Bringing Home Oscar

Over the years I have become a self-proclaimed, “Crazy Cat Lady.” (I figured I should jump on calling myself that before others coined me with the name.) A year or so after I finished my undergrad I would occasionally search the shelter website in Laramie looking for a kitten. I knew what I wanted: a Tuxedo cat. (Obviously I have fancy taste.) For those of you who don’t know, a Tuxedo cat is black and white. One day I was looking at the website and as I was scrolling, I knew found the one. I can still picture his little face, the white whiskers, white around the mouth, and four white paws. I told my co-worker, Kara, “I found my kitten!” After showing her the picture, she agreed I needed to go and get him.

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Skittles, no longer a kitten, at my apartment in Bozeman. Naturally he was sitting at the kitchen table.

Fast forward almost seven years, three moves, and a couple boyfriends, but I still had Skittles. He slept in my bed, often tearing up the sheets at the bottom. He was slightly annoying in lots of ways, but I loved him anyway. When Rich and I got engaged, I moved to town and into an apartment that didn’t allow pets. I brought Skittles out to live at the farm until we got married. One evening we let him outside, as he often scratched at the door (in every apartment I had he did the same) and wanted outside. We let him go out that night, not thinking anything of it. And we never saw him again. This was 10 days before our wedding, and I was devastated. Rich felt horrible. He searched all over, looking in fields and the shop, and even setting a live trap in hopes of catching him. Nothing. I would call him from town with tears in my eyes, “Have you seen Skittles?” He would quietly respond, “No.”

My mom told me a short time after we assumed Skittles was dead, “God knew you needed Skittles until Rich came along.” I responded, “Why can’t I have Skittles AND Rich?”

A couple months after we got married, my mom found a black and white kitten and asked if we wanted him. At first I said no, I wasn’t ready to replace Skittles. But eventually I said yes and we brought home our first baby (don’t tell Rich I said that).

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Welcome home, Fred!
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A side-by-side comparison of Fred and Skittles. Such fancy fellas!

The last few months Rich has said multiple times, “We should get a dog.” I have never been a huge fan of dogs: they smell, lick, need a lot of attention, and did I mention, they smell? Last Thanksgiving my sister was telling me about goldendoodles. I hadn’t heard of them, but after doing a quick Google image search: I was in love. Or maybe that’s a little extreme. Let’s say I was in definite ‘like’ territory. We were in Red Lodge for the holiday, and I was driving down the street and like fate would have it: I saw a couple walking a goldendoodle down the street. In a move totally unlike me, I pulled over. Then I took it a step further and called out to them, “Is that a goldendoodle? Can I pet him?” Which I did. I went back to the house and told everyone I met a goldendoodle and now I definitely wanted one.

Over the winter I had been following a woman on Facebook with doodles. She had two pups left from a litter and she kept posting that they were still available. I messaged her a few times, but the timing never felt right: potty training in the cold winter, calving season, did we actually want a dog? Last week I randomly contacted her again and she still had the two puppies. She told me someone was coming to get one on Saturday, but there would still be one left. I told her we would come on Sunday.

Long story short, we brought home Oscar on Sunday evening. He is six months old and is the quietist, chillest dog I have ever met. (He does smell a bit. Although he doesn’t shed.) He didn’t whine or cry once on the six hour drive home. He is supposed to be a petite goldendoodle, but he already seems fairly big for six months . . . I guess we will see!

I might have romantic ideations: picturing the kids running and playing with the dog this summer, skipping over the work that dogs are. But on the drive home with the puppy Rhett told me, “I’m real glad we have this dog.”

Welcome home, Oscar!

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Oscar and Rhett digging in the tree row. (Oscar is due for a grooming.)

Why I Write

Many years ago, I stood nervously behind a heavy gold curtain, waiting to go on stage at my first dance recital, it was right before Christmas. The lights dimmed, the curtains opened and the music started. All the girls began dancing around, but I just stood there. My black patent shoes frozen in one place, my hands at my sides. My mom whispered anxiously to my dad, “Should I go up there?” My dad, who was unsure of what to do said, “Let’s just wait.” And they did. I stood there frozen with fear the entire song.

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To this day, performing in front of a crowd is still not my forte. I’m a typical introvert and speaking in front of a group (heaven forbid: dance) is sometimes enough to make me freeze up like I did as a preschooler on stage. For many years I wasn’t sure where I fit in. In most situations I feel like an outsider looking in, even when I’m right there in the middle: leaving me feeling like that little girl once again.

