Moms Say Sorry, Too // On Coffee + Crumbs

This is my first summer as a mom of three, and I feel like I’m failing.

The smell of burnt hamburger fills the room, intensified by my baby’s sobs from the playmat on the floor. My shoulders rise; the tension is palpable.

“I know, Nora, we’re past your naptime. I’m sorry,” I say, but her crying is only getting louder.  

“Allie, can you please talk to Nora?” I beg my nearly four-year-old. “I’m almost ready; then we’ll take dinner out to Dad and the guys in the field, okay?”

“Hey, No-yah,” Allie croons as she kneels beside her baby sister. She starts making silly faces at Nora as I turn back toward the stove. Then, realizing how big the flames are on my new gas range, I turn down the knob.

I spoon the slightly burned taco meat into each flour tortilla, the steam rising from the green Dutch oven with each scoop. Allie abandons her big sister duty to watch me and climbs up the off-white drawers—the black handles perfect ladders for her tiny bare feet. 

Nora’s crying continues, so I walk to the front door and grab her car seat. After placing it on the floor beside the stove, I pick her up and snuggle her to my chest.

“I’m sorry, Nora,” I whisper in her ear while rubbing her back. Then, I lower her into the car seat and buckle her in.

“Allie, can you get her pacifier from my room, please?”

Allie jumps from the counter, her long dark hair bouncing down her back. I continue putting together the tacos, rocking the seat with my foot. A bead of sweat trickles down my face, and I wipe it away with the back of my hand. The blistering August heat combined with the gas range and the witching hour makes the late afternoons nearly unbearable.

“Here you go, baby,” says Allie, as she shoves the pacifier into Nora’s mouth.

Nora begins to rapidly suck the pink owl WubbaNub while rubbing her eyes. Turning back to the stove, my shoulders drop, and I let out a sigh. I tear off a sheet of aluminum foil, covering the last plate of tacos, and Nora begins to scream again. Grabbing the car seat handle with one hand, in a last attempt to calm her, I begin to swing it back and forward quickly. Soon, I realize she isn’t making any noise—the kind of quiet that scares me rather than comforts. Looking down, she is bright red, and her cries have taken her breath away. Her eyes scrunch closed—then she lets out a huge wail.

“I’m so sorry, Nora. I didn’t mean to scare you!” Immediately, I unbuckle the straps and pull her out of the seat. Then, with her clutched to my chest, I gently bounce her, continuing to whisper my apologies into her ear.

Despite my wish to keep holding Nora, I strap her back in the car seat.

Allie stands by the coat rack at the door, silent, with her eyes locked onto me and her sister. Looking down at her feet, I see she has on her pink cowgirl boots. “You ready? I ask.

“Yup, I got my boots on!” she says.

Then, I load the girls and all the food into the pickup, and we take off down the road.

“Mom, does she think you’re a monster?” Allie asks, her legs dangling below the seat, swinging back and forth. Her gaze fixed out the window.

My eyes are focused on the gravel road, shoulders still tense. “What?” I ask.

“She thinks you’re a monster,” Allie states, her legs still swinging.

“Who does?” I ask, looking at her through the rear view mirror.

“Nora,” she says, pointedly.

“I don’t think so,” I say, shrugging my shoulders, my hands still firm on the wheel.

Allie stares out the window, watching the harvested fields pass by. Her interest in the conversation is gone. I look at the clock, thinking Nora should be in bed sleeping, not just napping in the back seat. But I picture the guys in the field with hours of seeding ahead of them, their packed lunches long gone. I know they need dinner.

I hit the brake to ease into the field, and then it clicks.

Monster. 

She wonders if Nora thinks I’m a monster because I said, “I’m sorry I scared you.”

//

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

Dreaming of Someone I Used to Know

I unload the last box from my car and close the door to the apartment behind me. Turning back, I remember to lock the deadbolt, then collapse on the floor between the boxes. 

My mom walks into the living room, “Well, it’s all in! Do you want to start unpacking now or eat dinner first?” 

“Let’s order something in. My first take-out in the city!” I start to search on my phone for Thai take-out, excited to have so many choices right at my fingertips. 

“How are you feeling?” she asks, placing her purse on the kitchen counter. “The apartment is really nice.” She looks around approvingly. “Lots of good light.” 

“I’m thankful to not be in a basement apartment anymore.” I laugh, remembering the sound of the dogs running above me in my last apartment. “I can’t believe I’m here—that I actually moved. It still feels a bit unreal.” 

She nods, “I can’t believe you’re going to be so far from home. But I’m proud of you. I haven’t been to Seattle since I was a kid. What day does your job start, again?”

