Things I Love, Big and Small

I love making lists.

I love when my slippers match my hoodie and joggers. I love nicknames, Harry Potter, painted toenails, raw cookie dough, and soft skin.

I love the curls of steam that rise from a hot cup of coffee.

I love when he lets me put my cold hands under his shirt.

I love how, when I sit down with a cozy blanket, our dog seems to know and she finds me.

I love that I get filled with the warm fuzzies of fondness and affection whenever I think of some of my college professors. I love that I still keep in touch with a handful of them.

I love vulnerability and authenticity.

I love my youngest daughter’s curly, untamed hair.

I love the freckles on my shoulders and on oldest daughter’s nose and cheeks. (I wish she loved them too.)

I love singing “Amazing Grace” with a room full of people.

I love summer days that are 72 degrees with a light wind and I love autumn days that are 52 degrees with sunshine after a heavy rain.

I love the smell of a library.

I love rainbows that stretch across the sky when rain and sun collide.

I love honesty, even when it hurts.

I love, on the days when I am unreasonably irritable and demanding and emotional, he holds my hands in his own and looks me in the eyes and says, “I love you.” I love feeling seen, known, and understood.

I love forgiveness.

I love to give gifts even more than I love to receive them and I especially love when it’s an over-the-top surprise that they never saw coming.

I love that it’s our policy not to kill spiders in our house. I love my love for animals and that my kids have inherited (or learned?) that kind of love too.

I love massages.

I love connecting with random strangers about random things, like the rain we’re both trying to get out of, or the child who won’t stop screaming, or simply because I did something nice like hold open the door for them.

I love adding songs to my next birth playlist, just in case there’s ever another birth.

I love dreaming, imagining, hoping, planning. Praying.

I love how my oldest son and daughter will do a deep dive into subjects that fascinate them, like Greek mythology and spiders and dinosaurs.

I love grumpy old people and mischievous toddlers.

I love babies in sweaters and winter hats.

I love that strawberry jam, Thanksgiving Day, and Black Friday make me think of one friend in particular.

I love hearing my husband laughing aloud at what he’s watching on YouTube while he does the dishes. (I love that he does the dishes.)

I love birth photography and black and white images and the contrast of shadows and light.

I love stories about second chances, and unrequited love, and overcoming the odds. I love stories that make me weep.

I love when he calls me “babe.”

I love that my kids love the candied sweet potatoes from my childhood.

I love how my heart leaps when I unexpectedly see a Steller’s Jay in our backyard, beautiful blue wings against the backdrop of a forest of evergreens.

I love new friends who feel like old friends and old friends who never feel new, even with years and miles between us.

I love flannel sheets and flannel shirts.

I love how our “baby,” newly walking, toddles around like an unstable drunk man. I love that when he falls down (which he does, often), he gets right back up with a huge smile on his face and just keeps going.

I love the mullet that forms when a toddler’s hair grows faster in the back than on top.

I love roses and how, when the wind blows, you can smell the ones growing in our yard.

I love long, dangly earrings.

I love maxi dresses and sweaters that slip off my shoulder and cute boots and cropped jackets.

I love my 8-year-old’s long lashes, gigantic eyes, and how she’s never met a stranger. She loves everybody and will say hello to anyone and I often think, I wish I could be more like that.

I love buffalo plaid everything – sheets, scarves, oven mitts, slippers, pillows, purses, paperclips. Everything.

I love a fireplace flickering in a dark room.

I love hospitals and airports.

I love Hawaiian sunsets.

I love a British accent.

I love passion fruit and pickles and eating a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate chips.

I love Indian food.

I love winter sunshine and summer rain, big hugs, sledding with my kids, reunions, hot showers, and the smell of baking cinnamon.

I love the sound of birds singing on an early morning walk.

I love every doughnut ever made as long as it doesn’t have bacon on it.

I love when I put my hair into a messy bun just right and I look cute-messy and not hot-mess-messy and not old-lady-messy.

