  Then 7:34am when Alice decided it was time to eat.

U- Underwear Color: Blue stripes

V- Vacation Destination: Somewhere with a swim-up bar and a wrist band.

W- Worst Habit: Snacking when I’m not really hungry. Although I am sure some people would say my worst habit is being late. Always with the late.

X- X-rays you’ve had: teeth, ankle, lungs

Y- Your favorite food: I have a really hard time choosing this too. I do love seafood–especially shrimp, lobster, scallops, and the like.

Z- Zodiac Sign: Aries. Despite two of my three children being born in March with me, I remain the sole Aries in the house. Which is probably for the best.

And because I don’t know how to wrap this up, here…look at this cute baby who was talking to me all morning and rolling to her side because it’s her new trick.

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In His Image

So God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them.
Genesis 1:27

 I have been sick to my stomach every time I turn on the news or open social media. I see article after article and post after post and video clip after video clip discussing and showing how racism is so institutionalized, it’s rooted in our every day lives.  So much so, that people are still still arguing in the comment sections about whether or not the Charleston murders were motivated by race.

HOW IS THIS EVEN DEBATABLE??? HOW CAN PEOPLE STILL NOT SEE THE PROBLEM?

I have not used my words.

I have shared the words of others over and over. I “like” stuff to show my support. But I have not used my words.

I have been reading comments and posts that make me so angry I can’t even see straight. I want to quit. I want to turn it all off. I want to plug my ears and sing LA LA LA to it all. I don’t want to let it affect me.

And you know what? I could do that. I could.

It would be easy to “block” anything with Charleston or racism in it on Facebook so it doesn’t show up in my feed. And then I wouldn’t have to think about it because it doesn’t directly affect my every day life.

Because I am white.

Because I am white, I could easily shut it off.

But I don’t. I make myself read it and hate it and cry over it.

And it’s not enough. All that pain I feel? It’s not even close to that being my life.

Being hated, suspected, judged…it is woven into the fabric of Black America. Of any color America other than white.

We say, “No. Not me.” But that is how institutionalized racism works. You may not consciously think, “man, I hate black people. They are all lesser humans.”  You may even BELIEVE you are not racist at all. But it’s in your brain. Our country has planted that seed down deep.

It’s everywhere. It’s in all of our cultural images. It’s in our socioeconomic system. It’s in business.

Why is the largest group of people in poverty people of color? It’s because since the day the slaves were freed, there has been no easy way to climb out of nothing. The white people were at the top and they stayed there.

“Oh, Katie,” you might say, “but we have a Black president and my neighbor is Black and he is a CEO.” Yes. Of course. But what about the cycle of poverty swirling at the bottom of America?

I’m not here to talk economics or politics. In fact, there will be those who only focus on my lack of knowing statics and miss my point here entirely.

And my point is: RACISM IS STILL A THING.

I simply cannot understand how people can hear a bowl-cutted runt of a white supremacist say…SAY…he hates black people and felt it was his “mission” to gun them down after praying with them for an HOUR and STILL say, “well, let’s not jump to the conclusion that this was race-related. This country doesn’t have racism like they used to.”

WHAT THE HELL?

Last night I stayed up too late feeling hopeless.

So white and so hopeless to help or be able to do anything ever to help.

Hopelessly helpless.

This morning, I got up, went to church and sat through a powerful sermon about racism. About getting out of our comfort zones–a small, affluent, mostly white mid-western town–and use our voice and words and anything else to break down the racism.

To be uncomfortable and examine our own prejudices which certainly are there because we are a part of the machine that is a broken world, a broken country.

I don’t know what God looks like, but, as it was pointed out this morning, we are all created in his image. Not his white image. Just “his image”.

That means Asian, Native American, White, Black, Muslim, and on and on…ALL…ALL OF US…in his image.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

In Jesus we are all exactly the same. All of us. He created all of us. Not just white people. Not just Christians. ALL OF US.

Stop acting like the racism isn’t there. Stop being comfortable that it’s someone else’s problem and that is just “too bad” for them.

Stop it.

As a member of the Reformed Church of America, I adhere to the beliefs confessed in the Belhar Confession, but the one that I believe applies here is the one brought up this morning:

We believe…that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23)

The Belhar Confession stresses unity and was originally drafted in South Africa during Apartheid. The church carefully and prayerfully considered its role in race issues, and the Belhar was born. The Dutch Reformed Mission Church adopted it in 1986.