“Orientation for the new employees is Tuesday. I’ll get to meet some of the other counselors then too. So I have a few days to unpack and maybe explore the neighborhood a bit,” I reply. 

“That’s good you have a few days to settle in first,” she says. 

“I hate unpacking,” I sigh. “Thanks for coming with me to help. Maybe one of these times it will be a last move,” I say, laughing.

The food arrives and we sit in silence until the rain begins to fall—the sound filling the room. The temperature seems to drop suddenly, and I begin to shiver. Looking around at the boxes, I rummage through them until I find a sweatshirt and quickly pull it over my head.

//

Click here to read the rest of my essay at Kindred Mom.

Marrying a Farmer Isn’t What I Expected

Recently, a fellow farm wife asked me, “Was marrying a farmer what you expected?” 

I thought back to the summer before my farmer and I were married. In the evening after work, I would drive out to the farm, park my car, and hop into the buddy seat of the combine. Butterflies popped up in my stomach as my arm brushed against his tan, muscular arm. He had one hand on the wheel, with his eyes focused on the field in front of him. Our conversations ranged from wedding plans to harvest and the yield from the crop. (The farm talk mostly went in one ear and out the other.) It was just us, and we had our whole lives in front of us.

The sunset—lighting the prairie sky on fire, painting it red and orange. A beautiful contrast against the amber waves of grain rolling ahead of the sharp blades of the combine header. 

Eventually, the bright colors began to fade, giving way to a night sky. He still had more cutting to do, but I stepped down the ladder at the edge of the field. Turning to wave to him, I pulled my jacket around me—the heat of the day yielding to a cool summer evening. I went back to my apartment, where the dust bunnies were full of dirt, no cow manure or stray wheat. And my dryer vent only had lint—no kernels of wheat or straw mixed in with the blue lint. 

Shaking my head at the memory, I replied, “You know, I don’t know if I knew what to expect.” Then I laughed. “Farm life had a romantic feel to it. But I wasn’t living on the farm; I could come and go. I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

//

Click here to read the rest of my essay at Her View From Home.

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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The Magic of Christmas

Headlights cross our front windows, sending beams of light through the house. It’s early December, and although it’s only 7 o’clock, it’s already been dark for a couple hours. “Rhett and Allie, come see! Someone is here!” They run toward the window, peering into the darkness. A minute later, a man in a red suit appears, his black boots shining. Rhett pauses for a moment, then whispers, “Santa?” Last year he was nervous when Santa stopped by our house, and I’ve been wondering how he would feel about this year’s visit. Two loud raps hit the front door and the kids stand frozen by the Christmas tree.

My husband, Rich, opens the door and Santa booms, “Merry Christmas! Is this Rhett and Allie’s house?”

I walk over to the kids and start to usher them to the front door. “Hi Santa, how nice of you to stop by!” I say as Allie hides behind my legs and Rhett stands with his fingers in his mouth, inching closer to the door.

“Have you two been good this year?” Santa asks, kneeling on the floor. They both nod, their eyes wide.

“I heard that you have been and I wanted to bring you a little gift before Christmas!” He pulls two small bags from behind his back. Rhett cautiously reaches out to take one, but Allie shakes her head and hides behind me.

Rhett tears into his bag, while I slowly pull the gifts out of Allie’s bag, showing them to her. Santa says, “Well, I have to be going. Mrs. Claus is waiting for me at home!” He stands up and waves his goodbyes, then closes the door behind him as he disappears once again into the darkness.

//

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

Our Kids Are Only This Age Once

While we get our kids ready for bed, my son climbs onto his top bunk. He doesn’t sleep there yet but loves the somewhat “off-limits” idea of it. My daughter looks up at her brother and immediately points to him and says, “Up!” My husband gently lifts her onto the bunk and she starts running from one end of the mattress to the other.

My stomach starts doing flip-flops as I envision her falling headfirst onto the floor. “Sweetie, no running. Crawl.”

She looks down at us, “Huh?” as she tilts her head to the side, using both hands to brush the hair from her face.

My son looks down at his dad with a big smile and says, “You come up here, too?” My husband agrees and starts to climb the ladder.

I stand down on the floor, arms crossed, secretly counting the minutes until the kids are asleep and I can get back to my book. But eventually, I give in to their cries for me to “come up here!”

Truthfully, my heart swelled knowing they want me to join them. All too often I choose to sit on the sidelines, letting these moments pass by, worn out by the demands of motherhood and mentally clocking out before they are asleep.

To read the rest of my essay, click over to my newest story at Motherly.

 

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Unexpected Long-Distance Relationship

“Mom, who’s this?” my son calls from the living room.

With my hands fully immersed in the kitchen sink full of soapy water, I turn to face him. I can see the kids have pulled out a photo album. “Hold on, let me come look.”