I love how our 6-year-old is almost always half-naked when he’s at home and how his laughter can’t be contained.

I love when his little sister comes upstairs after waking up and says in her sweet little voice, “Good moaning, Mommy.”

I love people who surprise me, who make me want to do better, who challenge me, who question me, who take no prisoners and get shit done. I love people even though I also really really love to be alone.

I love silence.

I love lines on a carpet left behind by a vacuum.

I love old houses, old cities, and ghost stories.

I love telling people I have 15 siblings. I love knowing I have 15 siblings after nearly a lifetime spent as an only child.

I love hills that are alive with the colors of autumn.

I love being pregnant and the anticipation and hope of a new life, a future that has just barely begun.

I love newborn babies. I really love newborn babies curled and asleep on my chest, their warm weight, their indescribable but delicious smell.

I love nursing newborn babies a few minutes before dawn, just as the sky starts to lighten. I also love nursing newborn babies next to a twinkling Christmas tree in the middle of the night.

I love how a tween can seem so grown up one minute and, the next, she is playing “bad babies” on the floor with her siblings. I love that she still needs me.

I love Philippians 4:13 and always have.

I love laughing uncontrollably, until my stomach hurts and tears pour down my cheeks.  I love having someone to laugh with. I love people who make me laugh.

I love how, when my 3-year-old has nothing to play with in her carseat, she makes her fingers or her feet talk to each other.

I love dirty chai tea lattes.

I love dusty rose pink, mustard yellow, and olive green.

I love London and how I always feel at home there. I love Australia and all its wonder and mystery. I think I love Ireland and Africa and one day I will find out for sure.

I love the vastness of the ocean and how I always feel in conversation with God when I stand on the shore.

I love friends who text me randomly to say, “Hey, how are you?” or “I’ve been thinking of you,” or “This reminded me of you.”

I love the smell of onions and peppers cooking in a frying pan.

I love that, even as I approach forty, I am still the apple of my mama’s eye and she tells me I’m her “hero” because I do things she would never even dream of.

I love how safe I feel when I fall asleep with his hand on my hip.

I love a good lens flare. I love buttery golden light and bokeh.

I love reading writing that makes me swoon and feeling inspired to write for the first time in a long time.

I love being appreciated and I love being loved. I love being grateful.

I love that there are countless things to be grateful for and that this list is really just the beginning.

(This post was inspired by Ashlee Gadd and Katie Blackburn.)

Because We Love Them

I wrestle my 4-year-old into his costume as he wiggles and squirms and gloriously laughs with his head thrown back. He’s the most ticklish of the four and every time I grab his hand to pull it through a sleeve or brush his longish hair out of the way to fasten the velcro at the back of his neck, he’s sent into a fit of giggles.

Once he’s been successfully transformed into Optimus Prime, I move on to his baby sister. She’s not yet one and a half and finds it a delicious game to try to escape down the hall as I chase after her. As this is the third time putting her into her costume, we have a familiar back and forth now. I put her foot into the leg hole; she pulls it out. I shove her arm into the sleeve; she pulls it out. This continues until, through my own sheer willpower and speed, I’m able to force her into the little pink monster costume before she is able to undo all of my hard work.

The two big girls can get into their costumes on their own, but they still require Mom’s tutu-fluffing and sleeve un-twisting skills. They need their hair done. They need their picture taken. They need my thumbs-up when they ask, “Do I look ahhhh-mazing, Mom?”

For them, Halloween is magical and delicious, permission to play dress-up and eat more candy than they’re normally allowed. For me, maybe for moms everywhere, it’s misery. Getting four kids into and out of their costumes over and over and over again must be what Hell is like. I can think of no greater torture.

After our weekend trunk-or-treating festivity, there is an explosion throughout the house of costume pieces that have been discarded by the kids as they transformed back into their adorabley average human children selves. I scramble around, trying to collect them all, keeping each piece with the right costume so as not to have a complete meltdown by one kid on The Big Day (i.e. Halloween) because of a missing headset or gold belt.

