The Good Stuff

My phone rang today. An old friend that has loved me for years was calling for advice. We hadn’t talked in far too long, but we have one of those rare relationships where time stands still. We pick up. We carry on.

It was a mommy call. Her three year old had a rough day at school. Her heart was full – struggle, anger, frustration and embarrassment.

As we talked, we laughed. We wondered. We teased out the possible solutions for her dilemma.

I reminded her that my first-born, though adored by many and full of charm and personality, has left me with the same feelings of total exasperation and embarrassment more than once. To ease her mind and as an act of solidarity, I shared this story.

Three years ago (and I do remember it like it was yesterday), I decided our family would NEVER return to church. I had not had a falling out with God. I was not irate over a preacher’s message. I was not disenchanted with the patriarchal structure. I was simply…mortified.

After Mass, we exited the sanctuary to the lobby where most of the churchgoers lingered to chat and catch up with one another. I was talking with a friend, when my two-year old slipped from my hand. In an attempt to not be totally rude and abruptly abandon the conversation, I did that awkward mom shimmy. Baby on hip, side scooching toward my toddler, trying to keep eye contact with the speaker, pretending like I’m still listening while glancing at said toddler, in heels with a diaper bag.

Not cute. Never effective.

As I glanced at my daughter, I saw it.

I saw it.

I knew.

I lunged.

Everything slowed.

I saw it.

I knew.

I threw my body towards her, but it was too late.

Her chubby little hand could just reach that shiny metal lever.

She pulled the fire alarm.

I’ll give you a minute and let that sink in…

Thank you. I appreciate your sympathy.

Alarm blaring, everyone turns to look. There we are – stunned, horrified, in total disbelief.

“Everyone out! Everyone out!” shouts the music minister.

“No, no, no!” I plea, “It was just my two-year old. There’s no fire. It’s fine. Really!”

“Everyone out! We have to evacuate,” she snapped in what I must say was a very “un-Christian-y” tone.

Roughly three hundred people evacuated the building. I promise you that every, single one of them judged me. I sat on a bench and tried to melt into the sidewalk. “This cannot get any worse. I may die of embarrassment.”

(Note: I have now been parenting long enough that I realize the error in my thoughts. NEVER tell yourself that it can’t get worse. It totally can, especially if you haven’t actually died of embarrassment yet.)

Then, I heard them.

Sirens.

Oh, Sweet Jesus.

Sirens.

 

As my friend and I talked and laughed today, I realized something.

These are the stories that are lives will be made of. No one sits around reminiscing about the time their kid had a great day at school, or the Sunday when they went to church and everyone behaved. Those aren’t the days that mold us.

The funny ones. The hard ones. The ones that are hard now, but so funny later.

Those days when you are sure you can’t take anymore. That is the good stuff.

Even the stuff that looks like bad stuff – I promise, it’s the good stuff.

It’s the best stuff.

 

P.S. – We did return to that church, but only after a well-crafted email in which I apologized profusely and offered to pay any fee the church may have incurred from the fire department.

A Bunch of Misfits

I’m looking and searching and hoping.

I’m not even sure what I want, but my soul knows what I need.

The mother in me knows that they deserve a place where they are loved completely for exactly how God made them.

I trust the Divine within me. I trust that my soul will sing when I find the place.

 

I’ve been struggling for years with finding a spiritual home for my family. Chris and I have spent hours in conversation. To be fair, he does more listening, and I do more talking in circles. I finally came to him and said, “Come with me on an adventure. Come with me. For one year, let’s just visit all kinds of places of worship. Let’s see what we learn. Let’s see where we end up.” And he answered like the kind, patient man I married always does, “Alright, hun. Where do you want to start?”

We headed to a little church I heard about almost a year ago. I’ve stalked their website, listened to sermons online, and wondered if it could work for us.

We received a warm, loving welcome.

***Warning: this is an honest “hey, look at all my ugly” post. So, if you’re feeling judgey, you might want to stop right here. ***

As I waited for the service to start, I looked around. I was uncomfortable. A bunch of misfits sat in the pews. They were the odds and ends of society and everything in between. They were just…different.

As soon as the thought hit me, I was ashamed. “For Heaven’s sake, Katie – it’s church! What the hell is wrong with you? Oh, shit, I just thought ‘hell’ in church…and ‘shit’.” I was off to a great start.

The service progressed, and it was beautiful. Moving. Lovely. Touched by the Divine.

People hugged and loved each other. People offered their joys and their needs.