As I walk toward them, drying my hands on a towel, I realize they’ve found an album from my final semester of college. Memories start flooding back as I kneel down beside them on the floor.

“That’s my friend and me when I lived in D.C. It’s a long way from here,” I reply, pointing to us, with the Washington Monument in the background.

As we continue to flip through the album, I remember my first day there. I was only 22. I took one step out of the airport, and a wall of humidity met me. The sun was beating down on that hot August day. Wide-eyed, I stared up at the tall buildings around me, traffic whirring by. I stopped walking and stood beside my brand new suitcases. People scurried past me with their rolling luggage. No one made eye contact. I definitely wasn’t in Wyoming anymore. Reaching into my purse, I pulled out a single sheet of paper. Although I’d read the address several times in the last few weeks, I paused and leaned on my luggage to steady myself. This was my new home.

Glancing up, I drank in my surroundings: high-rise buildings, concrete, and hot sticky air. I watched as yellow cabs slowed down in the street, people in suits raising their arms to stop a driver. I inhaled, grasped the handles of my suitcases, and tentatively stepped closer to the curb. My eyes wandered cautiously, and I slowly raised my arm in imitation of the other travelers. Eventually, a cab pulled up and the driver hopped out of his car. He came around to help me load my suitcases into the trunk: my entire wardrobe for the next four months, crammed into two bags.

With a thud, the driver closed the trunk. I walked to the back door, climbed in, and sat down. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The blast of the AC was a welcome relief on my sweaty face.

“Where to?” the cab driver asked.

With false confidence, I recited the address, and he nodded. The cab accelerated, and we were on our way. I peered out the window, taking it all in.

Three weeks before, I was living at my parents’ house on summer break from college. Earlier that year I’d applied for an internship with a senator in D.C., but weeks and months had gone by without a word. I’d mostly forgotten about it until I received an email in early August. “You’ve been accepted as a press intern in our senator’s office. The internship starts at the end of the month.” My stomach turned flip-flops. Was I really going to do this?

I said yes.

The next few weeks flew by as I found someone to lease my apartment, adjusted my school schedule, and said goodbye to my friends and family.

The night before I left, I went to my boyfriend’s house.

“You’ll come and visit me, won’t you?” I cautiously asked him as we sat on the lawn. In the silence, I passed my hand back and forth over the newly cut grass. The dark night surrounded us. An occasional car drove down the street.

He sat across from me with his arms draped over his knees. “Maybe. I don’t know. It’s only a few months. We’ll see each other at Christmas.”

Pulling my hand from the lawn and folding it into my lap, I replied, “Okay.” I was thankful for the darkness which hid the disappointment on my face.

Weeks later, with my briefcase on my lap, I sat on the orange seats of the Metro. This was my daily commute to Capitol Hill. The hot summer had faded into an east coast fall. The humid days floated away as the leaves began to hit the ground. In the previous weeks, I’d traded some of my false confidence for real confidence. In the mornings, I put on comfortable shoes to walk the few blocks to the Metro stop, taking the Red Line to the Capitol. When I arrived at my office, I sat at my desk and swapped them out for the dress shoes tucked inside my bag. My days were spent researching topics the senator was involved in and writing press releases with the deputy press secretary. She was only a year older than me and quickly became a friend and mentor, not only helping me with my writing but navigating the Senate and the city.

Changing shoes once more at the end of the day, I walked back to Union Station, swiping my Metro card for the ride home. One of my roommates, Chrystal, greeted me at our apartment. We’d never met before August but were paired together: a girl from Wyoming and a girl from Idaho. Both a long way from home. I dropped my bag on the floor and sat cross-legged on the couch as we swapped stories about our workdays. We passed the evening in an easy conversation. Once the dinner dishes were cleared, I called my boyfriend back home. In a typical conversation, I ended up arguing with him, not happy with who he was spending time with while I was away. I moved into the hallway and sat on the floor, so my roommates wouldn’t hear my sobs. As I hung up the phone, I wiped tears on my sleeve, quietly opened the door, and walked back into our apartment. Chrystal greeted me with a hug but didn’t ask me any questions—her presence was all I needed.

In the remaining weeks and months, Chrystal introduced me to more people. We visited monuments and museums and tried new food. She felt like an anchor when I kept trying to pull away, back to the comfort of where I grew up. She was mature beyond her years, and her confidence was contagious.

A year and a half later, I stood at the end of an aisle. My dress flowing, my hands clutching a bouquet. I’d spent the morning getting my hair and makeup done while butterflies popped up in my stomach. It was a warm spring day, the perfect day for a wedding.