We must break down the walls of hate. I believe as a Christian I am actually called to break down this hate. It is my job.

Even if it makes me uncomfortable to raise my voice and say so. ESPECIALLY if it makes me uncomfortable. Because if I am uncomfortable saying it, that means it’s there and it scares me.

And it should scare you too.

God Created mankind in His Image; in His image He created them."

The Motion of Motherhood

Why are you swaying? You know you’re not holding the baby, right?

I laughed and stopped moving.

But only for a minute. I found myself watching my oldest son dig in the dirt in right field rather than watch the boy up at bat. As I bit a nail and tried to telepathically tell Eddie to stand up, I realized I was swaying again.

I do this a lot–the swaying with no baby in my arms. It’s like my body has become accustomed to a small one being there.

The Motion of Motherhood

Charlie Bird

If I am standing, I am swaying.

If I am sitting, I am rocking.

When we stand to sing a hymn in church, I sway or bounce regardless if Alice is in my arms or not; it has just become habit.

During “wait time” in my classes, I sway back and forth in front of the room.  I have a bounce in my step when I am walking around reading.

I bounce my leg or shake my foot when I am in  meetings.

Something is always moving.

Something is always looking to soothe.

The Motion of Motherhood

Eddie Bear

The other night I found myself stroking the blanket next to me because I was used to Charlie’s arm or head nuzzled next to me during before-bed-shows.

When no one is in my arms or in my care, I find my eyes wandering to find my children. Where are they? What are they doing?  I do this even when I am somewhere without my kids. It’s like a reflex. No one in my arms or hanging on my leg? Find them.

I smile more at other moms and other children in stores.

The Motion of Motherhood

Alice Beans

All of these movements are new to me since I became a mother six years ago.

I used to actually be able to stand still.

I used to be able to sit without leaning in to each sound or bouncing a baby who is not in my arms.

Not anymore.

Now I move to the motion of motherhood.

Because my children are always with me.

The Motion of Motherhood

Being a Sheep

There is a song that our children sing in church. It goes:

I just wanna be a sheep, baa baa baa baa
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa*

It’s a cute song and my boys love to sing it, especially because the other verses talk about what we don’t “wanna be”: a hypocrite (they’re just not hip with it), a Pharisee  (‘cuz their not fair, you see), or a Sadducee (because they’re so sad, ya see).

I certainly don’t want to be a hypocrite (although I know I am sometimes) or the other things either, but I don’t know if I can stand up and shout I JUST WANNA BE A SHEEP! either.

Every time the image of Jesus as the Shepard and his followers as the sheep comes up, I cringe a little. I know. That sounds awful, and I feel a little awful writing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the pastoral imagery, the connotations that He keeps us safe with love and guidance, and I am even ok with the whole “follow” him thing. I want to follow Jesus and his teachings. I do. I am a big believer in love and kindness.

But I don’t think I want to be a sheep.

sheep

Sheep follow blindly. They don’t question. Sheep are dumb. Sheep are thoughtless.

When I think of people as sheep, I think of that popular insult on the internet: Sheeple. You know, those people who seem to believe (and follow) every “expert” they read on the internet. The ones who blindly follow “data” without following up on it themselves. Those who don’t vaccinate, or do vaccinate, or use baby wraps, or co-sleep, or don’t co-sleep or vote Democrat or Republican, or repost articles without ever doing their own fact-checking. People who jump on bandwagons simply by trusting that what people (and the internet) tell them is true.

I know, I know. Jesus is different.

He’s a different kind of shepard. He cares about us and won’t lead us down the wrong path.

I get that. I do. And there probably isn’t other imagery that the writers of the scriptures could have used to adequately describe the idea that Jesus will take care of us if we follow him.

But honestly, that is where my faith gets weak. I have no problem getting behind the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbor? You betcha (even though I fail often, I still believe in this)! Love is the greatest? Yes, sir! Don’t throw a rock unless you are free from sin? Standing ovation.

I even get the whole, “Katie? You have to trust me. I know what I’m doing.” I get that. I don’t always act like it, but I do believe it.

But “act like a sheep and just follow with no questions just blind faith?”  I don’t think I can.