Old, young, white, black, Hispanic, gay, and straight. God’s people. A bunch of misfits.

Near the end of the service, it hit me. If Jesus himself gathered a group for worship, these would be the ones. He gathered misfits. He gathered the odds and ends of society. Why had that initially made me uncomfortable?

Because I am one…

and I don’t want to be.

I want to fit. I want it to be easy. I want a place to belong, to raise my children, to be loved and supported. I have not fit in my church for a very long time. That’s why I’m on this journey isn’t it? I’m a misfit too.

I’m not sure that we’ll call this new church home. It’s only the first stop on the journey, but I am so glad it exists. In little Lexington, Kentucky, we have a beautiful place

for misfits like you and me.

 

This song was part of the service, and I’m not going to lie, I cried.

 

 

Tiny Steps

Dear Tiny Angel,

Two days ago I had one of those defining “Mommy moments”.

One minute, I’m sitting on the kitchen floor living in a moment that is otherwise totally forgettable.

And just like that, the next beautiful moment arrived as one that will be burned in my memory forever –

a squeal, a huge “look at me, Mommy” grin, and three unsteady, stumbling steps into my arms!

 

As I’ve watched you work diligently for the last two days to master your new skill,

I can’t help but wonder…

I wonder where those little feet will take you.

Will you run the bases, chase a soccer ball, or dance across a stage?

How far will you travel?

Will you see how places far from here can change who you are?

Will you feel how good it is to come home?

I wonder what dreams you will chase and

how long I will have the privilege to watch your journeys.

 

I watch you in these early days of walking and I hope.

I hope you spin until you’re dizzy as you admire the sky above you.

I hope you will dance until dawn, and walk home

singing much too loudly, arm in arm with true friends.

I hope you will stand up not only for yourself,

but maybe more importantly,

for those who cannot stand for themselves.

I hope when you are scared and worn down, you know you can always run home.

I hope someday you will walk down the aisle to the love of your life,

and walk hand-in-hand with that person for decades to come.

I hope someday your feet are bare because you’ve given your shoes

to someone who needed them more than you did.

I hope you will walk in front of people who need your strength,

behind people who are honorable and worth following,

and beside people who need your compassion and presence.

 

And don’t think for a second that every mother hasn’t seen the irony in all of this.

Those first precious steps come straight into our loving arms

only so we can encourage you to step farther and farther away.

Hoping you will make your own path and chase your own dreams.

I just hope that someday,

you have developed a deep appreciation for where you come from,

enough confidence to walk far, far from here,

and a desire to come home for a while and tell me all about it.

 

All my love,

Mommy

 

 

 

A Long Overdue Thank You

I have been a mother for a little more than  2 years and 9 months.

That’s more than 1,000 nights since I’ve slept soundly without worry for the life of another in my care,

More than 24,000 hours that I’ve wondered if I was doing this whole thing right,

Over 1,400,000 minutes I’ve hoped that I was making you proud of the mother I am becoming,

And  87,000,000 seconds that I’ve been formulating this blog post to attempt a long, overdue thank you.

I bet I still can’t do it justice.

Because 19,468,000 minutes ago, you became a mother.

You looked into your baby’s eyes and made a decision. She would come first. She (and her siblings to follow) would get the very best of you,

the very best from you, the last ounce of energy that you had to offer on any given day.

You would show us what unconditional love really feels like.

You loved us in the presence of our many flaws and in the absence of gratitude.

So, thank you.

 

Thank you for the sleepless nights as you kept vigil waiting for my fever to break.

 

Thank you for teaching me to use the potty and blow my nose.

Seriously, I get it. I so get it.

These are the monumental achievements of mothering a two year old.

As a good friend of mine once told me, “If you don’t know Jesus before potty training, you will after.” Amen, sister, Amen!

 

Thank you for teaching me manners and insisting that I use them.

You were tough and unrelenting, but not without purpose-

Your kids would not be obnoxious or ungrateful. You just weren’t having that sh*@ on your watch.

Thanks for not giving up. Turns out rude people don’t keep jobs, have friends, or enjoy food that their waiter has not spit on.

 

Thank you for dragging us to church every week.

I know we drove you nuts, embarrassed you, and generally ruined the entire experience for you on a regular basis, but you persevered.

I’m fairly certain that your prayer most Sundays was something along the lines of “Please, Lord, don’t let me kill them today,”

but we’re all still here.

Further proof that God was listening!

More importantly, I thank you for allowing us to grow in our own beliefs,

for letting us veer and come back with new insights, for saying that we have opened your eyes and pushed you in y our journey.