It’s too much and I hate it all. Do they have a Halloween Scrooge costume? Because that’s what I should be wearing this season. It’s just too damn much.

A few nights ago, I spent a half hour searching for their trick-or-treat bags, followed by another twenty minutes laying out winter coats and boots for them to wear at the school Halloween carnival last night. I spent the good part of summer listening to three out of four of them brainstorm costume ideas. There is glitter all over my bed from my daughter’s rockstar costume. And in the kitchen, there are three plastic bags filled to the brim with candy. It’s not yet Halloween, and our lives are already overrun by Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. Earlier in the day, I had to endure The Great Negotiation of 2019 with my oldest daughter, as she argued why they should each be allowed to have five pieces of candy from their bags, plus the bowl of candy corn and Mike and Ikes that she was given at the Harvest Festival. I also had to carefully comb through her younger sister’s bag of candy to remove anything with dairy and nuts in it because of her allergies. I’m tired.

November 1st can’t come fast enough.

So then, why do it? Why engage in this annual song and dance of costumes and candy and “No, you may not eat anymore today,” and “Please stop asking” and “If you steal another piece from your sister’s bag, I will…” I mean, why put ourselves through that?

After lunch today, I was helping my son get into the shoes that matched his costume and he said so sweetly, “Thank you for letting me be Prime, Mommy. Okay, Mommy? Thank you.” He’s my wild child right now, full of energy and giggles and silliness and sometimes aggression. He’ll tackle you to the ground when you least expect it. He’ll throw a Magic 8 Ball at your head and bulldoze you as you stand at the stove cooking dinner. But of all his siblings, he is the one who always notices if someone is sad or upset. When I have my period, he rubs my achy tummy. And this crazy, unpredictable boy of mine, he has a heart overflowing with gratitude.

I think back to two weeks ago, when his costume first arrived in the mail and he was nearly shaking from excitement at the possibility of trying it on for the first time. After we did the first of many transformations, his eyes lit up as he stared into the mirror and straight into the eyes of one of his favorite characters. “Oh, thank you, Mommy,” he said. “This is the best!”

And suddenly, the answer is so clear why we do it.

The answer is so simple.

Because we love them.

We do it for love.

When my oldest daughter was almost three, she became a big sister. Naturally, it was a hard transition, especially for her. One day, I was exhausted from having a newborn (duh). I hadn’t showered in almost a week, had dried spit-up on the shoulder of my shirt, and I had dishes to do. But my daughter was whiny and irritable that morning, and the baby was sleeping and so I asked my 3-year-old if she wanted me to play with her. “Oh yes!” she said enthusiastically in her tiny voice and so we played with her princess castle for twenty minutes.

It was the most boring twenty minutes of my life.

Call me a bad mom, but I do not love playing with my kids. But I did it then on that day years and years ago and I did it over and over again, every morning, for weeks. I didn’t really want to be there. I wanted to be doing dishes or sipping a coffee or, best of all, napping. But my daughter needed me. She needed my presence. She needed my undivided attention.

I played with her because I loved her.

And so it goes for Halloween and every other task we do. Some of them we do because we want to, yes. For me, that’s the photo books I make every year and the annual Christmas Tree Interview I conduct with each child and a myriad of other things, of course. But many of the things we moms and dads do, we do because we have to. Or because we’re supposed to. And yet all of them? All of them are done because we love them.

Them, who know the right buttons to push and like to push them all the time.

Them, who turned our hearts inside out and our worlds upside down the moment they came into our lives.

Them, who we’d die for.

Because we love them, we play Barbies and cars and Littlest Pet Shop ad nauseum. Because we love them, we play Candy Land until our brains bleed. We read the same book over and over. We listen to the shrill squeak of a violin that is just learning to be played. We watch them do a somersault again and again and clap every time. We push them on the swings when we’d rather be sitting down reading a book. We sit on the sidelines of a soccer game on the coldest day of the year. We hold them as they puke, comfort their fears in the middle of the night, kiss the booboo that is barely there because it makes them feel better. We make them get vaccines, or we choose not to. We try to breastfeed even though it’s hard. We spend a small fortune to take them to Disneyland. And when we can’t do one of these things, or we choose not to, we feel guilt because we think we should. And all of it? However easy or hard, small or big, all of it is done because we love them.

