My {Most Likely Last} Maternity Pictures

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“Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be.” – Carrie Fisher

We are excited to welcome another baby (boy or girl—we don’t know!) to our family in May.

Thank you to Josey Miller (@storyanthology) for coming out to the farm to take our photos.

My Old Farmhouse

One of the first things I noticed when I came to Rich’s house (now my house) for the first time was the kitchen. The salmon-colored cabinets and orange carpet were hard to miss. The kitchen was a time capsule—frozen in 1955. The most impressive part was that (almost) everything worked—it was a fully-functioning kitchen, despite how it looked.

I embraced that kitchen for over six years. I never worried about cutting on the countertops—scratching them was the least of my concerns. I wasn’t diligent about scrubbing the cabinets like I should have—because I knew eventually they would all be torn out. I really did want a new kitchen, and I would often find myself scrolling Pinterest past all the ‘farmhouse’ kitchens—kitchens nowhere near any farms. But I didn’t push hard to get a new kitchen because I knew how long the process would take—and I was anxious about making so many decisions. What if I picked something I hated, but then I was stuck with it for the next 50 years? It all felt too overwhelming.

But this past fall we started moving forward with our plans. We picked the appliances and cabinets, then the countertops and flooring. The decisions felt just as daunting as I had imagined—but we took it one decision at a time and before Christmas we had everything picked out.

On January 19th we emptied the kitchen and moved out of the house. I stood in the kitchen for one last time, knowing the next time I saw the kitchen the cabinets would be ripped out, the carpet torn away. (I have more thoughts on all of this that I’ll share at some point.) I took a few final photos, then closed the door and walked away.

After 36 days (not that I was counting), we moved back home. The kitchen was one of the last remaining rooms in the house from the original build. There are still some elements to the house leftover from 1955, but we have put our stamp on every room in the house.

While it’s always felt like my home these past six and a half years—this kitchen really feels like mine.

That’s carpet—not linoleum. Last pictures before we left the house the night before the remodel started.
After everything was torn out.
Cabinets and countertops installed.
Flooring installed to match the living room.
New ceiling—which was not part of the original plan. But the contractors discovered one side of the ceiling was about 3″ lower than the other, and it had to be fixed.

The finished room.

 

Ruined // On Coffee + Crumbs

“I think I’ve ruined him. He starts school tomorrow, and I feel like I’ve lost all my chances with him.” I say.

My husband, Rich, reaches across the console of the car and rests his hand on my arm, “I think you might be overreacting.”

I turn to face the backseat of the car, where a few seconds ago Rhett had stuck his tongue out at me.

“I know he’s not ruined.” I exhale. “But the first five years were all mine,” I say, looking out the window at the fields passing by. “Sometimes he’s disrespectful and doesn’t listen to me, and I wonder if I failed at everything I was supposed to do.”

“Do you think maybe you’re just sad he’s starting school?” he asks.

I shake my head, “A little, but that’s not all I’m feeling.”

//

Click over to Coffee + Crumbs to read the rest of my essay.

 

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Embracing the Light

The change is so subtle, it feels like it happened overnight. And maybe it did. Slowly, the morning light breaks through the prairie skies sooner, and the light lingers well into the 5 o’clock hour. Wasn’t it just yesterday it was pitch black by five? During the winter months, the light would vanish, enveloping our house like a cacoon—calling everyone in for dinner. The end of the light outside acting as a signal to come in. When I think back to an afternoon outside with the kids, I recall an edge in the air—so crisp it felt like I could reach out and grab it, and like a reflex, I would reach up to pull my hat down over my ears.

“Mom, I’m hungry!” I glance at my phone, not realizing it’s already nearing 4:30, and I have zero plans for dinner.

“Do you want a cheese stick while I figure out what we’re having for dinner?” I ask. 

Once I’ve passed off two cheese sticks and a sliced apple, I search through the fridge and pantry, hoping something will magically appear. At the same time, I begin to wonder what time Rich will be home. I think back over the last few months of winter and how we had begun to fall into some semblance of a routine. 

In the fall as the days shortened, his schedule did too. After a long spring of planting, followed by hot days of haying, then harvest, which rolled right into fall planting—the shorter days of fall and winter felt like a balm to my weary soul. A bit of the weight of carrying the kids, both literally and figuratively, had dropped from my shoulders. In the long seasons, I rarely count on him being home before dark—which in the peak of summer is after 10 p.m. The sun acts as a time card, he punches in at sunlight and doesn’t punch out until dusk or dark. 

While I love the longer days and the extra sun hours of sun that stream through the windows. The longer days also mean more hours of being alone for the kids and me. 