 

Thank you for trying to make me eat veggies.

Thirty-four years later, most people would have given up.

Your faith in my potential is inspiring 🙂

 

Thank you for teaching me to laugh at myself.

For some, being stuck in a dress in a fitting room could be a traumatic event that inspired an immediate call to Jenny Craig.

I have never laughed so hard as you peeled me out of it and insisted that something was terribly wrong with

….THE DRESS!

 

Thank you for instilling in me a strong belief that I am not, in fact, the center of the universe,

(It’s proven to be a rather useful worldview.)

That I’m not too good to offer forgiveness or too perfect to ever need it from another.

 

Thank you for  being an impeccable judge of character.

Turns out they were “just jealous and not worth my time”, she was “nothing but trouble,” and he was “simply not good enough.”

 

But these days, as I muddle through my early minutes and hours of being a mom,

I want to thank you for not making it all look effortless.

Thank you for taking pictures with us even when you thought you looked exhausted and far from glamorous.

Thank you for raising your voice and losing your sh*@ at times.

Thank you for occasionally going to the grocery in your sweatpants

(probably more than occasionally, but it’s Mother’s Day. So, I put the “occasionally” in there just for you!)

and for reminding me now when I look back with rose-colored glasses,

that you didn’t have it all figured out either.

You were just stumbling along and giving us the best you had.

I pray I can do the same for my babies.

 

For all the things that we don’t remember and that you will never forget,

 

Thank you, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you 🙂

This will be over soon…

For the last five months, I’ve had a mantra.

“This will be over soon.”

It seems so basic, but it’s gotten me through the tough moments as I adjust to being a mom of two.

I simply stop and remind myself that in fifteen or twenty minutes the current crisis will be behind us, and everyone will be just fine.

When both babies are screaming simultaneously in public, “This will be over soon.”

When we’re stuck in traffic and no one in the backseat is thrilled about being strapped in a five point harness, “This will be over soon.”

When Little Miss has an accident at the exact moment Little Brother explodes through his fourth outfit of the day, “This will be over soon.”

When I think church is almost over (the longest hour of my week!) and they ask us to sit “for just a few more announcements”, “This will be over soon.”

It usually works like a charm…until last week.

Due to illness and the winter that may never end, we’d been trapped inside for the better part of two weeks. It had been a rough day. My house looked like a bomb had gone off, the phone was ringing off the hook, my to-do list was growing by the minute, no one had been bathed or even gotten dressed for two days, dinner was boiling over on the stove, and the baby was LOSING IT.

I’ll spare you the details. Suffice to say the scene begins with Caroline notifying me of a bit of a bathroom crisis.

As I bend down to help her get her pants off, she loses her balance.

She grabs my head to break her fall.

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

Thirty minutes later, my husband returns home from work.

I am weeping.

I cannot speak.

The poor guy has very few clues to work with. Both children are still crying. Our daughter is half naked, and there’s that distinct smell of Clorox wipes in the air.

I barely make eye contact when, finally, between sobs, I get out, “Dinner’s ready. I have poo in my hair.”

Really.

I had poo in my hair.

Poo.

I cried in the shower, and suddenly heard myself say, “This will be over soon.”

That night, I tucked my little girl into bed. “Lay with me, Mommy,” she said. We snuggled and giggled.

“This will be over soon,” I thought.

As I rocked my baby boy, he wrapped his tiny hand around my index finger. He drifted off to sleep, smiled, and his pacifier dropped out of his mouth.

“This will be over soon,” I thought.

I don’t know that I’ll ever miss having someone wipe poo in my hair, but

my heart aches every, single day because…

This will be over soon

and I’ll miss it so very much.

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

She was a teenage mother.

Her fiancé was not the baby’s daddy.

Did you call your best friend to spread the gossip?

Did you two laugh at the fact that her life read like an episode of Jerry Springer?

Did you call her “trashy” or “trampy”?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

She was poor.

She didn’t even have the basics for her baby.

Did you look down on her?

Did you think her poverty was probably somehow her fault?

Did a tiny piece of you judge her for not being prepared for the child she chose to bring into this world?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her… just a little?

 

She was an illegal immigrant.

She had no business being in this country.

She fled to protect her child, to give him a better life.

She didn’t speak the language.

Did you tell her to go back to where she came from?

Did you assume that because she didn’t speak your language, she was less intelligent than you?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

She had visions.

She saw things.

Did you call her crazy?

