Putting Together our Puzzle

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Often it can feel like all or nothing… parenting, working out, eating whole foods, all of it. I’m eating whole30 and meal prepping, or I’m making eggs and cobbling together snack plates full of chips and too much peanut butter for my kids. I’m reading, on the floor playing, making it to all the extracurriculars, and homeschooling like a boss…. or, it’s too much netflix, me lost in my book, or Facebook, and telling them “sure, in a minute!”. And more often than not I vacillate greatly between these. Working out five days a week, or days on top of days off in a row, lethargy, and a bad mood I can’t quit.

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I’ve found it harder and harder to find that balance of my needs, their needs, and my body’s needs. Summertime seems like it wouldn’t be that different for a homeschooling family, but it is. The schedule gone, the friends home from school, the pressure to soak up the sun on the days it’s here (PNW sun guilt is REAL), and the desire to be a really involved Mom who does fun stuff! often! I’ve been letting it eat me up a bit.

As I made it to several of the end of school year parties and activities, I found my neglect of my needs becoming acute, the workouts getting sparse, and the sugar abundant. I also found that as I fell out of balance there, I fell out everywhere, and so did my family. I was taking the girls places, but I wasn’t present. I was pushing them off, even at the beach in the sun. I was retreating from all of our needs.

Last week I attended a monthly Moon Tea (women circle) that I am lucky enough to be a part of, and in it I talked about  my fears with blogging, and IG, and really embracing how much I love it and want to work in social media and marketing (eek, putting that out there!). I got to let myself go inward a bit about how strange it feels to be so vulnerable in a public space, and how much I love it, even if it feels judged or strange, or that others can’t understand it. Since getting that all stirred up in my heart, and affirmed by lovely people, I’ve been in a new space about this balance.

Watching myself struggle and fall, and able to begin to pick up and put in line my priorities. What felt like needs in opposition is now starting to look like pieces to a puzzle of a Whole Family.

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Hiking and ice-cream, beach days and saying no to that activity in favor of a workout is okay. Whole30 foods, and missed workouts in favor of a longer snuggly bed time is okay. Telling my girls that I need this hour to do yoga and they can play or read is also okay. Asking them, directly, “what do you need?” is important. Following through is more important. Asking myself “What do I need? Now? Tomorrow? In a year?” and stepping towards each motion, is paramount.

Starting today, we are all holding our pieces and putting them into our family space, with equality and respect for each of these desires and needs we all have. Today that looks like hours spent coloring, hard conversations about life and current events (in age appropriate words), and me investing deeply in them and then in myself by quieting the noise with yoga.

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This post is rambly. And strange. And all about where my heart is at right now, and how I am finding peace and balance in the imperfect, and reflecting on how ridiculously and thankfully easy and light these needs are.

I want to fully acknowledge that I have an intense privilege to get to examine all of this. I live in a dream world where I am allowed and able to ask myself these questions, shift my perspective, and enjoy these years so fully. I know that many (most) others, don’t get this privilege, and I strive to be doing what I can to hear, see, love, and give to the communities who don’t have the same ease that I get.

Our family has so much to give, and we are giving it out everywhere we can, and brainstorming better ways to do and give and love more. But I’m starting here, at home. Raising kids so overfull of love that my hope is that they know and learn to listen to and pour that love out on everyone, anyone, those who need it most.

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4 forever.

It’s weird to feel loss over babies never conceived. It’s strange and selfish feeling. We decided, two years ago, to be done. We made that decision permanent.

Nearly every night we talk about it, and we squeeze hands with excitement about our growing family and passing phases, the girls newest endeavors and how what just passed has now passed forever. It feels so right.

I look into the back seat as Charlie drives, his hand on my thigh, Nolie’s eyes wide out the window looking at each mountain and hill as it blurs by and Ev’s still chubby hands thumbing a book, and I feel so full to the brim with our family.

They cuddle together to read, they cooperatively work to build their cities and hospitals and camping trips and doll houses, they are made to fit each other. Complimenting and contrasting in every perfect way, the light and shadow each flip flopping in their role as they play and love and chat seamlessly. A large piece of our decision was their total contentment in each others arms and hearts and lives. There was no lack, to need, nothing missing. Our puzzle of four fit perfectly.

But there are quiet nights. Where my brain wanders and finds that old secret PinBoard full of pictures I saved for the baby we tried for before we decided we were done. The bump pictures, the nursery, the old posts of my own recalling the magic of those months. The nights where I relive the excitement through a friends announcement or a commercial. And the ache, the forever ache of a mama, I think, is there.