You see, I have lots of questions. If I was to be a sheep, I would be the bad sheep. I would be the one in the back saying, “where are we going? Will there be a snack because I’m hungry. What about a rest? Are we going to get a rest soon? My legs hurt. Hey, that tree is nice. Did you pick this way because of the nice view?  Do you think this wool makes my butt look big? I think I need a shear.”

I would be relentless.

I know there are Christians out there who would tell me, “just be quiet. He will take care of it.”  And I know in the Bible Jesus tells us not to worry. Birds don’t have to worry. Flowers don’t have to worry. And neither do we.

But I have questions. I have doubts. I mean, there have been some pretty terrible leaders who have told people just to trust them because they know what Jesus is all about and then those people drank some Kool-aid and well, let’s just say they didn’t end up in a green pasture.

I’m not comparing Jesus to those leaders. I’m saying those leaders thought they knew what Jesus wanted and they talked a bunch of sheep-like people into believing it too because sheep do as they are told. They think what they are told to think.

I can’t do that. I ask all the questions and have all the opinions.

“Listen, Shepard. Where do we go when we die? Why does it scare me so much? Is there a sheep heaven? Is it really like the book of Revelation says because honestly? That sounds weird. Why do good sheep fall down? Why do good sheep get made into stew and chops? Why are goats bad? Is it Ok if that goat is my friend? Because he plays a wicked guitar solo and I dig his sense of humor.”

Ok, so my questions and doubts are a little heavier that that, but you get the idea.

I can’t shut it off. I can’t stop being me with all my thinking and whatnot.

Sometimes I wish I could. I wish church would give us a little handbook that says, “Here are your opinions on all the things. Go forth and believe them no matter how anyone challenges them. DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT; JUST DO IT.”

But I know I would fail at faith if that was how it worked.

In fact, as a young adult, I thought that was how it worked and I thought I failed.  I’m coming to find out now, that maybe I’m ok the way I am: full of questions, doubts, and opinions.

But is it Ok to not wanna be a sheep?

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*lyrics and music for I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

**googling free images of sheep will make you happy because sheep are rather cute, if not totally stupid.

Confessional

Alice will be three months old this weekend and I have never had a day to myself since she was born. I’m mostly Ok with this because she is my little buddy and I haven’t had the downward spiral I felt with both of the boys when I had no alone time. But knowing that this week also marks the end of our alone time together since school will be out, scares me. And I am sad I didn’t take people up on the “just give me a shout out if you want me to take Alice off your hands for a bit.”

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I had a zit on my nostril months ago. It’s gone, but now the area is flaky and sometimes painful. I read recently that this can be a sign of skin cancer. Have I ever mentioned that I am paranoid about diseases like cancer? I’ve already had a pre-cancerous spot removed from my cheek. I haven’t gotten it checked out yet because A) OMG how many times can you email your doctor before he thinks you’re a freak show and B) “Hi. I have a weird spot on my nostril.”

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I have no fewer than 25 drafts going right now. I have a huge rush of ideas and words and I can feel them in my finger-tips, yet something has been stopping me from writing. Part of it is life, but part of it is my own confidence. My own “why even try?”  My soul is tired and beat down.

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The school year ended for my district on Friday, May 29. I am officially off maternity leave. Now I await my teaching assignment for next school year. I’m praying I don’t have to move buildings again, but at this point I will be happy with whatever I get. I love my district and our students. I hate that the state forces cuts on us every year affecting our great teaching staff, administration, and mostly our students and their families.  I try to pay attention to what is going on at the state-level regarding education, but it feeds my depression.

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Eddie cries a lot. Not because he is sad or depressed, but because if he even thinks that maybe he got hurt, he cries. I am scared that he will become a target for other kids. I’m afraid other kids will see him as a cry baby.

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I am constantly asking myself: “is this normal? is this just hormones? am I spiraling? is that depression, anxiety, paranoia? does he hate me? did I say something dumb? will they still want to be my friends? Is THIS depression?”  It’s exhausting.

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Age three is my least favorite age yet. When Eddie was three, I thought we wouldn’t make it. Now that Charlie is three, I am afraid he and I won’t make it through the summer together. He is more headstrong and aggressive than Eddie ever was anyway, but with this new “three-ness” he is getting downright awful. He even bit a kid at daycare.

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I have a post in draft about my faith that I am scared to finish and post.