So know that on Halloween, as all the neighborhood children pour out onto the streets to sweetly ask for a trick or a treat through gaps in their teeth, I will be there too, following behind four little ones of my own, reminding them not to drag their candy bags on the ground and to stay close so as not to get lost in the sea of other monsters, superheroes, and celebrities. I may be counting down the minutes until the night is over, but I will be there. Because I love them.

And after they’re tucked into their beds at night and I know for certain that they are asleep, I will sit down with a hand full of candy, stolen from the bag of the little ones I just put to bed. A little reward to myself for surviving the last week. I’ve earned it.

But also, isn’t it obvious? Cavities and sugar highs and stuff. They don’t need that. Every bite of Skittles and Twix that I take, I’m doing it in the name of love.

I’m doing it because I love them.

To My Forgotten First Child

Note: I wrote this one years ago. It’s been sitting in a folder since then. And though my first child has grown and our family has changed, it still speaks to me. In so many ways, I’m still working to make sure she doesn’t feel forgotten.

Dear First Child,

Yesterday, I laid down on the couch as your little sister brought her toy doctor kit to me and started doing a check-up. It was the first time I had sat down all day, and as soon as I was on my back, you were there next to me, curling up in the crook of my arm and resting your head on my chest. Your blonde hair tickled my chin, and my heart. You smelled of pepperoni pizza and Oreos. I breathed that in and held you close and thought of my own childhood.

While your sister worked away, checking my blood pressure and listening to my lungs, you reached up to softly kiss my cheek. “I love this, Mommy,” you said, and over and over again for the five minutes that I was there, you said a version of the same thing. I love snuggling with you, Mom. I love spending time with you. I love when we cuddle. I love being with you. I love you.

And it struck me then, in that moment with your warm weight against me, that it had been too long since I had held you like that. You are the oldest of three children. I am busy, I am tired. There is a long list of things to do that calls for me every day, and a baby who needs to be breastfed frequently and a toddler who demands more from me than you do. And though I tell you I love you all the time, and put fairy wings on when you ask if I’ll pretend to be Tinkerbell, and read a story (“just a short one, okay?”) at your request, it’s always done in a rush, in between this thing I have to do and that thing I want to do and and there are a thousand thoughts swirling in my head as I sit with you and that’s not okay.

You never really ask me for much of my time. You never seem to mind that I have to leave after watching just one coffee table performance of “Let It Go” so that I can vacuum the house or change someone’s diaper. You are always so happy to just get a passing squeeze or high five or “I love that picture you drew!” You know that you are one of several and I have many responsibilities and not enough time or energy for everything. And though you act out in other ways, when you so willingly accept that my resources are limited, it’s easy to forget that you still need me. Just as much as the others do. And as we laid there yesterday, your bony shoulder pressed into my armpit and your sweet voice saying, “This is so nice, Mommy,” I feared that you felt easily forgotten, too.

Just minutes after our quick snuggle, I rushed off to take your fussing baby brother out of the swing and to start dinner, but I vowed to do better. And today, I did. We built a fort with blankets and kitchen chairs, and I crawled in there with you and made up a story about a fox who makes funny noises. You laughed aloud and I felt like Mother of the Year.

Thank you for making me feel that way.

And the next time that I fail (because surely I will) and get distracted by everything and everyone else who needs me, please come to me and wrap your arms around my waist and look up at me with those huge eyes under those long eyelashes I have always coveted and then I will remember. I will remember that you were my first, you made me a mom, and you still need me.

You may feel forgotten, my love, but I promise that you aren’t and I will try every day to prove it to you.

I loved you first,

your mommy