Did you roll your eyes at her behind her back?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

She was homeless.

She wandered the streets before giving birth.

Did you open your home?

Did you comfort her as she begged for the smallest act of kindness – a place to lay her child?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

She was raising an odd child.

He just didn’t act like the other kids.

Did you tell your kids to stay away from him?

Did you say they were busy and couldn’t come out to play?

Did you listen to her as she struggled with how to raise such an unusual soul?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

Her son had run-ins with the law.

Did you think it was probably somehow her fault?

Did you think your kids were bettered behaved than him?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

She held her baby in her arms.

He was dead.

He was a rebel.

He got into trouble with the wrong people.

It came back to him…and her.

Did you avert your eyes?

Did avoid sitting with her to spare yourself the uncomfortable silence?

Did you stay away from her so as not to bear even the tiniest burden of her overwhelming grief?

Be honest, did you think you were better than her…just a little?

 

She was Mary, the Mother of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be careful what you say to the universe…and who reads your blog

Life lesson: be careful what you say or post in cyberspace – the universe is listening.

I mopped my floors on Thursday.

C pooped on the kitchen floor today.

I swear, she reads my blog.

I only have three followers. Who knew my two year old was one of them?

Just thought you’d enjoy that giggle! My husband was on kid duty at the time. He did not giggle!)

**if you’re confused by this, you missed my previous post – which means only two people read it , my daughter and my mom!

To my Dear, Sweet Friends

Two and half months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He has added more love to our family than I ever could imagine. He is truly one of my life’s greatest blessings.

With that being said, the last two and half months have been some of the most wonderful, joyous, emotional, and stressful of my adult life. I’d like to take a few minutes and thank my wonderful friends that have seen me through and are still holding me up as I stumble along as a mommy of two. This one’s for you, girls!

Dear Sweet Friends,

Thank you.

Thank you for telling me that you don’t LOVE being pregnant. Sure, there are miraculous moments that take your breath away and bring you to tears, but there is certainly nothing miraculous about praying to the porcelain God as your eighteen month old applauds (yep, she sure did!), wiping your mouth off, brushing your teeth and heading out the door for another wonderful day of looking like you’ve had too many beers and nachos lately. I love those women who literally glow through pregnancy and cherish every moment, but I really love you for saying that it just kind of sucks most of the time.

Thank you for admitting that your kids eat total crap some days. Some people brag about their gourmet dinners and even take pictures of them. Not you, you admit that your kids eat chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and peanut butter sandwiches most days. No award winning blog for you, but you’re a damn good mom nonetheless, and to be honest – I’m so tired that chicken nuggets and peanut butter sound mighty fine to me! We’ll stop by at 5:30 for dinner 🙂

Thank you for telling me about your full-blown, all-out fight with your four year old. You called crying and we ended up laughing our guts out. You’ve gotta love when a thirty-three year old woman with a Master’s degree is brought to her knees by verbal attacks of a preschooler. You are awesome, and I love you for it!

Thank you for hating the Christmas elf crap. I’m rather ambivalent about him, but your total disgust with such an innocent tradition totally made me laugh and reminded me that I don’t have to buy into everything that the supermoms are posting in cyberspace. By the way, I bet their kids each chicken nuggets and peanut butter too!

Thank you for telling me that you “only bathe the kids occasionally, especially during winter.” I love that about you. Personal hygiene has seasonal requirements at your house. You are fantastic!

Thank you for admitting that your yoga pants are your dress pants because the rest of your pants just don’t fit and are dry-clean only. We match! Caroline recently called me out for “wearing pajamas” in public. “No darling, these are yoga pants. They’re totally different than pajamas.”….wait, maybe they’re not….crap!

Thank you for telling me that you don’t run for health, enjoyment, or athleticism, but merely to be far, far away from it all for a while. I get it. I SO get it.

Thanks for saying that your kids totally suck at church. Who are those children that sit quietly in their parents laps? Last week, she had no less than three time outs and the baby screamed 90% of the time. The only reason we haven’t been asked to leave is because, well, it’s church and they just aren’t allowed to kick us out. Jesus said so. I think it’s in Matthew somewhere….”Let the children come to me… and wail and scream and run from their parents and throw themselves on the ground in front of the altar in a God Almighty meltdown.” (That may be my own interpretation. I’m Catholic. We don’t memorize verses like we should.)

Thank you for admitting that your kid pooped on the kitchen floor and you totally lost your cool. I cannot imagine, and I won’t even to try to. I’m sure it will be a reality in our house one day very soon (I think she’s just waiting for me to mop the floors). You are always so calm and good with her. Thank you for being honest that you lose it sometimes too.