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I’m scared to have my boys home with me this summer. Last summer I was excited about it because the summer before was so fun. Then I found out I was pregnant on the fourth of July and about a week later all the sickness and exhaustion hit and I cried almost daily. Cortney kept saying “next summer will be better when the baby is here.” But I am not so sure. I lose my temper so quickly lately, with Charlie especially. And the boys fight all the time. They can’t just go outside and play nicely for an hour. They are in and out with tattling every few minutes. I’m afraid I will be the crabby, yelly mom.

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I am in the process of taking inventory of my classroom library. I expected some book loss, but it’s still so sad. I want to have a sure-fire way to maintain and replace books, but I know I have to depend on the kindness of others. It is glorious, by the way, how people step up and give. I know I need to let go of wanting to control knowing that books will come, but at the same time, I need books!

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I work really hard not to vent all my whiny crap all over social media, but looking at my Instagram and Facebook, I’ve noticed that it’s hiding a lot of pain with a lot of happy. Not that the happy is fake, but it’s not the whole story.

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I hate asking people to watch my kids even for legit reasons like appointments. I hate even more asking people to watch my kids just so I can have a break or so Cortney and I can go out. We’ve been out on a double-date ONCE since Alice was born.

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I worry about money (or the lack of it) constantly.

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I always feel like I am either A) waiting for something big to happen that will help us financially or B) giving up on anything ever happening.  And then I feel like a selfish ass because I guess I know money doesn’t buy happiness and all that, but I also feel like it was someone with money who said that.

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I am uncomfortable with myself lately. This is probably why I worry about money because maybe I want to buy things to feel better, and I know that won’t fix how I feel about myself. I know what I need to do to feel better, but it all seems…unpleasant. I am a giant wuss and an even gianter (yes, I made that word up) complainer.

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I don’t really know what “take care of you” means. How do I do that? Where is the line between taking care of myself and just being selfish? How do I take care of myself without being a jerk to my family? I don’t even know what to ask for.

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All of these things are so stupid. Right now I have a sleeping baby girl next to me and a cup of coffee. My husband has a job he loves. My three-year old has a smile that takes up his whole face. My oldest is about to finish Kindergarten and turn six. My life is super fantastically awesome. All of the above doesn’t matter and does matter at the same time. All of the wonderful is SO wonderful. And all of the other stuff is just peripheral, but it’s still there.

It’s still there.

Kid-friendly Ice Cream Balls

Once in a while I like to post a recipe here. When I do it’s not just a random recipe we like, it’s got a story. It’s one that the whole family enjoys. This one is no different.

Kid-friendly ice cream balls that are so simple, the kids can help make them too!

Ice Cream balls taste like my childhood. If you make this recipe, while you are eating it straight out of your hand, you will be able to think to yourself, “oh. This is what Katie’s childhood tasted like.”

My mom made these for every single family get together, but I specifically remember them on birthdays. For our birthday parties, my mom invited her three sisters and their families over on a Sunday after church. This included my three uncles and my six cousins and my grandma.

Dinner was always something huge that included meat, veggies, rolls, potato somethings or others, jello with fruit and Cool Whip, and salads. My mom would put all the leaves (leafs?) of the dining room table in and then get out a couple of my dad’s saw horses and a giant board to extend that into the kitchen. She would spread a good table cloth (and some sheets) over all of it, put out the good china, and the fancy water glasses.

My mom poured herself into those meals. She set everything up the night before, even going so far as to put place-holders all over the table where things would go: baskets for the bread, pot holders and trivets for the hot dishes. She set the table the night before and cut and chopped and had tiny containers and baggies for fixin’s ready to go the next day, because of course she still planned on going to church first.

The other thing about about those birthday parties is that we didn’t just have a birthday cake, she also made dessert.

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That’s right. We ate dinner around 12:30pm, then had dessert, then sat around feeling huge and did presents, and THEN we did cake and ice cream.

They were entire afternoon events and they are the reason I invite all our family over for our kids’ birthday parties too. Some day I hope to have enough room to actual sit and have a meal rather than serve buffet style, but that is neither here nor there.

My mom always made at least two desserts: a pie and ice cream balls.

Just recently I remembered those ice cream balls. It’s been over a decade since I’ve had one, but I can still remember crowding around with my brothers and cousins trying to quickly grab the biggest one with the thickest layer of coating.

