What Else, Mama?

So, it’s Valentines Day. I’m aware of this solely mostly because at 11 PM last night I was frantically putting together 26 gifts for my 3-year-old and a dozen more for my little babe to give their friends at school. (I mean, seriously…what do you get babies for Valentines Day?? I was pretty proud of myself here…)

We also got a couple of small things for the girls, and as we sat at the counter for breakfast my oldest asked, “What did you get for Valentines, mama?” I immediately felt unsure of how to answer, because my husband and I had decided not to spend the money on gifts this year when we didn’t really need to.

“Well…I got some flowers from Papa, baby…” (hands-down my favorite Valentines tradition…)

“What else, mama? What else did you get?”

“Well…I got you and sissy and daddy, so that’s pretty awesome…”

“But WHAT ELSE, mama?!”

I couldn’t help second guessing our decision to “skip” Valentines. The doubt crept in…

Should we have exchanged gifts so the girls would see that we got each other something?

Do they think this means we don’t love each other?

I mean, what kind of couple doesn’t celebrate Valentines Day?!

Maybe we should both pick something up today to exchange tonight?

But I stopped myself mid-thought.

…NO.

Because what an incredible opportunity to teach my daughter that we don’t have to BUY each other things to prove our love; to show her that love can be expressed in ordinary, every day actions just as much as expensive, extravagant gifts. Maybe even more so?

So I started thinking…what did my husband get me for Valentines this year? Or, put another way…how did he show me love today?

He got the coffee set-up late last night so this morning when I woke up (before the sun) it would be waiting for me…because he knows my day doesn’t really start until after the first cup.

He fixed a bowl of oatmeal for me to shovel in my mouth on the way out the door…because he knows if he didn’t I would have skipped breakfast all together. And probably lunch, too. Because who has the time?

He got our toddler out of bed, got her dressed and fought her through every bite of a sausage biscuit sandwich…because he knows my mornings with the little involve a lot and if we divide and conquer we all get out the door a little less frazzled.

He made time for the school Valentines Day party in the middle of the afternoon, even though he had a million other things to do…because he knows if he didn’t our oldest would have been heartbroken. And he loves me well by loving our girls well.

He responded to our daughter’s cries from bed that she was a little hungry…then a little thirsty…then that her foot itched…because he knows that by bedtime there’s not a whole lot of me left.

He didn’t say a word when I sat down after dinner…without cleaning up…to have a little time to myself. To eat cheesecake, drink my latte and write…because he knows that sometimes that’s exactly what I need.

He loved me this Valentines Day by showing up.

Correction: He loves me every day by showing up.

So baby girl, when you ask “what else” …that list could go on forever.

 

Love you to pieces.

To my strong-willed daughter…

Tonight, we had a tough night. Like, a mama locked herself in the bedroom for a grown-up timeout kind of tough. Tonight, you broke me. But after I got you to bed and began to pick-up the scattered pieces of our house and my heart left in the aftermath, I saw this paper you had brought home from school…

Immediately, it brought me back to you. And in that moment, I desperately wanted you to know…I see you. Yes, baby girl…you. I see you, and I love you to pieces.

Through the stomping and the screaming, I see you. I see that you don’t like what I’ve done or said or asked of you, and you’re making your opinion known. I see that you clearly know what you want, and in your own way, you’re standing up for it. I see that you are willing to fight for yourself, no matter the consequence. And deep down, I know this is a trait that will serve you well someday. Today is just not that day. But I see you baby girl…and I love you to pieces.

Through the tantrums and tears, I see you. I see you dealing with great big emotions that are difficult to process and impossible to contain. I see that you are feeling overwhelmed, unheard and misunderstood. I see that you’re seeking not only attention, but affirmation. Affirmation of who you are and what you are feeling. Yes, I see you baby girl…and I love you to pieces.

