One photo a day, without prompting or pose. Our chaos.
At 6:50 every morning, a stream of soft, blue, daybreak light spills across our bed. Our little Meadow Mae and her most glorious mop of dark hair are always laying in this little ray of sunshine. I sneak out of bed to get my morning cup of quiet before the kids and dogs wake, leaving her in the warmth of our bed. Whenever I peek in to make sure she's still sleeping, the light is still hugging her little shape, highlighting all her beauty in the darkness. It doesn't matter where on the bed we fell asleep or how much sleep dancing we did, she always finds her way to the light. She snores, snorts, and wiggles her way around the bed. Somehow, no matter where I move to, she always ends up with her teeny legs wrapped over mine. We fit perfectly, this little girl and I. Like we were made for each other.
I love our little Meadow Mae. She has completed our family as only a sweet and sleepy third baby can. She heals a part of my heart that only a daughter is able to when you were unloved by your own mother. She breaks the cycle. Finally. I will always and forever protect her and my boys from ever entering into that familiar spiral.
I came from a lineage of women that refused to take any responsibility for their own actions and instead packaged everything with a pretty little bow for the outside world. It didn't matter that you hurt just long as you pretended your family was fine. You didn't have to believe in God, you just had to make sure people saw you go to church. The mother she was in public and the person she was behind closed doors were not one and the same. Because the illusion was all important, the mask so convincing, I was always the wrong one. Always. As children, we were taught to protect the image. First. Always. My heart broke a million times in the relationship with my mother but it never mattered. It never does when the most important thing in your life to is project perfection outwardly while playing the victim and martyr role perfectly behind the scenes. I was dying on the inside, I just had to make sure I hid the pain. More importantly that it never reflected badly back on the family. And when it did, I was always vilified, at any age. Every age. I fulfilled my wayward daughter role quite well until I became aware that it didn't have to be. And so goes the heart of the scapegoat in a family with a narcissistic mother.
None of it was real and now all of it is broken.
Meadow makes me want to be the strongest, fiercest, most empowered woman I can be. For myself and for her. For all women. I want to teach her all the things I was never taught. Give her all the permission to be herself that I was never granted. I want her to feel the maternal love I was denied. The support. The truth. The laughter. The light. The life she deserves. That every child deserves. She will have everything I didn't. I want her to know she will be loved, just as she is and whoever she grows to be. And whoever she is is just perfect. For today. For always.
My sweet little Meadow Mae, with her entire beautiful life waiting to unfold before her. Every morning, I stare at her in that soft glimmer of light. Every morning, I know that, without a doubt, she will be whole and happy in this life.
Every single night, at about 5 pm, our little Meadow's witching hour hits. It is not an easy hour for our family. Between dinner and dishes, evening stories and tubbies, 5-6 ends up being the crescendo for our already loud day.
But after having two babies that refused to sleep, I am so grateful for a baby that asks to go to bed. Dinner is left to simmer, dishes are left dirty, and the bath water cools. Out of the wrap she goes and into a quick bath followed by warm Pjs. I massage her little arms and chest with lotion and wrap her tight in her swaddle. Then we read this "I Love You" book that grandpa sent. It immediately calms her. Even from a near feverish scream. As soon as the first page is read she has completely calmed. I kiss her round cheeks after each page and she smiles. The same sweet smile she shows us all day. The lights go off and the white noise on. She drifts to sleep and thankfully stays there until at least midnight.
Yesterday, I needed help. The baby was fussy but didn't want to be wrapped. So I laid her in our bed and her brother asked if he could read to her while I finished the dishes. For an hour, this sweet boy read the same 10 pages over and over, changing the story every single time. I love that he can make up his own stories. Meadow laid there just staring at him and smiling. It is the kind of sibling love that makes me completely forget that an hour before I heard battle cries over legos coming from the boys' room.
It is this type of love that I hope they remember.
I’m sharing this photo as a statement to the universe. Because you have to put your hopes and dreams out there for them to happen.
So Universe, this summer I want to go to Hawaii with my family. I want to rent a van with beds in it and travel the island (or islands if you feel so generous). I want to get paid for it or at least break even. I want to adventure. I want to see my kids climb mountains and play in the rain.
