Rhythm and purpose and peace

The trees in our forest have suddenly dressed themselves — lavishly, I dare say.

I almost didn’t notice that they had gone from stark naked (at least the deciduous ones) to adorned in fluffy green leaves until one day, I did. And there it was: a sea of greens, some pastel; others a deep, mossy color.

Spring has been tapping on our shoulders for some time even if it’s been a whirlwind around here and I’ve barely had time to update the calendar. The urge for Spring chores came over us like April showers and now we find ourselves without enough time in the day to paint the chicken coop, plant new seeds for the garden, mulch the front beds, cut back those winter-worn stems and give everything a little freshening up.

It is so very satisfying, the nurturing of life.

I wrote that to my Aunt this morning when she texted a picture of a tree (she thought was dead) starting to blossom. It’s the feeling that comes over me when I stand in the evening dusk, watering the Salvia and the Plumbagos, listening to the sound of water showering on glossy leaves. I love that sound. Or roll pizza dough, dusted in brown flour. Or feed the chickens, or love on the dogs. Or push through that exhausted day-is-done feeling to read the kids a good bedtime story and sing their favorite songs.

And maybe I’m just feeling sentimental because of the clear, blue skies, but what great joy I find in tending to these things and watching them blossom. Is there anything better? They say that the secret to joy is service and perhaps that’s as simple as that — when you spend time loving other things, the love and joy you receive is tenfold.

After a long winter of all-encompassing morning sickness and too-much-TV, it feels so good to go days without the background noise of a glowing screen. To cook from scratch again. To dig in the dirt again. To do those things that one does for themselves — and together as a family — that provide rhythm and purpose and peace.



What’s it like to have a child with Down syndrome?

I read her question on a pregnancy forum late the other night.

I had been skimming a baby website to see what size fruit baby #5 compares to now (an apple) and I was caught by her subject line in all caps: DO YOU HAVE A CHILD WITH DOWN SYNDROME?

She had just received word that her prenatal tests showed markers for Down syndrome, she was scared, she was on the fence about whether or not to continue the pregnancy and wanted to know: What’s it like to have a child with Down syndrome? She didn’t preface it with the word “SERIOUSLY,” but I could tell the seriousness in her tone.

I remember that feeling. I wanted to know that, too — desperately — on the rainy Tuesday afternoon when Kate was born and we received her diagnosis. What does it mean? What does life look like? What’s it like?

But what I really wanted was for someone to tell me it would be OK. I wanted that most of all.

I did hear words of comfort in those first tender days. We received many words of encouragement and love that sustained us. But there is one person who convinced me it would be OK — and who continues to show me every day that it’s more than OK. That it’s awesome. And that’s Kate herself.

Kate is five — soon to be one of five children in a crazy house so full of noise and love, my head and heart both feel they’ll explode some days. She is a ball of sunshine and can also be a big ole’ grump, depending on the given moment or circumstance. She is delayed in some areas and yet, shows a maturity that surpasses her age in others. She sometimes has a hard time finding her words; she never is at a loss for a big bear hug. She is silly as a seal and has a smile as wide as the sea. Her big brother says “we’re the luckiest family in the world” because we have her.

People ask me if having a child with Down syndrome is hard and I respond, “Sometimes.” Being a mother of any child is hard, sometimes. Sometimes she’s my easiest. Sometimes she’s a tough cookie. And I could say the same thing about each one of my miracles — each a gift, each an opportunity for me to grow and learn.

I realized — as I tried for a moment to respond to the woman on the forum — that I was having a hard time answering her question: What’s it like to have a child with Down syndrome?

Because I found I was really just answering the question: What’s it like to have a child?

I am not naive or trying to sugar-coat a disability here — sure, “Down syndrome” makes some things more challenging if I choose to think about it that way. But being a part of this club is also an incredible, amazing joy. Life is full of challenges — Down syndrome or not. Life is full of joy — Down syndrome or not.

What’s it like to have a child with Down syndrome? It’s a great adventure in love. An adventure that looks different to every person and every family, but that’s still full of love.

I sat in church on Sunday and saw the two men with Down syndrome across from me. I have seen them both separately before, but never together, and I was happy to see that they are friends. Soon I found myself not being able to stop the tears leaking from my eyes — I blamed it on pregnancy hormones to my husband — but really, they were tears of joy. For those men, sitting in the front row, sharing friendship, praying, brought out an emotion of sheer gratitude in me.

What’s it like to have a child with Down syndrome? It’s worth every moment.

Every challenge, every fear. Every uncertainty about the future, every “extra” thing we have to do. The abundant love and grace and goodness Kate brings to this world and our family overshadows any of the other stuff — and I am so very grateful she is ours.

Today, 3/21, is World Down Syndrome Day — a day chosen for awareness and advocacy. This awareness is so needed in our world — as are the stories of great adventures in love.



Raising a man

That phrase — raising a man — has been floating around in my head today. It is really what I’m doing in a sense. He just had his seventh birthday and somehow between his Birthday Eve and Birthday Morning, I am pretty sure he grew a few inches. And did his voice get lower? Maybe I’m hearing things.

He asked if he could crack the eggs this morning for homemade waffles and I hesitated because I was sort of in a hurry and didn’t want to be fishing out egg shells (even I tend to get a little piece of shell in there). He cracked all 3 eggs — with no shells to be fished out. When did he learn to do that?

And when did he become a walking encyclopedia on the animal kingdom? And how did he know how to rig that little handle on the toaster to stay down (when even his Dad’s attempts didn’t work — you can imagine his proud smile). And how does he know just how to comfort his sister in that way all his own?

Next to the shelf with the bobble head and the coin bank in his room is a picture hanging on the wall that says:

“A little boy is the only thing God can use to make a man.”