The guests stood up and the bridal march began. I turned to face the white chairs filled with people. Chrystal walked up the aisle toward me, toward her groom.

She said yes.

We said yes to a friendship that crossed state lines. Through the years we’ve kept in touch through Facebook, text, and the occasional phone call. I flew back to D.C. to visit when her career took her back there after college. Later, we met for a long weekend in San Francisco, seeing the sights of a new city together. When she relocated to Texas, I spent a weekend exploring her new state with her. When I got married, she was there with me in Wyoming and later came to visit me at my new home in Montana. We’ve been there for each other in the good times and bad, and everything in between. Like most long-distance friendships, we go through phases where we talk often, followed by times when we’re out of touch. Even then, I know she will always be there for me.

Almost 15 years have passed since that fall in D.C. Now, sitting here with my kids, I run my fingers over the prints in the album. The Washington Monument, a football game in Virginia, a group of interns huddled under umbrellas, trying to stay out of the pouring rain in New York City. These are experiences I know I’ll never forget.

Flipping to the end of the album, I find one of the last photos: Chrystal and me with our cheeks pressed together. We have big smiles on our faces. I left D.C. that winter with more than a degree. I left with a friendship I knew would last a lifetime.

I close the album and pick up my phone, typing out a quick message to that girl from Idaho. Chrystal responds back, and we pick up right where we left off.

//

This essay was originally published at Sweatpants & Coffee.

Another Beginning

A letter came in the mail last week for Rhett, a note from his new pre-k teacher. While he already completed one year of preschool, this felt more significant. He will go to this school until he graduates; many years from now, some of the kids in this class will walk across the stage with him and receive their high school diplomas together.

As I opened the letter, the last five summers flashed before my eyes.

My belly bulging, the days punctuated with Braxton Hicks and the excitement of our first child.

The next summer he was learning how to crawl and wanted to put everything in his mouth.

The following summer, my belly was swollen with his little sister. On hot afternoons we would curl up on the couch, his head resting on my baby bump—trying to stay as close to me as possible.

The summer he was almost 3, it felt like we had finally found our footing as a family of four.

Last summer, he rode his balance bike non-stop and wanted to spend every waking minute working with his dad in the field.

What will I remember about this summer, the summer before he’s 5?

I can slowly feel the days slipping through my fingers, the days when our lives are just our own. No school schedules, no sports, no homework. His closest friends are his sister and cousins. His dad is his best friend.

I want to soak up the moments of this summer that feels like a last: swimming with the cousins, fishing with his dad, and late nights roasting marshmallows. My days full of random hugs and “I love you, Mom.” This is the last summer where the hot days of play aren’t seen as a break from school.

The weeks will fly by, as summers always do.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But this isn’t the end.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
It’s really just another beginning.

//

I wrote this in June and it was shared on Coffee + Crumbs in July. Today is Rhett’s first day of pre-k and I wanted to share this note to mark the occasion.

 

Some Days I Feel Like a Terrible Mother, But He Loves Me Anyway

I start putting a load of laundry in the washing machine when I hear the kids begin to argue in another room, no doubt over one of the many tractors that line the halls. “No, you need a time out! You go to your room!” my son yells. As soon as I hear it, a familiar sense of shame builds up in my stomach. I walk down the hall and calmly say, “Please don’t talk to your sister that way.”

Why wouldn’t he? He had obviously heard those very words before in this house.

 

To read the rest of my story, click over to my latest on Her View From Home.

 

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The View From My Kitchen // On Coffee + Crumbs

In the kitchen, I can hear the kids yelling in another room. It sounds like my son is trying to get his sister to play and from what I can hear, she isn’t being compliant. I am about to call out for them to “play nice,” but think better of it and let them be. When I glance down at the floor I notice the flour dusted on the carpet. I can’t remember when I had the flour out last and suspect the kids might have had something to do with it.

I hear the hum of the fridge and the tick of the old oven as it heats up. When I turn toward the window I notice the crunchy snow that is still on the ground, surrounded by patches of brown grass peeking through. Out of the corner of my eye I see the dishes stacked beside the sink, and think it’s a never-ending cycle of cooking and cleaning. The snow on the ground is a lot like my kitchen lately. As soon as the snow begins to melt and I think I can finally shout “spring is here!” It snows again. In the same way I feel a satisfaction when I wipe down the counters at the end of a long day, tomorrow there will be another meal to cook and another sink of dishes to wash. Our dishwasher has been acting up lately, leaving me to wash all the dishes by hand. Surprisingly it hasn’t bothered me as much as I anticipated; it’s somewhat relaxing to have my hands in warm water and the feeling of accomplishment when the dishes are clean and dry.

//

Read the full essay on Coffee + Crumbs.