This photo was taken in Victoria from my family’s greatest adventure so far. A few short weeks before this, the rug had been ripped out from under out feet. My husband had been working up to 20 hours a day, some of those days were 7 days a week to finish a project at work. I was 6 months pregnant, we had just bought a new house with a hefty new mortgage, we were finally in a happy place financially and we were excited for the future as a family. Until it all went south.
Without warning, he was let go. The day he was let go, he was also told he wouldn’t be paid for all of his overtime. All of those hard hours he was killing himself. All of those hours that we missed as a family. All of the extra housework because he was only home for a few hours when we were sleeping. He was told to be grateful for the experience. Can you even imagine?
This lit a fire in both of us. For my husband, it was to start his own business. Make his own hours. Pay his own employees and treat them with the respect we weren’t afforded. For me, it was to hit the road. To pack up our falling apart travel trailer and load the kids and one of our pups into our 15 year old car and send offerings to Buddha to make it to the Canadian border.
We set off. We had less than zero dollars to spend on anything that wasn’t gas or Voodoo donuts. We slept in our trailer in the most beautiful rest stops in America and Canada. We swam in lakes beneath the great Mt. Shasta. We took detours and had no idea where our destination was. We saw the coast. We saw the mountains. We explored.
Our kids stopped asking to watch movies and started looking outside their bubble. They were dirty and muddy and I’ve never seen them so happy to be outside. They smelled like campfire. They rode their scooters at places I have dreamed of visiting since I was little. We were happy and tired. It was the most perfect adventure.
I want to do this every summer. I want to pick an adventure and go. I want my kids to always ask for more life. To not worry about having nice clothes. To not care what people think.
To be happy and free.
So Universe, I did my part. Now you do yours.
My indestructible, stubborn-as-me, tough little guy.
You don’t fool me. Beyond the jumping off couches, not listening worth crap, and screaming fits because you want to do something just exactly how you want to do it, I see you.
I see you, Ev.
Your daddy once joked about the chances of making a beautiful baby with his determination and my stubbornness. We knew we would be in for the challenge of a lifetime. He couldn’t have seen into the future but somehow he knew you were ours. Beautiful you. With your gray-blue gaze and infectious smile. You surprise us daily with how much we could simultaneously be so in love and so damn frustrated.
You are the best little judge of character. You never let your guard down when we leave the house. You always shy away when you are spoken to by strangers. You make people earn your love. You love to make them work for it.
You are a brute, a beast, a bear. You are off the charts tall and a boy of very few words. I think you like that intimidating combination. You hit, jump, scream first and ask questions later. You take what you want. You don’t take no for an answer. You are fearless. You are reckless. You are destructive.
But I see you, Ev.
I see the little boy that reached for the pink baby doll one day when we were shopping and it quickly became your most treasured toy. I see you kiss your little sister on the forehead with a gentleness I didn't know you possessed. I see you look up to your big brother, I see the admiration in your eyes and I know you will always be best of friends. I see you get hurt and need a kiss from us. I see you when I put you to bed and tuck you in like a burrito. You laugh as I add all the toppings and tuck you in tighter with each one. I see you at 2am, drowsy and terrified from a bad dream crawl into our bed and cuddle. You are a lover and a fighter.
I see you, Ev. My sweet Ev. Little love of mine.
I had the most intensely healing trip to Austin last week. I am still processing the entire journey because I just can't find the words yet. So instead here are some photos of my incredibly adorable daughter, Meadow Mae enjoying her tubby.
You are three, Everett James.
You are sweet and salty. My absolute favorite combination. You don’t take crap from anyone and we love every last ounce of you and your battle cries.
Happy birthday, little love of my life. Thank you for all the fun and noise you bring to our family.
When I fail. I hope you forgive me.
Know that I love you. Know that I care. Know that it's not your fault. Know that my heart breaks. Know that I am embarrassed. Know that I will try harder. Know that you matter. That you are heard. That you are important. That you are amazing. Know that it's my fault. It's my shortcomings. It's my lack of patience. It's my stress. It's my inability to handle it all. It’s me.
It's never been you.
They fight. My Buddha, do they fight.
These brothers. They are insanely competitive. So much so that we now only ever buy two of the exact same things for them. The Easter bunny brings identical baskets and Santa somehow always leaves nearly the exact same loot. Otherwise, it's just mayhem. Meltdowns. Tantrums. Arguments. Bloodcurdling screams. All over a damn hot wheel. It drives me insane, like I’m-going-to-shove-my-head-into-the-wall insane. It makes the hair on the back of my next stand up. I can start to feel my blood boil. I have to close my eyes and go into that tiny reserve of my brain that is only slotted for natural childbirth and fights over toys between siblings. It is my biggest pet peeve as a mom and it is the only thing that is guaranteed before my first cup of coffee.
