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Monday, August 26, 2013

To My Children on their First Day

This is what I want for you and wish for you. School is full of greatness but there are moments of challenge that can happen through it. You just be there and be a kid everyday and leave any possible worrying for the grown-ups. That is what we are here for. We were given children to remember what joy feels like it. So my dear loves, here is your checklist for childhood living:

Be kind
Be a kid
Be a student
Be a friend
Be you
One of a kind beautiful you

Be present and amazing things will follow. You try your best every day. And I promise I will try too. You have already made me proud.
Let's do this loves...
Happy 1st and 3rd grade and preschool too-

All my love.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dear Estella

Welcome to the world little beauty. You are my sister's third baby girl which makes me one wonderfully grateful aunt. I need to make a few promises to you right out of the gate on this day that you were born. Here is the thing with promises, they are not meant to be broken. I will do everything I can to be a constant in your life, a reminder that I see you, your potential and I will be here.

I promise to love you like one of my own children. Actually, I promise to love you differently than my own children; in a way that makes me appear cooler, hipper than my own children could possibly ever see me. The thing with them is that I have to keep on being their mother. Always. Oh so responsible for how the turn out and all the pressure and to do lists that comes with that. But for you and your sisters my responsibility is just to be fun. Sweet beautiful bliss. I'll take it.

I promise to buy you adorable, completely non-practical clothing. Of course you need baby skinny jeans. I recently stared way too long at a 0-3 month size trench coat for you that cost twice as much as mine (we will wait for that to go on sale, love). I promise to give you cookies the size of your head and gigantic banana splits. I promise that there will be slumber parties in your future where bedtimes will be ignored. I promise that you will see the ocean. And catch fireflies. And play hide and seek. I promise to laugh with you. I promise to dance with you. I promise to listen to you without judgement. I promise that I will want to hurt the first person that breaks your heart. But I won't. Aunts are not here to embarrass. That's why there's parents.

You are the twelfth grandchild for your Grandma and Grandpa. Lucky number 12. It seemed that for awhile there that it would be eleven kids to carry on this great shrieking family laugh of ours but you and your parents had other plans. This speaks to your momma's great strength. She would have jumped through flames to make sure you arrived. She knew her world would not be complete without you in it. She was destined for the miracle that is you. You have made this world more whole.

Every life is a gift. A glorious one that should not be taken for granted. I can not wait to see what you will do with it. I promise to love you. Always have. Always will.

Cheers to you gorgeous...
Aunt Katie

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yes. My Hands Are Full.

Strangers say oh so many things when I'm out in public with all of my children. "Are they all yours?" Yes. "Are they identical twins?" No. There is a key part of their anatomy that makes boy/girl twins not identical. I've been asked if I needed a nanny. Or a television. But without a second thought the #1 most commonly spoken stranger comment is (drumroll please...) "Your hands sure all full."

I'm asked this almost every time we go out in the world. Sometimes several times in one outing. I can't even imagine how the Duggers ever even make it through anywhere. I know people mean well but it is a somewhat exhausting comment. Exhausting really because I could never come up with a witty or even semi-witty response. When the twins were babies and I was schlepping them around in a double stroller, two grocery carts or sometimes some variation of one in a baby bjorn and the other in a sling with my older two by my sides, I typically gave a sleep-deprived "yes." Or an unspoken forced smile with desperation in my eyes.

Where does my latte go?

As time marched on and more sleep was had by all, the well-meaning strangers would still say it again and again "You sure have your hands full" and I would try my best lines on them like a comedian, trying to gage their reactions of whether my response worked or not. I tried "You should see my laundry room" or a simple truth "I drink a lot of wine". Sometimes a dramatic "help me" seemed to go over well. 

After almost nine years of parenting and four years of surviving these twins, I think I've finally found the right response. It's not witty, maybe borderline cheesy but it is the truth. And I love honesty. Here goes:

I'll let you know if I come up with something else but for right now where we are in life, it absolutely works. I'll take a full soul any day.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Skinned Knees and Wild Hair

Skinned knees and wild hair. If you were a perfume that is what I would name you. The scent would be of the sweetest season of childhood. The perfect blend of suntan lotion, melted ice cream and summer rain. When people would spritz it on their wrists they would feel... free. Free of worry. Free of care. Free of feet touching the ground.