Sometimes I just say it to Charlie, often at night, more often as we drive, always after a friend tells us about their impending baby. “I’ll never have another.”

It’s not said with sorrow exactly, but not with joy either. Peace, maybe. Calm, almost. Just with surety.

It’s strange to decide. It’s uncommon to make that choice before we hit 30. And it’s strange to some to do that after “only” having two.

I don’t doubt our decision, or regret it.

But, I’ll never have another baby. And that weight is so big tonight. 1093843_10100584074008060_2006042849_o-1

{back when my Nolie nursed, and Ev was a little babe.}

 

Mothers Day

I wanted to share a couple of things. One is my post from my Facebook page, that you’ve likely seen. And two is my post to my girls on Mothers Day from my personal page. I’m sharing it here because today marked a big and really awesome milestone. I’ve written posts to my girls in some form or another, on some platform or another, every Mothers Day. But today, I read them all aloud to them. And they were still, and listened, and smiled, and cooed over the photos of tiny them. They’re getting big, and grown, and starting to understand it. How deep our love is. And how special and different it is. I’m so honored to be theirs, and today felt so big to share with them.

However, I am aware of what a deeply hard day this can be for so many, and so first I wanted to share from my page these words. I dropped tear after tear thinking of the hurting women out there who are aching for babies of their own. My heart breaks for those who give and give as Mothers, who put out mothering love and energy and don’t receive this day as their own for one reason or another, mostly all based in labels and cultural constructs. This day is hard and loud, and I hold you close today.

 

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Happy Mothers Day to you! You out there who nurture, who give, who donate, who love on others. Those who mother birth babies, babies birthed by others, babies that come over from across the street for a cookie and an ear, those who mother the kids who come through their line of work, those who mother with their hearts but not always their bodies, Happy Mothers’ Day to you. You who ache, you who yearn, you whose heart hurts, I am thinking of you today. Happy Mothers’ Day to those who are that stable person for a child, a teen, another person whose mama isn’t. You are doing the work, and it’s work that matters, regardless of what story your body or Facebook tells. This day is for you too. Take it, whether that is in a gentle thought to your heart, or a card, or a hot bath, or just a passing thought as you work yet another day. You are a strong Mama. No matter through what avenue or for what amount of time. I am thankful for you.

 

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Noele, meeting you was the single hardest thing I have ever done. Getting you out of my body, and to my arms was incredibly difficult, long, and scary. But we did it, together. We beat what every one in the room thought would happen, and you and I worked together through it every moment. Your Papa was the first to hold you, and your bond is deep and unbreakable. When you came to my arms, I felt what I had alway been come to a new and deeper fruition, I knew Mama was my name. You calmed and clung and nursed and gave me every gift in knowing you. We have continued to work together, learn each other, but have that deep and unspoken understanding between our matching round eyes. You are fully your own, and have been my guinea pig in motherhood. I’ve learned how to put the ideas I had into action with you, I’ve felt regret and learned to apologize, you are the best teacher and most forgiving friend. Thank you for allowing me to watch you grow, witness you as a person coming into your own more each day, but fully yourself ever day. You are curiosity and wild delight, you are grace and calm, and you are nurturing personified. I love you dear heart, forever.
 
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Ever, you are my spit-fire. Your birth was all redemption and beauty and prayer in action. You arrived into my arms, and were welcomed with total surprise (you came so fast!). I wept with pride in myself, and for us together, and your life has continued with that. We work together endlessly, we talk and talk through each obstacle and you have the endless ability of reflection. You came out scowling and crying and only wanting me, persnickety to the bone, and it’s only been recently that your shell has been allowing others (Nolie, Papa, and I have always had access!) to peek open to your deep security and willingness to allow others into your Joy and grin filled world. You are well named my love Ever Harbor Joy, you are always a moment away from a tight hug, a huge grin, and a quick joke. You have continued to surprise me, and put my ideals to the test. I love being your Mama and seeing your world unfold. You made the new baby mantra true in every way for me, when you were born ‘Everything is new again’ and it hasn’t stopped yet. Ever, you are wild and sensitive, gentle and talkative, particular and genuine through and through. I am so thankful to be your Mama and am honored to get to know you, and that you choose me daily in your arms. I love you dear heart, forever.

weekend.

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He’s reading books in ridiculous voices and their smiles are quick and goofy. She has loose teeth and absentmindedly wiggles them at every chance. Her tiny fingers find Ever’s and they squeeze hands as his silly Ms.Frizzle voice grow’s louder and more emphatic. I can hear their anticipation as the story grow from across the room.

