She is called Mother

She is called Mother.

She is the one who, for 9 months, becomes two people in one as her belly stretches tight around the growing baby within her. Sometimes those first days of pregnancy are spent hovering over a porcelain toilet, napping under a fuzzy blanket, or — with little ones at her side — wiping noses, changing diapers, and doing her best to not inhale the detestable aroma of first trimester chicken nuggets as she makes dinner.

The days may be joyful or tearful or tiring, but at night when the still moon gazes in through the window blinds to check on her, there may be a moment when she realizes with great awe that she is being nudged in the rib by a person who has never existed before — a person who will one day soon look up with adoring eyes and a tug of her skirt and tenderly call her, “Mother.”

She may be afraid. She may not feel ready. She may be a first-time mother or a mother to many — but still, she is Mother: the person so essential to life, that even the Earth is affectionately called Mother Earth as it holds us close to its warm surface with the promise of life and safety.

And soon, before too long — though some days may seem to last forever — that heavy body that has multiplied into two will contract and bend and miraculously push forth a tiny person with delicate, soft skin and squinting eyes and miniature fingers that fit perfectly into the palm of her hand. Intoxicating, exhilarating, and unnerving those first few nights may be as she lay awake to watch him, make sure he’s breathing, be sure he’s real.

She has learned better than anyone over the last 9 months that her body is now meant for greater things — and will continue to be as she feeds and holds and rocks and comforts this tiny baby with the very body she grew him with. She had multiplied into two — and now may wish she could multiply herself as two hands can often feel inadequate with other children at her feet, a toddler at her side and an infant on her breast.

And even with only one child in her lap, there may be moments when the greatness of her vocation seems more than she can handle, but may she be comforted — for these children are only on loan from a greater creator who promises to help her every step of the way. And she will need help.

From family. From friends. From neighbors and community. For there are few people more heroic and brave than a Mother — but she can only give what she has. She who is called Mother needs others to call on, to ask advice, to give a baby to hold, or to simply sit with. For though she is never alone, some days may feel lonely. And a Mother knows how important it is that we care for each other.

Mothers are a compass to show us our way and a lighthouse to bring us home.

Their work often goes unsung, unpraised, and unnoticed and yet it is a work more important than anything else in this world. She may not build a great business, but Lord knows that a great home produces more life-changing work. She may not be famous to many, but she will be unforgettable to those who matter most. She is the living example of the great truths of life that are so often forgotten, for a mother knows that in giving, we receive.

She is called Mother. A name she will never outgrow, just as her children will never outgrow their need for her. For she was there when they began. She is a part of them, just as they are so much a part of her.

And in the moments when her life may seem small, may she know her incredible worth. That every wiped nose, kissed boo boo, changed sheet, gentle reprimand, sleepless worry, pound gained, laundry pile folded, floor scrubbed, scrapbook scribbled in, tear shed, fear overcome, mistake made, forgiveness asked, and lesson learned matters. They are the little things that mean everything to the ones she holds dear.

She is called Mother.

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Tell me more about me

My oldest is just 5 — but he has already begun to enjoy hearing stories of the day he was born.

He likes to hear what we were doing and how we celebrated — who was there and what his first moments were like. How I ate Popsicles and watched the movie Elf. How his grandparents and auntie and friends were nearby to meet him just hours after he was born. How, like the lyrical prose says in children’s book On the Night You Were Born: “The moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same’ because there had never been anyone like you — ever in the world.”

He likes to know where he has been, what he has done — and what he is capable of doing. He likes for me to tell him about him. And that is very natural, I think.

It’s so important to tell that love story. To say as Aibileen the maid from The Help said to the child in her care: ‘You is kind. You is smart. You is important.’ I think everyone needs to hear that. To know that. It becomes part of us in our childhood and whispers the truth in our ears throughout life whenever anyone or anything else challenges it. It doesn’t mean the world revolves around us, but it does mean that we have great purpose in this world.

A couple of nights ago, I was reading Little Bear with my boy before bed and it reminded me of this very thing:

“What kind of story would you like to hear?” said Mother Bear.

“Tell me about me,” said Little Bear. “Tell me about things I once did.”

“Well,” said Mother Bear, “once you played in the snow, and you wanted something to put on.”

“Oh yes, that was fun,” said Little Bear. “Tell me something more about me.”

“Well,” said Mother Bear,” once you put on your space helmet and played going to the moon.”

“That was fun, too,” said Little Bear. “Tell me more about me.”

“Well,” said Mother Bear, “once you thought you had no Birthday Cake so you made Birthday Soup.”

“Oh, that was fun,” said Little Bear. “And then you came with the cake. You always make me happy.”