Through your stubborn head and sensitive heart, I see you. I see that while your brain tells you to never back down, your heart tells you the consequences will hurt. I see that those parts of you are in constant conflict. I know that you equally dislike letting me win and letting me down. And sometimes, the biggest battle you fight is with yourself. Please know I see you baby girl, and I love you to pieces.

I see that through your veil of defiance, you desperately want my approval. You push me away, but never let me get out of reach.

I know that you’re pushing your boundaries. Testing my limits. Seeing if I will follow through. And even when it’s hard baby, I promise you I will…even when giving in would be easier.

Because you are worth the hard. You are worth the fight. You. Are. Worth. It.

I know that these pieces of you that are so incredibly difficult right now, if channeled correctly, will be unbelievably beautiful as you learn how to use them for good.

I know that being your mother will. not. be. easy. But it will be the most incredible, rewarding, worthy thing I’ve ever been called to do. And even when you think I don’t see you…that I don’t understand who you are…I promise you baby girl, I do. I see you, because when I look at you…I see so much of me. So even when it breaks me, I will love you to pieces.

Love you most,

Your Mama

Dear Emmy,

Yesterday afternoon, I posted this picture for the world to see:

I shared it because it filled my heart with joy. We were all at church, and as I looked down our row I thought to myself, “We are so abundantly blessed.” Papa was holding Lexi, your daddy was holding KK, Auntie was holding Lakyn and the older girls were proudly performing every song the worship team played.  My heart was truly overflowing. I was so, unbelievably happy.

Later in the day, I was feeding Lakyn while listening to the older girls playing downstairs. Sister fell asleep in my arms, and instead of laying her down, I decided to just pause and enjoy the moment. But in the stillness and solitude, the sadness washed over me….

That picture should have six little girls in it.

And just like that my joyful, happy heart was shattered.

We should have needed on more seat when we sat down at church.

 Nana should have had one more little girl shaking sprinkles on the Christmas cookies.

 There should have been five sleeping bags on the floor at bedtime.

 There should be presents under the tree with your name on them.

 When people look at our crew and say, “That sure is a lot of little girls!” …what they don’t know is there is another one missing.

 3 Gillespie girls. 3 Hummel girls. Even playing field.

There should be six.

Sometimes A lot of times, grief hits me this way – in the happiest moments. Probably because it’s those moments I most feel your absence. I feel the hole that is left in our family with you not here, and I wonder if anyone else feels it, too.

Tonight, as we have every Christmas Eve since you died, we will light a candle in the center of the table that will burn in your memory. Your stocking will hang in its spot above the fireplace. A crystal angel that your Papa gave me our first Christmas without you will sparkle with the lights on the tree.

We do our best, sweet girl, to make you a part of who we are as a family. We are a family of 5. A family of 12. Without you…we are not full us.

On these days, I feel your absence in the depths of my soul. My heart aches for you. But when the sadness threatens to consume me, I remember how lucky I am that you were mine at all. I remind myself that God knit you together perfectly and wrote your story flawlessly. And even though you are not here, He is still writing.

He is the master author of each of our lives, and in the final chapter there is a common thread: death. But that is not the end. Because on the first Christmas, He gave the world a baby. A baby born humbly, who grew into a faultless man – God’s son, who died so the rest of us might live. So that even if when someone we love goes before us, we can hold to the hope of a heavenly reunion.

This Christmas, while I wish you were here to decorate cookies, sing in church, unwrap presents, and add one more little girl to our family photos, I will remember that God is uniquely using your story to write mine. That He gave you life with a plan and purpose – just like His own son. God gave His son’s life so that you and I would not be separated by death. And in the waiting, I never want to lose sight of that promise.

So for now, know that I miss you. And when I look at that photo, I know there are six little girls in our family. And one day, we will all be together again.

Miss you most,

Your Mama

You got this, mama.

This afternoon, JUST as I got the little to drift off to dreamland in her carrier, big woke up from her nap…almost an hour earlier than usual. Like L-I-T-E-R-A-L-L-Y as I was snapping this photo and about to IG-brag about getting both girls to sleep at the same time, the first “Moooommy!” rang out. With daddy gone and only AM childcare today, I just had to make it work.