And while we are certainly still far away (relatively) from manhood, there is starting to be less “little” in my boy, and more independence, confidence, responsibility.

I sometimes fear for him in this world where many things can threaten the integrity of men (and all of us), but then I look where he’s looking and I am comforted. Because he’s watching his Daddy.

He’s watching him work hard and sweat and push wheelbarrows in the yard. He’s watching him give me a tender hug at the kitchen sink and whisper, “I love you.” He’s watching him react to his little sister’s temper tantrum with gentleness. He’s watching him drink coffee and read a book. He’s watching him pray. My son learns a lot from me — I am a source of comfort that only a mother can provide. But his Dad is his role model.

As for now, he is still busy chasing lizards and frogs and marbles scattered across the floor. There is great idealism, courage and energy in boyhood; there is also great faith, gentleness and affection — and as he grows, I hope these remain. For no matter how big he gets, there are always the truest things that will never change, like how much he is loved.

My little boy who God is using to make a man, I love you.

Family Year Books

My parents have only a handful of pictures of themselves as very young children — and maybe enough to fill a big album from their growing up years.

I treasure these pictures. I study their expressions and the people in the background. Because there aren’t very many photos (by today’s standards), I delight when I discover a new one — with a hairstyle or a toy or an old friend that I get to learn about. Sometimes one picture captures an entire year — or, in my grandparents or great grandparents case, an entire decade of one’s life.

I sometimes wish I could see more pictures of past generations. I would especially love to see videos of, for instance, my parents’ first birthday or a first day of school. But at the same time, the photos we do have are so treasured — and family stories fill in the details of things that weren’t visually documented.

Fast forward a few decades to when I gave birth to my first-born (and had also acquired my first DSLR camera).

I have — literally — hundreds (thousands? Oh man, I need to organize those old hard drives) of pictures of my new baby doing, well, everything a baby does. Oh, look, he’s napping! He’s drooling! He’s dreaming! Click, click, click.

I wanted to capture every moment (and in the best lighting possible). But soon, I realized, what would I do with all of these pictures (many quite redundant)? As time passed and I had more children, my computer hard drive started filling up fast. And in trying to clear space, I realized that perhaps I didn’t need 43 photos of my baby’s wrinkly left foot (though look at those teensy-weensy little toes). Plus, I started to wonder, how would I even organize this stuff in a way that I could (and ever would) go back and look at it again?

There was a time, too, with my camera always in hand, that I sort of felt like I was missing out on an event while I was busy documenting it. It became relieving to me when I could just let some things live as memories. Or, when I gave up on the idea of having to take the “perfect photo,” and just let a few quick snapshots suffice. In fact, some of my favorite photos of my parents’ growing up were the ones where everyone is making a funny expression and you know there was more going on behind the scenes.

Now that I’m on my 5th child, I have had to prioritize how and when and what I document. In a world where it’s so easy to snap and share everything, I know many of us have worked to find balance. For our family, we don’t have personal social media accounts or a “family” blog, but my husband and I do have a little private blog where just him and I save pictures and quotes of the everyday silly and endearing things our kids do and say. We have an app on each of our phones that connect to it, and we can easily dump our favorite phone photos to the private shared space. Then once a year, I print a book of those “Little Happies” to put on our shelf.

This is the first year that I’ve printed the family year books and I used a company called Into Real Pages.

I first discovered them because they support the blogging platform that we use to save our photos (and many others), but I chose them because their books were simple and pretty — and their site was super intuitive to use. With just a few clicks, their website tool easily imported my posts by date and organized them into a book format that I could quickly approve and print.

And now… our memories have turned into real pages for us to always enjoy:




*Into Real Pages graciously gifted these books to us when I offered to share our great experience

There you are, little one, who will you be?

I was 27 when my first child was born.

The same age that my mother was when I was born. The same age that my Grandmother was when my mother was born. And like my mother and my mother’s mother and her mother before her, with the growing and stretching and pushing forth of that little, squirmy human, I had been inducted into the miraculous and marvelous and sometimes maddening world of motherhood.

I am now 12 weeks pregnant with number five — and the magic of it all never gets old. The morning sickness sort of does. My body feels a bit older in my mid-30’s now and the responsibility of also having four other small children adds to the fatigue. But the awe? It’s just as strong as ever.

For growing a human is not like learning to drive — where once you’ve done it enough, you sort of forget the thrill of that first joy ride and spend the rest of your years on autopilot. And it’s not like getting a new job — where the novelty soon fades to routine.

There’s just something different about participation in a miracle. And no matter how well I understand the biology of how babies are made, there is still a “something else,” a greater creator, that turns mere matter into a living, thinking human who cries and breastfeeds and throws temper tantrums. Every time, I am surprised. Every time, I am humbled.

My 6-year-old is smarter than me. My 3-year-old is more insightful. My 5-year-old brings more light to the world than a ball of sunshine, and yet, they were that way before our eyes even met. Sure, I have a very important part in their formation, but it’s actually comforting to know that they each have their own God-given purpose, and I’m here to help them along their way.

And they do the same for me — pushing me and stretching me and making me stronger than I ever thought I could be. I certainly didn’t know my stomach could stretch that way, nor my heart, nor my soul. And the things that DON’T gross you out when you’re a parent are miraculous on their own. Proof that somewhere in the miracle of life is the miracle of love that makes all things possible.

Today I heard the baby’s heartbeat. I laid on the crinkly paper atop the examination room bed while the nurse moved the fetal Doppler around my already-bulging midsection. Soon the the familiar woosh, woosh, woosh of a tiny heartbeat echoed against the white walls.

There you are, little one, who will you be?

Whoever you are, there is a perfect place for you here — in our hearts and our laps and our intertwined lives, and we can’t wait to meet you.


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