When I became a mom four-and-a-half years ago, most of my wants and needs went out the window. I didn’t have time to think about my passions or what made me feel like myself. A year after I had my second baby, it felt like we were finally settling into a rhythm. One day I found myself constructing an essay in my head; itching to grab a piece of paper and bring my thoughts to life. The calling felt real; but I heard another voice in my head too, saying, “You don’t have time for this. You’ll have to wait until your kids are in school.” I listened to the voice for awhile, agreeing there wasn’t time. My writing would have to wait.

A few months later, after an extremely challenging day in town with my kids and an interaction with a kind older woman, it felt like the only way to process what happened was to write. I came home and turned the TV on for the kids and I wrote. I was able to express myself in ways I hadn’t in years. When I put my fingers to the keyboard, it felt like a direct connection was being made from my thoughts to the world. It was one of the most freeing moments of my life.

Several months after that first dance recital, we had our spring recital. I imagine my parents were nervous leading up to the program. Would I dance this time or stand frozen with fear again? But, they dressed me in my pink tutu, did my hair and sent me on-stage. My mom says now with a laugh, “The curtains opened and you were all over the stage! Your dad and I thought you were going to fall off!”

I would like to say as an adult I became that precocious and outgoing girl from the second recital, but really I am still reserved. There are days I wish I was the outgoing one, the one that everyone gravitates toward. My friend Danielle is this person: she lights up a room with her infectious smile and laugh, along with her easy going personality. She’s quick to hug and you can tell it feels natural to her. I tend to gravitate toward the wall, picking up bits of conversation and standing with sweaty palms, wondering how much more small talk I have in me. Sometimes I envy her; but that isn’t who God made me to be.

Feeling at ease in social situations will likely never be my calling, and I’m realizing that’s okay too. The way she connects with others isn’t the way I connect to the world. I find myself connecting to my feelings through writing: constructing essays in my head while I walk around. I use stories to process my feelings.

Sometimes writing and motherhood feel at odds with each other. Every time I have a thought I want to get out: the kids need a snack, or help in the bathroom. It can feel like they are holding me back. There are also times I feel like my writing is taking away from being their mother. The days I find myself stealing away time in my laundry room to write, I still feel that nagging in my stomach. You’re ignoring your kids. Shouldn’t you be playing with them instead of writing?

In reality, they give me stories to write about and writing offers me a way to process being a mom, wife and woman. I hope someday the stories I have written: from essays in publication to the journals I keep for them, will give them a true glimpse of my heart. My days still revolve around them, but now I’ve made it a priority to write in the margins of the day. Some days that is only five minutes. For now that is enough. Because when I’m writing, I channel my confident, second-recital self; using my words to make a paper bridge, paved with words between their hearts and mine.

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Still Looking for Love

Still Looking for Love

Despite the wind blowing outside, I’m comfortable and warm with the down comforter pulled up to my chin. The kids are fast asleep. The only light I see is from under the door—a glimmer of the last strand of Christmas lights hung above the picture window in the living room. I turn my head to Rich and say, “I want to write an essay about ‘love after babies’, what should I write?” I hear the bed creak as he turns over, and even through the dark I can tell he is looking at me.

He pauses and teasingly asks, “Is the title going to be ‘Still Looking for Love After Babies’?” We both laugh.

I gently nudge his arm. “Maybe. I’ll let you know when I find it.” He rolls back over, and it isn’t long before I hear his heavy inhales and long exhales: his rhythmic breathing telling me he is fast asleep.

I lay there, eyes wide open, beginning to think about what he said. I close my eyes and picture our wedding: his gray suit, his eyes fixed on me as I walked down the aisle in my white sequined dress. I was about to marry a man I’d met less than a year before. But it didn’t feel crazy. It felt right. I had found my soulmate—the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Much of the preparation before our wedding was about the ceremony itself, not the marriage. I knew he wanted kids, but how many? Was he a morning person or a night owl like me? (Spoiler alert: he loves mornings and I’m a night owl.) I didn’t worry about any of those things. Instead, I agonized about the details right in front of me: what flowers would be in my bouquet, what the groomsmen would wear. It didn’t feel like we thought much about what came next. We just knew we were in love.

“Mom, mom, mommy!” Rhett cries from his bedroom. I let out a sigh, I’m not sure I’d even fallen back asleep after getting up with Allie only an hour before. I gently nudge Rich’s back, loudly whispering, “Rhett is awake, can you go in?”

He quickly inhales a breath, finally awake. He doesn’t say anything as he gently eases himself out of bed. I hear the door shut behind him and through the wall I hear his mumbled voice: “It’s okay, Rhett. I’m here.” I snuggle back under the covers, grateful to stay in our warm bed.