But these drag out fights aren't just reserved for toys. That would be too easy. It also encompasses dinner seating arrangements, who gets to take a tubby first, who gets in the car first, who gets their book read first, and much much more. See where I'm going with this? It's everything. And it is crazy making.
We try to manage it. We've done everything. We've read the advice, changed our tone, followed the simplicity parenting book and completely minimized the few toys they have. Nothing has worked so far. We have assigned seating at dinner, assigned car doors for each boy to get in the car, we take turns with who gets to tubby first. And yet they fight. And they argue. And it drives me mental.
I remember one of many times that I've had to step in and stop a fight. I was trying to work. They were supposed to be napping. Instead, they're both on the same bed fighting over a toy. Not even a favorite toy, just a toy. I lost it. I had tears in my eyes. I yelled. Like loudly yelled. I told them that they are all they will ever have someday. There is nothing more important than this relationship and they're throwing it away over a toy car. I didn't come from a close nuclear family and I'll be damned if I was going to let my kids pass through childhood without the close relationships I always wanted. So when they fight, it's amplified a million times more in my mind. I start to imagine them as adults living on opposite ends of the world not speaking for years at a time. It kills me. I want them to have each other, to love and need each other. To be friends. To be close. To have the kind of close family love I always craved. I want them to be brothers.
And then, on nights like tonight, I see it. I see it in this photograph. In their closeness. In their laughter. And even though you can't see their faces, I know exactly what faces they were making at each other. In this photograph, I can see their love. I can see the light they shine only on each other. I can see the strength in their bond. That unbreakable bond.
It's there. I just have to trust in it.
Six months. She is six months old today. Meadow Mae, the last of our babies is almost not a baby. I blinked and the entire first half of her entire first year has vanished. It feels like she’s always been with us, the perfect little addition to our imperfect little tribe. It is unimaginable to think of us without her. My sweet little miss Meadow Mae with her 6 month-old giggles and adorable mop of dark hair. I don't know how it went so fast. I don’t understand how time speeds up exponentially with the more children you have. She still takes her naps on me, she always has. With her tiny, little face next to my heart. Every single day for six months I've seen that view. Her baby hands lay on my chest. Each day they get bigger. Each day I beg her to stay little. Each day she is more Meadow than she was the day before. Happy. Sweet. Beautiful.
It seems my first son, Daniel, made time screech to a halt. We anxiously waited his arrival, simultaneously terrified and excited. Time stopped when he was born. An unimaginable break in the space time continuum that changed our lives forever. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t go to work. My entire job was to take care of this little human and I had barely learned how to take care of myself. I did all the things I thought I was supposed to do. I made baby food, taught him sign language, read books morning noon and night. And although I was ticking off all the boxes, I wasn’t truly stopping to enjoy the time. He hit all of his milestones ahead of schedule. We would tick off the box and move onto the next one. We encouraged, celebrated, and rushed him quickly through his first year. I am still so sad about that.
Then we added an Everett, our second son, and again we measured his milestones. This is not a great thing to do when your big brother hit all of his months early. And just like Everett does now, he did everything when he wanted and how he wanted. So he rolled over months after his brother did. He barely spoke a word until he was 18 months. Refused to walk anywhere. Refused to learn sign language. We were scared something was misdiagnosed. We took him to speech therapists and doctors. We scoured every book we could find. And just in perfect Everett fashion, he would hit a milestone as soon as I had made him yet another doctor’s appointment to check his progress. He has always been his own little person.
And then came Meadow. The sweetest of sweet and she turned all of us into the mushiest of mush. And right after her came the decision that our family was complete. And again time came crashing to a halt. This perfect little marker of time taught us to finally enjoy these moments instead of measuring them. We stopped rushing her to the next step. We stopped wondering when she would roll over, reach for food, or sit up on her own. The moments became more pure, sweeter somehow as we knew this was our last babe. We became less anxious and happier to just spend the days together. We noticed a few weeks ago that she was starting to show interest in food. My husband mentioned he could stop after work for some bananas to start her on her food journey. I begged him for one last week. I just needed one more week to before that milestone. To hold onto my last baby. I cuddled her extra close. Stroked her hair as she napped on my chest. Laid down with her to rest at bed time. We talked and cooed. Her brothers read her extra books. And then when we were ready, we pulled over her high chair for the first time. She was so happy to join us at the table. Naked and covered in banana, she just smiled at everyone. She was ready. And I finally was too.