Thank you for telling me you’ve fought with your husband and said things you didn’t really mean. You guys look so happy and perfect. I needed to know it’s normal.

Thank you for saying that you’ve cried in the shower

and the car

and in front of your kids

in unison with your two-year old during a meltdown

and at the grocery

and in front of strangers.

Me too, sister. Me too!

Thank you for saying that you believe in me, that I can do this, and that I’m doing a good job. Something in the sincerity of your voice made me almost believe you. Thank you for walking this journey with me. It’s crazy, and stressful, and so very hard. It’s wonderful, and beautiful, and so very fleeting. Thank you for being honest with me. Thank you for loving me and trusting me enough to show me your weaknesses and your downfalls. I think you are such amazing mothers.Thank you for showing me that “wonderful mother” and “perfect mother” aren’t the same thing. Thanks for holding me up.

Love,

Katie

Making Black Friday a Little Lighter

I wrote this post last year. Some of you may remember it. I re-posting it as a challenge to us all. Could you possibly take the money you will save on one purchase and donate it to the charity of your choice? Just think, a few dollars from each of us could really add up! I challenge you to share this post with friends and spread some goodwill and generosity this Black Friday.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love what it stands for. I love family, togetherness, quiet time, and mostly I love stopping our crazy lives for one whole glorious day and being truly, truly grateful.

On the contrary, Black Friday is one of my least favorite days to be an American. As a child of immigrants, I constantly think about how the rest of the world must see us. To be quite honest, on Black Friday we are at our worst. I don’t just mean the people that trample each other and cause huge fights over the latest toy. I mean all of us. We do appalling things. We say ridiculous things. We use the word “need” in ways that are truly laughable. Every year, on Black Friday, we show one of the worst sides of ourselves as a nation.

Now, I know some of you love, love, love Black Friday, but just hear me out. I will not lie to you. I love a good deal just as much as you do, but we really need to get some perspective. So, here is my challenge for you:

1. As you shop on Friday, be very careful and deliberate in how you use the word “need” and ask the people you are shopping with to do the same. Say “want”, “would like”, or “am hoping for.” Just don’t say you “need” a 60 inch flatscreen.

2. Choose one item that you get a deal on and decide to give the money you saved to a charity of your choice. I won’t be shopping on Friday (because I hate crowds), but here’s mine. I got a Little People Nativity set for Caroline at Target and saved $10 this week. I’ll be donating that $10 to the Jana Callahan Family Trust.

3. Share this blog on facebook and then post your “deal”. My post will say “Little People Nativity Set = $10 to Jana Callahan Family Trust.

Just think what we could do if we each gave a little tiny bit of our good fortune to someone else this Friday! I think we’d make Black Friday a little lighter, don’t you?

Dear Little Love, I will miss us…

Dear Little Love,

In this life, every new beginning comes with an ending of some kind. Beginnings are wonderful, exciting, and magical, but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore the end that is passing. As we start new adventures and begin new journeys, we should take the time to honor what has been,  pause, and grieve what is passing.

 

In a few short weeks, our home will be filled with more love and joy than ever before. Our love will multiply again  as another amazing soul joins us in this journey and we become a family of four. Your Daddy and I are thrilled to welcome your little brother, and from what I can understand, you’re excited to take him to story time and see if he poops (Oh, I bet he will!)

 

I want you to know that with this beginning comes an end that I will miss.

 

I will miss us.

 

For two sweet years, you have been my little buddy, my sweet girl, my tiny angel. We’ve spent many, many hours together and I’ve never enjoyed anyone’s company more. Your laugh is infectious, your awe and wonder of this world – humbling. I want you to know I have loved every, single minute of our time – just you and me. I have loved story time at the library, trips to the bubbles at the museum, hours on the swings at the park, and gazing at your perfection as I rock you to sleep at night. I have never felt so whole, so complete, so genuinely joyful as I have in my time with you, my love. We’ve been together morning, noon, and night….and late, late night!

 

I know that all of that will change. The change is joyful, exciting, and wonderful beyond all belief. I know that four can only mean exponentially more love in our home.

 

It won’t be just you and me in the same way ever again. For that, tonight, I shed a few tears.

 

I  want you to know that for a moment, I pause. I honor what has been. I mourn for what will be no more.

 

I will miss us, Little Love. I will miss what has been so very, very perfect…

 

All my love,
Mommy