Did that mean answering e-mails from my phone while I fed the baby? Yep. Did that mean more Paw Patrol than I’d like to admit so I could get #justonemorething done? You bet. Did it look like the perfect work / life balance? NOPE. Because honestly, what does that even mean??

It was a hard day. It was a looong day. Like, a mama needs an iced latte and a little This Is Us on Hulu kind of day. My job sacrificed for my girls. My girls sacrificed for my job. And I sacrificed for both. But…we made it. And tomorrow is a new day. A new day with 8 hours of childcare — Can I get a AMEN?!

Mamas, this is hard stuff. It’s a hard season. We know it. We feel it. Babies and toddlers are H.A.R.D. Whether you’re a WAHM, a SAHM, a WOTHM (is that even a real acronym?), a bio mom, a foster mom, an [insert anything here] mom — IF YOU ARE A MOM IT.IS.HARD. But you got this, mama. WE’VE got this. If you had a hard day today, remember tomorrow is a new one. And you were made for this.

Bearing our Blessings

  • something that is carried; a load
  • a duty or responsibility
  • something oppressive or worrisome
  • that which is borne with difficulty
  • an obligation

These are all definitions of the word burden. And today, I felt each one of them in one way or another. Today, I allowed myself to become burdened. By nothing in particular, but everything in general.

This narrative is not a novel one: that we should reframe our burdens as blessings. And for good reason. Because while there are certainly burdens in life that are so heavy it’s hard to see the good…most generally in our first-world culture, burdens are the product of abundance.

Nonetheless, today I felt it all. Overwhelmed. Anxious. Crushed under the weigh of expectations (albeit mostly my own). I was just…burdened. So for myself (and for you) I thought I would unpack and try to appreciate these burdens for what they truly are.

Burden: I had a work call that didn’t come in when I thought it was going to and then ran way later than expected. // Blessing: I have a job that is flexible and allows me the freedom to work from home. And I have bosses who love my kids and wanted to say hi when they heard them in the background.

Burden: I had to dig out our checkbook to pay our water bill because the rural water district doesn’t do auto-drafts or online payments. // Blessing: I have clean, potable, running water in my house. In. My. House. I have lived in places that do not have this, and trust me…it is a blessing.

Burden: I was tripping over the open suitcases on the floor of our mudroom, still laying around unpacked from a trip we got home from three days ago. // Blessing: We have the means to travel to see family and friends who live over 500 miles away.

Burden: Lexi informed me that she got blood from a scratch on her sheets during nap. Her white sheets. That I washed less than a week ago. // Blessing: My daughter has her own bed in her own room where she gets to lay her head down at night in a warm house. And she can sleep just as soundly in sheets that are dirty as she does in sheets that are clean.

Burden: I did three loads of laundry today only to have the basket piled full with dirties again because of multiple outfit changes by my toddler and husband. // Blessing: We all have plenty of clothes to wear and machines that wash and dry those clothes easily and efficiently.

Burden: Because my work call went late, I needed to feed the baby as soon as I hung up. So my husband offered to cook, which left the kitchen looking like a war zone. // Blessing: Multiple. We have food in our fridge. And our pantry. I have a husband who cooks. And…cleans up.

Burden: All. Of. The. Pine. Needles. On. The. Floor. // Blessing: We have a beautiful Christmas tree that we decorated as a family, making the sweetest memories and the beginnings of family traditions.

Burden: There are a hundred things on the “to do” list that seems to just keep growing. Every day, it feels like I take one step forward and then fall on my face. It can often feel like there is not enough of me to go around. // Blessing: I have job where my work is valued. I have a family that needs and wants me. I have a beautiful house, a running car and more love in my life than I know what to do with.

If you’re feeling burdened today too, know that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel those hard feelings. It’s ok to acknowledge that some days are just too much. But as you sit in those hard moments, remember that you are most likely bearing your blessings.