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We drive in bright dappled roads, lined with tall trees, the warmth is out and bringing the calm in a way that only sunshine in Washington can. My hand on his familiar thigh as new music that cuts to the heart plays loudly and the road winds and winds to the beach. Nolie is surefooted on the path and Ever is snug on my back, the questions and conversation quick and bright and unceasing as both have mastered language and illuminating their thoughts into words. It’s new. The years and years of “what does she want?!” have ended and there is rarely a moment that we don’t know what both want, need, and are asking for. Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s glorious. I’ll take my never ending talkers any day. I soak up their thoughts and ideas like a dry sponge as the trail descends and I feel Nolie’s hand tighten in mine and Ever’s body grow heavier and tired.

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There is space. We come home and dispersing into play is immediate. They spread like water into the corners of our home. Creating fairy homes, and Strawberry Shortcake adventures. Piles of books spread wide and fill every space as Nolie devours one after another after another. The window that sold me on this home has never let me down. It lets in the most beautiful and warm filtered sunlight onto my flaxen head babies as they are silent in their own space. Charlie eats and reads. I have time and I write. Their play and my typing are our afternoon symphony and it feels too right to be true.

Too beautiful to be my own.

A season I can’t fathom that illuminates with a  brightness that I turn my face to and soak up the vitamin D that this family puts off.

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And it’s only Saturday. 12419117_10101600455905590_6954619838839458809_o

Traditions.

When Nolie was really little I felt this huge need and pressure to create traditions. But I tried and tried and nothing stuck, felt right, or really worked. I can now see, looking back, that’s because we didn’t really know our family all that well yet. We were still figuring it all out (and still are, big time), we had lots of needs (need to nurse often, or snack all the time, need to sleep right.now., need to get a diaper changed, need to rear face, etc.) and those made traditions (that are often far away, car filled, late at night, long term, include waiting or lines, and often not super baby friendly…) hard. But as we are finding our groove with a, still so young, growing up family we are slowly finding that traditions are gaining, and so much fun!

But, we’ve had one (seriously, other than sweet potato cheesecake on Thanksgiving… I think this is it) long standing, forever tradition. And that’s the pumpkin patch! And over documenting! And donuts! And I love it.

This was year six. And goodness, look at how  much changes in six years.

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One not quite one year old, two exhausted parents wondering “are we doing this right???” and now … two big ol’ kiddos and two exhausted parents thinking “I think we might be doing this right!” And, whoa, that feels so good. Not that I don’t have days of intense doubt, but it’s pretty amazing to be coming into the time where we can see some of the results of our parenting (especially in Nolie!) and feel like “yes! This path, the one of endless talking and relating and loving and gentleness and not punishment… it’s working!” and I just want to go and hug those two parents from six years ago and say “hold her! nurse her! she’s great! you’re great!”

I obviously took a million pictures and I love them all. So here are a few… this is our family scrap book!

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This is the first year that both of the girls were fully into the family photos! Neither put up a fight, both giggled and smiled and picked apples and asked if they could get the donuts after this (of course!). We figured the donuts were a pretty good incentive to get through the sappy mom and dad moments 😉
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This was our first visit where Nolie was interested in taking some of the photos. She snapped a ton and has a pretty great eye! I love her pictures best because you can see that none of us are uncomfortable around her. All the kisses, grins, and loves are so authentic. So, thanks Nolie!
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Almost 6 suits Nolie. She’s just amazing. And made for a pretty perfect big kid baby holder for her sweet and tiny 10 week old buddy, Birdie.12087948_10101489502896310_1486973605987359779_o

She’s still all nut though. 12108722_10101489504458180_542569339146138902_n

Donut, that is. 12065479_10101489503839420_5553754914229578542_n

Ever Harbor Joy is 3.5 and a spunk. Wild, overflowing, huge emotions, slow growing empathy, and mindblowingly sweet. Her favorite things are to fly! and run! (she can run two miles! what?!) 12132537_10101489502716670_1168160652183001784_o

 

This was the last year this pumpkin patch will be open, but I know that our tradition will live on and next year we will be scoping out a new spot. But an apple orchard is required!

schoolie.

When Nolie was about 2.5 she started talking about “Porcupine School”. It was a fictional school where she learned about… everything! Adventurous field trips, explorations, and vacations to Seattle were all mentioned. Writing, reading, and story telling were heavily relied upon, and art was unending. It was all in her pretend world, but each of us slowly got pulled in.

She’d request an “art history day!” and then Porcupine School would come to life on my table top, with me… as a Teacher.

I am not a teacher.