Rather than giving us a bowl and spoon, my mom shooed us outside and we ate it straight out of the muffin liner; my younger brothers and cousins taking off their shirts in preparation for the impending melty ice cream that would trickle down their fronts as they struggled to keep up.

I had them probably twice a year, but oh man…those two times were enough to cement their taste in my brain as the Greatest Treat of Childhood.

icecreamballcollage

we ate ours in bowls…with Hershey’s chocolate. Mmm.

This week I asked my mom for the recipe. My brothers overheard and we swapped stories of their deliciousness and how great our birthday parties were because of them. As I made them I realized why mom always made them. They are so dang easy. Messy, but easy.

And now I am sharing with you.

Ice Cream Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 packet graham crackers (crushed)
  • 1/3 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

Directions

Step 1
line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners
Step 2
in a medium bowl, mix all ingredients except the ice cream.
Step 3
create 2-inch balls of ice cream one at a time. I recommend using an old-fashioned ice cream scoop to do this.
Step 4
Roll each ball in the mixture and place in a muffin cup. You'll have to work fast so the ice cream doesn't melt!
Step 5
cover muffin pan with foil and place in your freezer for at least an hour before serving.

What treat do you remember best from your childhood? What treat do your own children love?

I Am

I am a wife, mother, teacher, believer.
I wonder about big things like life and death and the possibility of eternity.
I hear the many names I am called and I wonder which one is truest.

I see myself in my children.
I want to save every child, starting with my own, from having to feel hurt or dumb or not enough.
I am a feeler and a thinker.


I pretend to be the best.
I feel inadequate most of the time.
I touch lives and minds.
I worry that I will never completely fulfill my potential…or read all the books.
I cry in laughter, frustration, and sadness.
I am an actress.

I understand that doubt is ok.
I say “I love you” frequently.
I dream of a day when love will win.
I try to walk the path I talk.
I hope I am not letting you down.
I am a work in progress.

2014-04-07 10.12.59

 

Join in with OSB by heading to the hostesses, Elaine and Angela, for this month’s prompt and link up.

Mother Lover

Top Ten Reasons I Love My Mom

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she does a good job tolerating me.

1. She always puts up with my dramatics and ridiculousness.

2. Even though she doesn’t “get” my sense of humor, she rolls with it. Most of the time. Unless it involves swearing.

3. She spoils my kids in ways she would never, ever had allowed when I was growing up under her supervision.

4. She is quick to point out how my children are like me (crazy) and how they are not (chill).

5. She never once blamed her her childhood disadvantages for anything.

6. She was quick to credit her childhood (and my grandmother) for many things.

7. She still buys me birthday gifts and makes my favorite foods…even though I am thirty-seven…because she knows my love language is gifts. And I love that she never makes me feel bad about that.

8. Her logic evens out my irrational 98% of the time. The other 2% is why I take meds.

9. She has never let me down. Except when she missed Charlie’s first birthday party to go to Mexico. I KID, MOM! I KID! (She just mumbled “Oh GUY, Kate!” to the computer. Just take my word for it. She loves when I push her buttons.)

10. She wouldn’t have given me the world even if she could have because she would have wanted me work for it which is probably why I am a hard-worker as an adult. But her love she gave freely…and still does. I never deserved it or had to earn it. She just doles it out unconditionally.

That's me on my great grandma Katherine's lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother.

That’s me on my great grandma Katherine’s lap. in the middle is my grandma Jo. On the right is my beautiful mother. Four generations of AWESOME women.

 

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Mom

2015-04-05 12.42.261. My kids are the funniest people on the planet even if the majority of their jokes have to do with bodily functions and “booty butts”.

2. Whenever I start to get overconfident, my children point out my weaknesses (“Mom, please don’t sing. It’s terrible”) and keep me grounded.

3. Having an excuse to bake cookies and cake and all the treats. It’s for the kids, yo.

4. Reading with small people and watching them learn to read by themselves and feeling awe that this person who is READING was a nothing and then grew in my stomach and is now READING.

5. Homemade gifts.

6. Endless bouquets of dandelions.

7. Sticky faces close to my ear whispering “I love you Mom Mom.”

8. Honest awe and declarations of “Mom, you’re BEAUTIFUL!” when I get ready for church.

9. Run-by huggings.

10. Middle of the night snuggles to ward off bad dreams, growing pains, or sadness.

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

Because motherhood is always full of smiles and cooperative children, yes?