The next day, the kids open the shed in the backyard, pulling out their outside tractors and bikes, getting out their John Deere Gator, which was stored away for the winter. While they are still wearing their stocking caps to break the wind from their ears, they can feel a change in the season too. Even though it’s barely March, we all are ready for a change. But with that change also brings a sense of dread over me. 

I feel guilty complaining about the hours of light coming back, and the sunny, warm days ahead. Instead of thinking of the hard moments yet to come, I close my eyes and think of all that spring brings. From the buds on the trees to my tulips in the front yard to the afternoons spent watching the kids ride their bikes up and down the gravel road in front of our house. I’ll switch out my stocking cap for a baseball cap. I imagine in the coming weeks I will sort through the box of hats and mittens, hoping to find all the pairs (a losing game to play). I’ll store them away, knowing that next winter some of them will be outgrown, the kids another year older. 

While I know the coming days will bring hours of time when I’m alone, I want to remember how good the sun feels. I want to embrace the extra hours of light. I know some days that will be harder than others, and I’ll still find myself counting down the minutes until bedtime—while also reminding the kids that sometimes we go to bed when it’s still light outside (thank you, blackout curtains). 

As I look out the window, I hear the sound of the Gator on the gravel. I pull the curtains back and see Allie driving alone—her bright pink hat contrasting with her blue jacket (Rhett’s hand-me-down). I watch in amazement as she steers the Gator into the garage, parking it without hitting anything. Last year she couldn’t reach the pedals, no matter how hard she tried. Now here she is, proudly driving alone. I quickly walk to the garage door and open it. 

“Allie! Look at you!” I say. Her broad smile matching mine. 

In the light of day, the changing of seasons brings more than just daylight—it reveals the growth that’s happened over the winter, and a gentle reminder of all the goodness yet to come. 

 

On Cake and Love

“Not that I’m counting, but I see you with your second piece,” Rich says with a wink as I bring a forkful of tiramisu cake to my mouth. 

I smirk and happily scrape the rest of the cake from the bowl, not wanting to waste a bite. “I’ll probably regret that tomorrow, but it’s so good.”

“Nah, you deserve it,” he says. 

A couple of weeks earlier, while digging through the chest freezer looking for something to make for dinner, I found a Rubbermaid container filled with Rhett’s birthday cake. Dinner was pretty much forgotten once I discovered the cake. While the cake itself is made from a box mix, I use my mom’s recipe for buttercream frosting and then I decorate the cake. I don’t consider myself a pro by any means, but it’s my one “crafty” thing I do for my kids. And it’s the only true tradition I have kept going for five years. 

Growing up, my mom made all of my birthday cakes too, which I know has influenced my desire to make my kids their cakes too. In the early years my mom picked the cakes she would make, but then I started picking my own designs, from Winnie the Pooh to the Tasmanian Devil. Each year on the night before my birthday, after I went to bed my mom would stay up and finish my cake. When I woke up on my birthday, the cake was perfectly made and displayed on the kitchen table. 

I know my mom was up well past when I went to bed, and I only know this now because I’ve found myself up late, putting the final squeeze of frosting on the cakes for my kids. And every year I ask myself, “Why did I want to do this again?” But the next morning when the kids wake up and I see the looks on their faces when they see their cakes for the first time, I remember why I stay up late. 

Now back here in my kitchen, I open the Rubbermaid container, impressed to see the cake still looking delicious—not a speck of freezer burn. Rhett sees the bright blue frosting and says, “My birthday cake! Is today my birthday?” 

I pause, honestly surprised he remembered his cake from almost six months ago. I laugh, “No, this is just leftover from your birthday.” 

After dinner, I slice the cake and each of us has one piece—and I am impressed at how well it tastes for being frozen. 

One-piece remains, and I put the container back on the counter. 

The next day, Rhett asks for the cake again and Rich tells him, “Nope, that’s Mom’s piece.” Whether he said it because he loves me or is scared to get between me and a piece of cake, I’m not sure. But I love him for it anyway. 

According to Gary Chapman’s book about the five love languages, quality time is my love language. And while I definitely know that’s true, I believe cake is part of my love language too. It’s more than the taste of the cake, which don’t get me wrong, I love. It’s the time my mom spent making 18+ cakes in my life, and now the time I’ve spent making cakes for my kids.

Cake marks special occasions and traditions. From birthdays and weddings to the everyday—such as a solo trip to the grocery store. There are also the vacations I’ve taken to visit friends, where I’ve dragged them to the nearest Sprinkles cupcake store (shout out to Melissa and Sprinkles in Scottsdale). Or the times Rich has surprised me by bringing cupcakes home from town when I knew he had to go out of his way to get them. 