The big one is only wearing pants. The middle one only has a shirt on. The baby is dressed but only because she spit up on her pjs.
Yay for spring break!
Daniel- "Red, orange, yellow, purple, green, and violeNT."
Me- "I think it goes it a different order, you might be missing one or two, and I'm pretty sure the word is violet not violent".
Daniel- "NO, I'm not singing THAT song, Mom!"
Proceeds to sing his song about violent colors at least 20 times to really drive his point home...
6am is an ungodly hour for a Saturday but today we had work to do. I have not seen the sunrise in a very long time. Years actually since I woke early and went somewhere to watch the day break. I am amazed at how much life I’ve been missing in those early morning hours. I packed up the baby, the big one, my camera and a massive cup of coffee and we went to find the sun.
I always wonder what my children will remember from their childhood. Will they remember the big events, the birthday parties and milestones or is it the in-between moments that will stay with them forever. Will our daily shortcomings as parents stick with them more than our successes? What if they only remember the bad and can’t feel how much we loved them?
When my husband talks about his childhood, one of the most lasting and impressionable memories he has is of his dad waking him up in the early hours of morning to go fishing. Before sunrise, still sleepy and warm in his bed. I can almost hear his dad whisper for him to get dressed. I hear the love in my husband’s voice when he tells me this.
I thought of this today. At 6:02 am when I went to go make a pot of coffee and wake my oldest. Except he had heard me stirring and woke himself in an effort not to miss a thing. We grabbed an awfully mismatched outfit with pants that were three inches to short to accommodate his recent growth spurt and a red Christmas sweater with reindeer on it. He found his mud-covered shoes and made no effort to tame the bedhead. He looked wild and unkept and happy as hell.
We watched the sunrise. We talked about school, Christmas and how much he loved his little sister. We talked about what donuts he was going to pick out after. He told me he loved me. I told him I will always love him. He felt special in that way that you can only feel special when someone gives you their undivided attention. I tried hard not to ruin his outing by taking too many photos. I tend to ruin moments by trying to capture them as they happen. But I couldn’t let this moment leave without having this image to forever remember it by.
Happy Sunrise, Friends.
Yesterday. The pieces just didn't fit. I was broken and defeated. Sobbing while listening to Amy Grace speak about the head and the heart and wondering where I had lost both of mine that day. I was red faced, embarrassed, and sad about the mom I had become that day. After the house was quiet, I went to the bathtub and sulked and soaked on how I had ended up being the mom I didn't want to be. I was praying for the baby to nap, sending all my thoughts to Buddha for my patience to not kill my two year old as he ripped apart books we had carefully picked out for him and his brother. I had a deadline to meet, dinner to cook, photos to edit, 10 days of laundry to fold, the baby to nurse, the toddler to hug, the 5 year old to reassure my love for, the kinder meeting to make, the dishes to put away, the floor to scrub. Never mind the goals I wanted to meet. This was just to stay afloat. I thought of the vacuum that doesn't vacuum anymore. The house that is never as clean as I need it to be. The dogs who need more walks. The husband who needs more kisses. The babies that just need my time when it's the only thing I don't have to give.
I cried. I don't cry. I thought of my failures and cried.
But I remembered a quiet moment that morning. The moment my Everett was coloring on his own in this beautiful window light in our living room. And I stopped. I stopped for 5 minutes to look at him. Not to see if he was coloring on the walls or throwing crayons. I just watched him. His too long dirty blond hair covering his cornflower blue eyes. His mismatched outfit he picked out. His bare feet. His always bare feet. And he just sat there quietly in the alone moments he has when his brother is at school. Unaware. It didn't matter to him that I needed to work. That the house was a mess. That dinner wasn't made. He didn't care about any of that. He looked up and smiled at me. His most mischievous smile. The one I love and hate at the same time because it normally precedes a huge mess I'll end up cleaning.
He lowered his eyes and went back to his crayons. The baby woke up. I heard an email come through on my phone. The dogs started barking. The moment was over but I am so glad I hadn't missed it.