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers that are and ever were and ever will be.

And thank you, Mom, for being you and showing me how to be a great mother. It’s the most frustrating and lovely thing I have done with my life so far.

 

Think About It

My earliest memory of math is the homemade flashcards my mom made out of index cards to help me get faster with my addition and subtraction skills, and later my multiplication skills. Remember those sheets you would get in school that you had to try to get done in like five seconds or something dumb? I was slow and my mom wanted to help me get faster.

I hated those damn flashcards.

A few years later came fractions. If I thought I hated those flashcards, then fractions were straight up devil’s work.

Looking back, I blame the way math was taught, but that’s a whole different post. The fact was that math was hard for me, but I didn’t want to fail.  And my parents didn’t want me to either.

Fast-forward to nightly math homework starting in middle school with all the equations and fractions. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands. Whoever had those textbooks in the years after me will probably find small wrinkled spots throughout the pages where my frustrated tears landed.

My mom, while naturally a numbers person (she’s an accountant), is more of a number organizer than a math person. My dad, on the other hand, has worked with fractions his whole life. He worked for Herman Miller–an office furniture giant–as a model maker. He and his team made the first prototypes (and following models) of what the designers dreamed up. Fractions were pretty much second-nature to him.

But he didn’t attempt to re-teach me fractions. Instead, he re-read the math problem with me. Thought about it and then said to me, “Think about it, Kate. Think about it.”

He wasn’t trying to get out of helping me, but he wanted me to really try before I gave up. He knew that I read the problem, got overwhelmed, and shut down. He wanted me to try to get it before declaring it impossible. Ninety-five percent of the time, that phrase was all it took for me to at least understand what the question was asking me. Often I still needed his help for how to set up the equation (especially if it involved fractions), but that simple phrase, “think about it,” was really telling me, “you can do this. I know you can, Kate.”

*************

This past fall, while discussing the accomplishments of my brothers and I in high school, college, and career, my dad said, “You weren’t the most naturally gifted of the three of you, but you were the hardest working.”

I smiled and nodded. All three of us did quite well for ourselves academically. Their stories are not mine to tell, but I can say we all graduated high school with decent to excellent grades and GPAs, and we all got into the universities of our choice.

What we did to get there, stay there (some of us), and beyond wasn’t so much a reflection on who was the smartest, my dad pointed out. And success wasn’t determined by anything other than what you wanted to do with your life and whether you worked to achieve it.

You weren’t the most naturally gifted of the three of you, but you were the hardest working.

I spent a few days pondering these words.

It’s not really fun to be called “not the most naturally talented” even if you know that what the speaker was saying wasn’t meant to be a put-down.

I knew my dad was trying to compliment me, but I kept turning the words over in my head for another week until the night of my dad’s retirement celebration and dinner.

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I’m going to confess something here. Even though my dad was retiring after 40+ years of working for the same company, I never thought about how this event was a big deal. The thing is, my dad is probably one of the most humble people to walk this earth. He just says “thanks” or shrugs it off if you tell him he did something amazing. So because he didn’t make a big deal about the event, I guess I forgot to too.

Then people he worked with started getting up and talking about how hardworking he is. They said phrases like, “Tom would say ‘yes’ to anything and then figure out how to make it work,” “Tom taught me that with hard work, you can do anything,” and “Tom is probably the hardest working person I have ever worked with.”

It’s one thing to know your dad believes in hard work, it’s another to listen to people talk about it and gush about how much they have learned from working with him.

That night I realized that my dad taught me about hard work too, and when he told me I was the hardest working of all three of his kids, it was one of the biggest compliments he could give. I didn’t just rely on my natural abilities (of which I had few), I decided I wanted to do well, and I did it.

“Think about it, Kate,” became my motto to myself through college when my dad wasn’t there to stand over my shoulder while I did homework or had to make a choice about going to class or sleeping in.

It became ingrained in my problem-solving and trouble-shooting when lesson planning, figuring out behavior plans, writing grad school papers, and even deciding what is the next best step for my career.

My dad’s words made a much bigger impact than just figuring out fractions, which if we are being honest here, I still have problems with, those words became how I navigate life.