The thing is though, I'm just not sure there would be a bottle large enough to contain you. I hope there never is. You aren't the type that should ever be contained.

There is so much beauty in your freedom. Wild curls always untamed, dirt under fingernails, grass stains on knees that have fallen tirelessly from legs that want to run faster than your feet can catch up. You are a girl that loves the fall as much as the twirl. My favorite part is that you get right back up to do it again. And again. You have earned your grass stains.

I do wish that I could bottle this moment. This place in time of you belly down on a swing with laughing eyes and having nowhere you have to be but the backyard. I know I will blink and you will be boarding the schoolbus with freshly brushed hair, matching unstained clothes and shoes that don't have glitter on them. You probably won't even want to wear a purple tutu to the grocery store any longer.

I learned how quick little girls grow by watching your older sister. I wanted all of those sensible things too early for her. All of the control. All of the perfectly combed pigtails. All of the time wasted battling over me choosing the coordinated outfits for preschool instead of giving her the freedom that she wanted deserved. I thought everything had to appear so together because I presumed that it was a direct reflection of me. Of who I was as a parent. I was too caught up in what other people thought of me to let her fully express her own thoughts and style. I didn't realize how much more rewarding it is to let kids just be who they are instead of trying to mold them into a smaller, better version of myself.

I learned. And luckily for me, (I hope) it wasn't too late. Because she was four and Niko was two when you and your twin brother came into our world. Something had to give. Anyone who could dress themselves quickly became my favorite people in the house. The more mismatched the outfits were, the happier her and I both felt. Ballerina costumes and anything with zebra leggings were all the rage. Somewhere in a disorganized box, I even have a picture of her wearing a pale pink sundress with the January snow falling high behind her.

In a few too short weeks, she will be boarding the bus in a matching-much-analyzed-perfect-for-the-first-day-of-third-grade outfit. After we kiss her and Niko goodbye, you and Micah will walk back down the hill to our house by my side for one last bittersweet year. I vow to you this: I will soak in this essence of childhood as much as possible while it is still within my grasp. It won't be long now until I have to set you free. But until then I will watch you be my wild child, laughing, swinging and getting up again in an absolutely crazy fun little number. And I will be there absorbing you in, learning more than could ever be contained.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Why I Wear a Bikini

I am 33 years old. I have given birth to four children. And I wear a bikini.

My body is not perfect. But it is mine. It tells stories of a lifetime. The birthmarks, the bumps, the bruises. The testaments of a clumsy but full life. The stretchmarks from adolescence that have never completely faded. The tattoo on the small of my back from a 19-year old's spring break completed at a flea market in Mexico (sorry Mom). The tan lines of wedding bands rarely taken off. The chipped toenail polish of feet that yearn for a pedicure. The calloused fingers from writing too much (though most days it feels like not enough). The map of veins in legs that seem to grow brighter, more present with each year. The hips that are full, the breasts after years of breastfeeding that somehow are not and the abs that will never be 22 again.

I have a body that says life has grown within it. I will not hide it, miracle machine that it is. I will nourish it, protect it and celebrate it. After all, it does house my soul.

And those lives that have flourished within it and now outside of it, are looking at me. Up at me. They watch and listen to how I treat my body and soul. They learn how to treat their own. There is great power in the potential of these everyday moments. Our children take in more than we could ever give them credit for.

So before we judge the best and worst bodies on the beach, let's remember that it takes more confidence to be in the sand than it does to stay inside of a hotel room. Our bodies whisper our deepest memories so let's listen to one another with open minds and respectful eyes. And when you find yourself yearning for that 22 year old stomach, remember the wisdom that you have gained with each passing year and that is a breathtakingly beautiful thing.

Rock that bathing suit baby. It is just the gift wrap of your radiant soul.