Five years into marriage and two babies later, love comes in different ways. It might look like getting up with the toddler while I sleep. Or bringing home pizza when I don’t feel like cooking. It’s easy to feel like our marriage isn’t as exciting as it used to be. We don’t go on weekly, or even monthly dates. But you will find us holding hands in church and going for drives to check on his crops in the field. Some mornings he leaves Post-it notes for me when he rises for work, long before the sun comes up. And other times it looks like grinding coffee beans for me, right as I’m about to brew my first cup of the day.

While what he said was meant to be a joke, it reminds me that we always have to keep looking for love. Love before babies felt easy and exciting: an adventure. But our wedding day was the start line, not the finish line—our signatures on our marriage license the silent crack of the starting gun.

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The next morning as we are getting the kids’ breakfast, he stops to give me a hug and says, “Are you still looking for love?”

I laugh and kiss his cheek before grabbing my cup of coffee. The months of December and January mean feeding the cows every day on our ranch, which has become the kids’ favorite time of year.

As the sky finally starts to redden around the edges, the first light appearing, he says, “Get your boots on, let’s go feed cows.” Both kids jump down from the table and run to the front door. I instinctively look over at Rich. His eyes light up, creases forming at the corners as his mouth widens in admiration of Allie.

She starts pulling on her cowboy boots and exclaims, “I go feed cows!” We both smile and laugh as she runs back toward us, boots on the wrong feet, but her heart in the right place.

As the kids and Rich head out the door to feed the cows, I watch out the window with my cup of coffee in hand. Sometimes, love feels hard and I can’t remember what it was like before we had kids. But mornings like this when I see the excitement on the kids’ faces and the admiration on his: I’m reminded why we started this race together.

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This essay was inspired by the writing prompt #love after babies from Coffee + Crumbs.
My friends, Molly & Cara, also wrote essays about #love after babies and I would love if you would click over to their essays (and give their blogs a follow too).
52 Minutes” by Molly Flinkman
Butterflies” by Cara Stolen

Why I Take My Wild Child Out in Public

This post was originally published on Her View From Home one year ago today. I wrote this after a particularly challenging day in town with my kids. I wrote this and submitted it for publication without telling anyone, I was afraid it would be rejected and I wanted to keep the rejection to myself. But, it wasn’t rejected! Thank you to Her View From Home for accepting my first piece for publication (and all of those since then) and giving me the courage to keep writing. And thank you to my kids for continuing to challenge me, giving me things to write about.

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“You’re a brave mom for being out in public with him.” I could have easily been offended by the older woman’s words, but truthfully, I was feeling like I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide, or at least go home. The words she said after that, as she squeezed my shoulders, told me that she wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings—but that she had been there. “My boy was the same way. I had to tie him in his crib for two years.”

My three-year-old gets referred to in many different ways: spirited, busy, wild, a handful, and many others. And he is all of those things. There are times I do feel brave for being out in public with him. But mostly it doesn’t feel brave, it’s a necessity. I have to get groceries, and sometimes I have to take him with me. Sometimes we need to eat lunch in public, although I would prefer to avoid it.

I never pictured myself being a “boy mom” (although I don’t fall strictly into the Boy Mom Club, as I also have a one-year-old girl). I was that person in the past who would see a spirited child in the store or at a restaurant and think, “Wow, do they not care that he is jumping around and making so much noise?” Now I realize, yes, they do care.

I’ve read a lot of articles on how to deal with “spirited” children and it seems like whenever I’m in the moment, I don’t know the right thing to do or say. And then it just seems like I have zero control over my child. But I do care. I would love for him to sit quietly and eat his lunch. I would love to be able to enjoy a meal in public without having to reprimand him every 15 seconds. But that’s not who he is right now. What most people don’t see though are the times when he will say, “Hug you,” meaning he wants a hug. Or when he says, “I’m going to give you a kiss.” Or when you have a Band-Aid on and he says, “Are you okay, Mama?” He is a wild boy with a big heart.

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The older lady reminded me that kids do grow up. And I’m sure if she had sat down and had a conversation with me, she would have told me to enjoy his wild ways and big smile and to not feel like everyone is watching me (although I am certain they were). She would have said that someday I would be able to sit and have lunch with a group of my friends in the quiet. But would I enjoy the quiet? Or would I want for the times when my little boy is testing every ounce of my patience?

I know that this window of time is so short in comparison to a lifetime. He will spend most of his life, God willing, as an adult and on his own. I won’t get to be on other side of all of his sticky hugs and slobbery kisses. I won’t hear, “Mama, look at this!” or “Mama, watch me jump!”