When we finished reading the story, I tucked in my boy and told him about him — that he makes me happy. That I love him. That he’s a great big brother.

And as he continues to figure out who he is and where he fits in this world, I want those words to stand out. Words that respond to “Tell me about me” with a simple truth:

You are loved.

“It is very important that children learn from their fathers and mothers how to love one another — not in the school, not from the teacher, but from you. It is very important that you share with your children the joy of that smile. There will be misunderstandings; every family has its cross, its suffering. Always be the first to forgive with a smile. Be cheerful, be happy.” Mother Teresa

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One of the most important things to share during Down Syndrome Awareness Month

I had forgotten about that music box.

The green and white polka-dot one with “Kate” inscribed in a silver plate on the top. When you open it, a tiny ballerina dressed in pink pops up and pirouettes to Beethoven’s, Fur Elise.

The 5-year-old pulled it down from the top of the dresser while he helped put his little sisters to bed last night. “This will calm them down before bed,” he said confidently as big brothers do.

Kate ran over immediately to the music box as he presented it to my curious girls upon the carpet. Her eyes widened, her legs crossed, her hands folded as she waited patiently to see what was inside.

And then, I remembered.

I remembered when we had received that box as a gift shortly after Kate was born.

It was such a beautiful, typical gift for a little girl — but my little girl was not typical. And in those first few days when I didn’t know much about Down syndrome, I held the box in my hand and wondered if she would appreciate it like other girls would.

Would she enjoy the music? The dancing ballerina?

Would she ever want to dress up in tutus one day and pirouette herself? Would she ever cradle the box in her hands and gaze dreamily at the tiny dancer? Or if she weren’t the tutu type, would she have other interests that excite her? Who would she be? What would she do?

And then, last night. There she was.

Upon the beige carpet in her jammies and blonde pigtails with her little sister at her side, enthralled by the tiny dancing beauty. Her grin wide, she told us to hush as she listened to Beethoven’s delicate score with incredible joy. She is as she has always been — just one of the kids — gathered around a treasure.

She patiently took turns holding the box with her sister — gently telling her not to touch the little knickknacks that we had hidden inside. She swayed back and forth and looked at me just to see if I was enjoying it as much as she was.

This moment, like so many moments, is just a reminder that much of the sadness I felt those first days after Kate was born was based on unfounded fears. I grieved the little things that I thought I had lost — when in reality, our family has gained all of that and more.

We still have the tutus and the giggles and the dancing.

We still have the silliness and the sass and the spunk.

But we also have a little something extra. Something that, like a tiny dancer in an ordinary box, brings a special magic to our lives.

I think, perhaps, this is one of the most important things to share with the world during Down Syndrome Awareness Month: the little things. The little stories of relationships and love and joy that become the most important stuff in life.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.

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How Mothers Can Change the World: 7 Ways From Mother Teresa

“Love begins at home.” – Mother Teresa

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been touched by the words and work of Mother Teresa.

Her advice on loving — on giving — is so very practical, and really, very simple. When I would become overwhelmed watching the evening news, I would be reminded of her words: “‘Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

Though she created a worldwide organization that serves millions of people — and won many of the most prestigious awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize — and gave her entire life to serve the poorest of the poor — Mother Teresa reminds us that we don’t have to do as she has done to make an impact on the world. We only must try to love as she has tried to love: as God loves.

What I find so cool about her message is that it doesn’t take great acts to change the world, rather, “small acts with great love.”

This little home, this little family, this little neighborhood: this is where I am called to serve, to love, to find my greatest joy. “What can you do to promote world peace?” says Mother Teresa: “Go home and love your family.”

I have a little book of her quotes upon my bookshelf that I pull down from time to time and I find that many apply so beautifully to the vocation of motherhood specifically. I thought it would be fun to pull some of those together:

Here are 7 ways Mother Teresa encourages mothers to change the world by loving in our own homes.

1. Instill a love for home in your children.

“Try to put in the hearts of your children a love for home. Make them long to be with their families. So much sin could be avoided if our people really loved their homes.”

“Start by making your own home a place where peace, happiness and love abound, through your love for each member of your family and for your neighbor.”

“To parents: It is very important that children learn from their fathers and mothers how to love one another — not in the school, not from the teacher, but from you. It is very important that you share with your children the joy of that smile. There will be misunderstandings; every family has its cross, its suffering. Always be the first to forgive with a smile. Be cheerful, be happy.”

2. Be joyful in all things.

“It is easy to smile at people outside your own home. It is so easy to take care of the people that you don’t know well. It is difficult to be thoughtful and kind and to smile and be loving to your own family in the house day after day, especially when we are tired and in a bad temper or bad mood. We all have these moments and that is the time that Christ comes to us in a distressing disguise.”