Just like I can picture most of the cakes my mom made me, I hope my kids remember some of the cakes I make for them. The fact that Rhett knew this was his cake six months after his birthday, already gives me hope that this tradition is meaningful.   

I don’t expect them to remember each cake, I just hope the memory of how they felt on their birthdays doesn’t completely fade. Even though my cakes are far from perfect, I want them to know I did it out of love for them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of cake in the kitchen that’s calling my name. 

//

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Love Languages”.

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I surprised Rich by having this groom’s cake made for our wedding.
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Accidentally lit my hair on fire on my 30th birthday.
Feb2020BlogHop
@phoenixfeatherscalligraphy for C+C, 2020

What She Remembers

She can’t remember who called to tell her the news. Although the call wasn’t unexpected, it was the type of news no one is ready for. It was a cold Friday in January, there was probably snow on the ground, but she couldn’t tell you for sure. 

A few weeks before, she’d traveled home for Christmas. Her new boyfriend drove down the day after the holiday to meet her family. They had only been dating a few weeks, but they’d both agreed the timing felt right. She wanted him to meet her dying aunt, her mom’s only sister. She was the aunt who never missed a birthday party and passed on her love of baking to her niece.

They went to her aunt’s house and talked while she laid in bed, but the aunt she once knew wasn’t there anymore. When they left, with tears in the corners of her eyes she whispered, “I wish you could have met her before.”

She thinks that was the last time she saw her alive. When she looks back on 28 years of memories she feels guilty she can’t remember the last moment. What did they talk about? What was the last thing she said to her? She assumes it was, “I love you,” but it feels like there should be something poignant she can clutch in her memories—a lingering hug, or her aunt’s words of wisdom to carry with her.

After she received the call, she went through the motions of her workday. She didn’t make plans to leave early—she thought she had enough time. She went home for lunch to pack her bag and put it in her car. Then she sat through her last class of the day, wishing she was with her aunt, instead of in a classroom with 12th graders.

When the school bell rang, she locked her office and left the building. It was dark soon after she was on the interstate. She didn’t hear any new updates from her family and assumed no news was good news. 

Three hours later she arrived in her hometown and went to her sister’s house. She thought they would go see their aunt together, for what might be the last time. As she sat on the couch, she thinks she asked, “Do you want to go and see Aunt Dee?” 

Her sister said something like: “Haven’t you talked to Mom?” The details are fuzzy, but the confused look on her sister’s face is clear in her memory.

“No, I just got here,” she said. Shortly after, their parents’ headlights crossed the front window. She isn’t sure who said, “She’s gone.” Was it her mom or her sister? She wishes she could remember. When she tries to grasp at the memory, when she tries to make sense of it all, she doesn’t have a face to put to the words. 

Her first reaction was anger. Why hadn’t someone told her? As she sat in tears, her dad said, “We knew you were driving and we didn’t want you to be upset while you were on the road. And there was nothing you could do.”

She knew she should have left work earlier. Maybe if she had been able to say her final goodbye she would actually remember the moment. There might be a final word she could cling to, something she could hold in her mind as her memories started to fade. 

The boyfriend became her husband, and now they have two kids. Her kids will never meet her beloved aunt, gone too soon at 50 years old. She has albums filled with photos she will show them over the years—but it will never be enough. 

She doesn’t talk about how she feels losing her aunt. She didn’t lose a mom, or a sister, a wife, or a grandma. It seems like her loss is less than the others. So she keeps her feelings tucked close to her chest, thinking of her aunt often. She keeps their texts saved, wishing the conversation was still ongoing. That instead of the last text being about a guy she was bringing home to meet the family, she was sending photos of her kids playing in the snow, of them on their birthdays. 

She knows there never could have been a perfect “goodbye.” And had she known the last time was going to be the last, it wouldn’t have been any easier.

Most of all, she wishes her aunt was still here. She wishes that January day never happened. But that’s not how the story goes.

Instead, she walks into the kitchen and takes out her recipe book. She reaches for the card with the familiar handwriting, running her fingers over her aunt’s lettering. She might not remember her aunt’s exact last words, but here in her kitchen—she is filled with her aunt’s voice, one scoop of flour at a time.

//

Deanna Ruth Walker was born May 5, 1962, and died on January 11, 2013. She was a beloved mom, wife, grandma, sister, friend, and, my aunt.

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Mom, Should I Have a Snack?

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From morning til night,
The requests never end.
We just had breakfast.
It’s almost lunch.
How can you still be hungry?
Someday I know I’ll miss being the keeper of snacks.
But until then, can you go and ask your dad?

 

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@pheonixfeatherscalligraphy for C+C, 2020

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “On Repeat.”