I know how cliche it is to hear, “You’ll miss this time when it’s gone.” And I know that I truly will. But some days, it really does feel brave to be a mom of a spirited boy. I could have been offended by the woman’s comment, but really, I took it as a compliment. I am brave. I have been reading Annie F. Down’s book, 100 Days to Brave, and every chapter feels like it was written just for me. I have never really thought about being brave and what that means in everyday life. God wants me to be brave, and not just live my life passively. My little boy teaches me that I can be brave, too. If he can jump off the couch without any fear (although sometimes I wish he would have a little fear), then I can be free to be me, not just a mom. I can explore my interests and hobbies and remember who I was before I was the mom of wild boy. And sometimes it takes a little nudge from a three-year-old and from a stranger at a restaurant to remind me that I am brave.

This essay was originally published on Her View From Home.

When a Farmer Has a Son

The first step into our home brings me onto the chocolate and caramel colored floors, which run the length of the house. The rich color attracts dust, something that is in great supply on the farmland that surrounds our home. The floor is smooth under bare feet, but I feel the grooves as I walk over each plank. My feet have become worn, my heels, smooth. I have trudged these floors bringing in groceries from the garage and pacing them with my newborn.

We spent nine months not knowing if we would be bringing home a boy or a girl. I had dreamed of a daughter, not imagining what it would be like to have a son. When the doctor announced, “It’s a boy!” my eyes widened and my mouth was empty of words. After the initial shock wore off, I was in total awe of this dark-eyed boy. I never could have imagined the heart-stopping moments that come along with raising a young boy. Or how much I have began wondering what having a boy means for our farming family.

Twice now, we have brought babies into our home. Both times we were filled with excitement and fears, each in different ways. The first time was fear of the unknown, the second, fear of the knowing. We brought our son down the hall to the living room to introduce him to his new home.

When a son is born to a farmer, does a father immediately take a sigh of relief, knowing that his land will be passed onto a future generation? Does a mother draw in a breath, imagining the pressures for this baby who just entered this world?

While my son is still young, he appears to have an interest in farming. A farm boy has the privilege of seeing trucks, riding in tractors, and getting dirty in real life. His toys are replicas of his daddy’s work equipment, and play means driving the combine to the field and hauling cows to the spring pasture. I love seeing my son following his dad, taking two steps at a time to keep up, his little cowboy boots kicking up dust. His eyes lock onto his father, his little face shaded under his baseball cap. But moms of future farmer boys worry over all this fun. During our most recent trip to urgent care, my son pleaded with me several times, “Mom, we have to get back to harvest!” All while the doctor was stitching his finger.

Just like the dust that is constantly surrounding us, so is the work. As I glance out the picture window, I tire at all the work that is to be done. Farming is a family affair: from harvest meals in the field delivered by the farmer’s wife, to the dryer full of grain long after the last stalks of wheat are cut. Work begins when the sun comes up, and the tractors don’t shut down until after the sun is long gone.

I am not sure if we will ever know how much our influence has impacted his passion for farming—are we steering him toward this future? Like the reins on a horse we must be careful to guide, not push. Children, like seeds planted in the fertile soil, bloom and grow up. But I am raising my son to work alongside us. The harvest may be great.

When harvest is in full swing, my days are mostly spent alone with the kids. We feel the long days with my husband not home. After the dishes have been washed from the latest meal brought to the field, I find myself walking down the hallway in the quiet dark. Everyone is asleep. The floor is lined with plastic farm equipment, ready for another day of harvest. Behind this door, sleeps a firstborn son who is living up to the hope that the farm will be passed on to another generation. I pray that we lead him in the way that he wants to go, all while giving him every opportunity to succeed in this humble life if he chooses it.

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6

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This essay was originally published on Her View From Home.

 

 

November Musings

img_3701When I started my blog this summer, I had good intentions of posting regularly. In no big surprise to myself, I have not blogged as often as I hoped. A fellow writer, Molly Flinkman, does a monthly blog post with a round up of what she’s written and read in the past month. I am going to try this out and see what happens. So, here goes!

//What I Read//

I love reading; but find myself going through spurts where I read non-stop followed by a dry season where I don’t read at all. This fall was mostly a “dry” season in reading for me, but I picked back up the last month and read five books in November (two were audio).

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
“When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.”

I really liked this book and would call it a romantic mystery. I’m not a huge fan of thrillers (i.e. being scared), so this one fit the bill perfectly for me. It kept me guessing the whole time and I was not right in any of my predictions. I gave this book 4.5 stars on Goodreads (if you could give half stars).

Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart by Becky Thompson
This was a pretty quick read and it felt like Becky was talking right to you. She recently Skyped into our MOPS meeting and I enjoyed reading her book after “talking” to her in real life. I felt like I knew her a bit and enjoyed her story.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
“Set in a remote health-and-wellness retreat, presided over by a very intriguing and charismatic guru figure, Nine Perfect Strangers introduces us to nine different characters with very little in common. Each has a compelling reason for coming to the retreat. Some seek healing while others wish to be transformed.”

I have read all of Liane Moriarty’s books, I think this is her 6th or 7th one. This book was admittedly not my favorite; but it was still a good read.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
“Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.”

I don’t always enjoy audiobooks: my mind wanders and I suddenly realize I have not been listening and have no idea what’s going on. This audiobook was 15 hours, which makes it the longest book I’ve ever finished on audio! The narrator did a great job with the different accents and characters, which made it a really fun listen. This is a must-read/listen!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This book is our December book club pick of the month. I don’t remember reading it as a kid, and Rich and I listened to it on audio while we were traveling for Thanksgiving. It was a short audio and a good read. Rich was driving, which meant I had more distractions and didn’t listen as well as I would have if I was driving. He kept me in the loop with what was going on when my mind started to wander.

My goal for 2018 was to read 40 books and I am currently at 47 (thank you to the Goodreads app for helping me keep track!). I hope to get to 50 by the end of December, but I’m currently in another reading slump, so we will see if that happens.

//What I Wrote//

Since April I have taken four writing workshops; two of them were this fall and I took them back-to-back. The second workshop was “Writing With Purpose” by Coffee + Crumbs writer, Sonya Spillmann. I highly recommend it for those who love to write. She is offering it again in February; click the link above to see if there are any spaces left! You won’t regret it. During this workshop I wrote a couple essays which I am still working on, and hope to submit for publication sometime in 2019. I also wrote an Instagram post that I shared yesterday about finding my purpose in a snack filled world.

At the beginning of November, “Finding Myself in the Laundry” was published on Sweatpants & Coffee.

My latest essay “A Farmer’s Son” comes out tomorrow on Her View From Home. I have been nervously waiting for this to be published. Some essays I am more proud of than others, and this is one of them. I wrote this essay during a workshop I took this summer from “Mothers Always Write” and the workshop happened to fall during the first week of harvest. This year the first week of harvest started out with taking Rhett to urgent care two days in a row, followed by a week of sickness for the family. Let’s just say it wasn’t the best time to try and take a workshop! But when I signed up I had no idea the week would turn out that way. I’m always nervous to see the comments on essays I have written, and I would say I am more anxious about this one than others. I’m not sure if it’s because of how I feel about the essay or more that I worry people will read it wrong and make assumptions about me. Probably both.

//Final Thoughts//

Last year I discovered that Coffee + Crumbs accepts guest submissions twice a year, and they don’t accept many. I put it on my list of goals for 2018 to submit an essay to them. I wasn’t brave enough to write down that I wanted to be published on C+C, just that I wanted to submit something I felt was good enough to submit. I wrote an essay in April and I saved it all summer to submit in their open submissions in September. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. Submissions opened in late September and I clicked submit for the first time to C+C. To say I felt anxious was an understatement; then I had to wait. For over a month I waited to hear back from them. At the end of October I finally received an email: it was accepted! I don’t know when it will be published yet, sometime in 2019. It felt like such an accomplishment and I can’t wait to see it on their website next year.

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Thanks for reading! Hopefully I can keep up with this each month (and maybe something in-between every now and then). This was fun – thanks for the inspiration, Molly!

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Myself in the Laundry

While the kids are happily playing together, I retreat to the laundry room. The laundry room also doubles as my study. I always feel rushed when taking time for myself, not knowing how long I actually have. In an effort to set a calming mood, I light my new candle. The scent of pink magnolias begins to enter the room.

I hear the towels going round and round in the dryer, along with the wool balls that hit the drum. I close my eyes and imagine the comfort of a fluffy, still-warm towel after a hot shower. Last year, this room was just a laundry room. I don’t know why I didn’t take notice of the space before; maybe it was the too cheery yellow walls that didn’t feel like me. Or maybe I wanted to spend the least amount of time with my washing machine as possible. One day I realized the space being used to hold my husband’s dresser would make the perfect desk for me. He happily agreed to move his clothes.

To find out what this photo has to do with my laundry room, click over to Sweatpants & Coffee to read my latest essay.