“He gives most who gives with joy. If in your work you have difficulties accept them with joy, with a big smile. The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy.”

“Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Every one should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes, it appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.”

3. Slow down, enjoy each other.

“Today we see more and more that all the suffering in the world has started from the home. Today we have no time even to look at each other, to talk to each other, to enjoy each other, and still less to be what our children expect from us, what the husband expects from the wife, what the wife expects from the husband. And so more and more we are out of our homes and less and less in touch with each other.”

“Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other, there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”

“I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. Be that good news to your own people first. Very often we are all smiles outside, but we are all sad inside and when we come home we have no time to smile.”

4. Pray simply, pray together.

“You can pray while you work. Work doesn’t stop prayer and prayer doesn’t stop work. It requires only that small raising of the mind to Him: I love you God, I trust you, I believe in you, I need you now. Small things like that. They are wonderful prayers.”

“How do we begin that love, that peace and hope? The family that prays together stays together; and if we stay together, naturally we will love one another and want each other. I feel today we need to bring prayer back. Teach your children to pray and pray with them.”

“I remember my mother, my father and the rest of us praying together each evening. It is God’s greatest gift to the family. It maintains family unity. So go back to family prayer and teach your children to pray and pray with them. Through prayer you will find out what God wants you to do.”

5. Teach children to love others by how you love each other.

“I think we should teach our children to love one another at home. They can learn this only from their father and mother, when they see the parents’ love for each other.”

“People who love each other fully and truly are the happiest people in the world. They may have little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people. Everything depends on how we love one another.”

“How do we love? Not in big things, but in small things with great love. There is so much love in us all. We must not be afraid to show our love.”

6. See the best in your family — accept each other for who you are.

“Let us be very sincere in our dealings with each other, and have the courage to accept each other as we are. Do not be surprised or become preoccupied at each other’s failures — rather, see and find in each other the good.”

“Once you know you have hurt someone, be the first to say sorry. We cannot forgive unless we know that we need forgiveness, and forgiveness is the beginning of love.”

“The most natural thing is the family life. What keeps the family together, what nourishes the life of the family together, is that surrender to each other; is that obedience, is that accepting of each other.”

7. Do not worry.

“In the face of all difficulties, doubts and objections, trust in Him, He will not let you down. If God does not grant the means, that shows He does not want you to do that particular work. If He wants it done, He will give you the means. Therefore do not worry.”

“The future is not in our hands. We have no power over it. We can act only today. We have a sentence in our Constitution that says: ‘We will allow the good God to make plans for the future — for yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come and we have only today to make Him known, loved and served.’ So we do not worry about it.”

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is yet to come. We have only today. If we help our children to be what they should be today, they will have the necessary courage to face life with greater love.”

 

How Mothers Can Change the World: 7 Ways From Mother Teresa

How Mothers Can Change the World: 7 Ways From Mother Teresa

“Keep the joy of loving Jesus in your heart. And share this joy with all you meet — especially your family.” Mother Teresa

Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Why It Should Matter to Everyone

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

When I first learned about this month (after Kate was born), I didn’t think too much of it. After all, most people are “aware” that there are people born with Down syndrome. Most know the physical characteristics commonly associated with people with Down syndrome. It’s the most common chromosome abnormality in humans, after all.

But very quickly, I realized that’s where the awareness ended. Even for some doctors. For “medical websites.” For some people who work in the special needs community.

Knowing something exists is far different from having a true understanding. It’s like seeing pictures of the Eiffel Tower vs. taking pictures from the top. Like watching a romantic comedy vs. falling in love. Like walking into a Babies R’ Us vs. holding a sleeping newborn.

There are all sorts of smart sources out there with updated, educational information about Down syndrome—and I’m so thankful that Kate is living in a time of limitless possibilities for those of all abilities. But we still have so far to go.

Because we also live in a time where the majority of mothers who receive a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to terminate their pregnancies. And no matter what your thoughts are on this incredibly sensitive subject, why is it that this is the best time to live with a disability after birth, but the worst time to have one in utero?

I chalk it up to fear. And I have great compassion for that fear. I held my newborn daughter with that same fear when she was diagnosed at birth. We fear what we don’t understand.

That’s why we need more than just facts—we need faces. We need to meet them, get to know them, understand them. Hug them, talk to them, laugh with them. We need to be more than just aware of Down syndrome, we need to understand those who have Down syndrome.

Why should Down Syndrome Awareness month matter to everyone? Because we all have differences that others might be afraid of. And working toward the inclusion and acceptance of those with disabilities means inclusion and acceptance for all of us.

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