*************

Happy 65th birthday, Dad. I love you and I hope I can teach Eddie, Charlie, and Alice all to “think about it.”

She Laughs…or Rather Cries…at My Routine

My day starts sometime after 7am. Light is just starting to find it’s way through our larger, south-facing front window into our living room which is generally littered with small cars, stuffed animals leftover from before-school morning cuddles, and the occasional chocolate milk sippy that wasn’t put away before leaving.

Sometimes there are Legos that get stepped on. Those mornings are sweary.

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I don’t ease quietly and serenely into my day. No, I wake up to a hungry and angry baby girl shout-crying into my face via the monitor on my night stand. As I blink away the sleep, she gets crabbier.

I mutter something like, “I’m coming, Alice,” as if she can hear me…or would care if she could. You know what? It’s hard to pee when you’re trying to convince your brain you are indeed awake and not still dreaming all while trying to hurry because the boss has not gone from crying to some sort of shrill wail that makes it sound like feral cats are about to attack her.

Once I get my bathrobe on, the coffee going, the Today show on, and the bottle in the baby’s mouth, I can say the day has begun.

This has been our only consistent routine since the little lady joined our household seven weeks ago. Every other attempt I have made to find some sort of schedule or regularity in our days is thwarted by Little Miss Alice.

During week six, I thought we finally had it. Every day she was taking a lengthy snooze in her rock n play in the morning while I cleaned or baked or wrote or read or also snoozed. The afternoons were lazy. Since I was so accomplished in the morning, we usually cuddled together on the couch for some Netflix or History channel or Tiger ball game or just silence. Sometimes I read my book while she was curled up in my arm, sometimes I slept.

On the days Eddie doesn’t go to the after school program, we would go pick him up then come home to start dinner while Eddie entertained Alice.

Things were breezy, man. Totally breezy. I even made a laundry schedule and a “chore” list for each day (example: Mondays = groceries, and doing Alice’s laundry along with a load of our laundry…the darks, yo).

Then week seven happened.

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And I remembered that babies are on their own schedules, and sometimes that means lengthy fussy times because OMG LEARNING ALL THE THINGS AND GROWING IS SO VERY HARD AND EXHAUSTING AND I JUST NEED TO CRY ABOUT IT, MOMMA.

I showered less last week. I slept less (exhibit A = the giant bags under my eyes in that picture up there). I got WAY less done. I said, “Oh, Baby Girl!” a LOT. But by Thursday we were finding our way again.

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She was still a mad head and didn’t want me to put her down, but dude. Life needs to continue. So the Moby wrap was taken out of the car (I use it for shopping with her), and I threw her in it while I made dinner. She still fussed a bit, but it worked well enough until her daddy came home and could properly hold her and whisper in her ear that she was pretty.  Which she likes, of course.

The week wasn’t all bad, after all. She cried a LOT, but she also laughed for the first time. I was singing “Three is the Magic Number” and “I Love Rock n Roll”.  I am telling myself that she laughed out of pleasure and not because my singing was so bad.

Alice has begun to coo constantly at me and Cortney and her brothers. She definitely recognizes me and Cortney when other people are around, and seeing her brothers after they’ve been gone all day is sure to elicit smiles.

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I also read that she can now appreciate colors and textures, so I busted out the activity mat…or the gym, as we call it. She found herself in the mirror and smiled immediately, which is funny because neither of the boys ever cared one speck for that mirror. Of course my baby girl would find it and love it.*

All the new stuff made her tired and cranky though, as I said. So the week had highs and lows. I spent a lot of the time holding the baby.

With Eddie this would have sent me into a rage-filled spiral. With Charlie I learned that the bathroom filth will be there tomorrow. With Alice I am practicing what I learned. I didn’t even worry about the bathroom or the dusting. It never crossed my mind to worry about it not getting done.

I just scooped her up and patted her butt until she fell asleep in my arms.  Then I dozed off too. Or read a book. Or watched some TV. Because I knew she would wake up sad if I put her down.

So I just didn’t put her down.

I don’t know what week eight will bring this week, but I am sure not going to count on anything other than a baby who will eat, sleep, poop, and cry…but not in that order. At least not in that order every time.

 

 

*Fun fact: to get me to stop crying as a baby/toddler, my parents would plop me in front of a mirror. I would sit and smile at myself forever.

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