I am a mother. A reader. A thinker. A life long learner. But… a teacher?

We sat at the table, hands on butcher block, turning page and pulling brush strokes. Reading aloud about Rembrandt and the Mona Lisa. Her giant eyes wide and absorbing. Her work slow and thoughtful. And her observations, nothing short of genius. I sat there. Teaching?

I feel strongly that play is learning. That the outdoors are our teachers. That birth to age five is that ripe sponge time for me to facilitate play and environments free of “educational TV” or screens, or junky food, or punky kids and instead keep her in museums, and play spaces, and outside in the fresh air, in collecting on nature walks, making worm homes, hugging freely and often, dancing to ballets and learning about the Four Seasons (Spring is her favorite Vivaldi). And, for the most part, I’ve done alright. She’s mind blowing, inquisitive, “advanced”, and just about the most wonderful little person I could ever fathom walking the earth (okay, maaaybe I’m a bit biased).

But now we are here. The end of her preschool career ticking away quickly. Her age and “readiness” for kindy meaning we are getting paperwork from public school arriving at our door, I’m scheduling tours with the two closest elementary schools, and she’s asking where her desk will be. . . and I am seeing the reality knocking, hard. 30 hours a week. That’s the kindergarten load. That is also a job. Basically a full time job… for a five year old? Nope.

I can’t get behind those hours. I cannot fathom she or I being ready to be apart from each other for 6+ hours a day, I cannot see her ready to leave us or her sister for that duration. When we talk about it she says “yeah, till nap time? then I’ll come home. What would you do during nap time without me?” and “but if I feel sad they’ll call? I’ll just come home. I might feel ready to come home.”  and then she usually ends with “maybe just a half day. Maybe just as long as preschool?” (that’s a whoppping 6 hours a week, btw). So despite the information in my inbox piling up from her local elementary school… I’m back to researching.

Homeschooling. It’s just such a huge world. A quick google and facebook search brings me endless groups/information/co-ops/everything. But what will be the right thing for us? For Nolie. For my girl?

Thankfully I have a few months. I have a lot of ideas (registering as a part-time public schooler and just pulling her out early to make the hours work for us?) and a lot of feelers out there for different ideas. Nolie is school hungry, and I don’t want to and never will deny her that experience in some capacity.

But now the hunt is on… to find her a(nother?) teacher. And to gain some new understanding and confidence in my own skills. And, probably time for me to get myself to some school of my own. . . Thank God for this girl who is just learning and exploding in her abilities each day. Seems porcupine school has been ongoing, whether I’ve been in attendance or not. 10456815_10101235612559580_4923051585297061023_n

Zzzzzzz

In the mornings I shake out the comforters and blankets from my bed after the girls have run their feet to their room to check on the dollies. I feel that last of the nights heat in a wind over me. And I can’t help but smile. These are the days.

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Somehow in the space between “My baby has a room. And she’ll sleep in it. ” and “should we start sleeping side ways to fit them all in?” we became co-sleepers. Nolie was in her crib from week four on but has now turned the cozy corner and comes to our bed around 2am and falls deep to sleep curled up to my back. Ever has been in our bed from birth. We started laying her in her own little floor bed around 11mo and she took right to it and sleeps the first half of the night there and then I wake when I hear her little footy pajama feet pad out her room, through the kitchen, and into my bed. I love it. The best of both worlds. Our room and bed is our own till the world is asleep, and then the comfort of hearing the chorus of my deep sleeping family till the sun starts to flood around the shade.

I have found peace in our nights. The times I am awake, and they are many, nursing-cuddling-back rubbing, I pray through our family in thankfulness (have you tried this? Instead of praying for change/people/ease/stuff/whatever I have been just working through a list of family and friends and just thanking God for the attributes and love they just pour out. It always leaves me lighter, and it helps me fall right back to sleep) and try to turn my “OMG YOU CANNOT WANT TO NURSE AGAIN!!” into “This will pass. Meet the need and this will pass.”

It’s been nearly 5 years (next week! What?!) and I have yet to consistently sleep through the night. And, I am okay with that. I am expectantly and excitedly dreaming about that time, but I am staying quiet in the moments now. The time when I can realize; I have easy nursers, loud gigglers, great eaters, and lame sleepers. You win some, you lose some. And each morning I wake up with a snoring husband, a latched on toddler, and a murmuring “loveyoutoooooebberever” preschooler, I feel like the overall is win.

 

Mom Feelings.

I wrote this a few weeks ago. I found it lurking in the drafts and quite nearly deleted the whole thing in one easy click. And wouldn’t that be so beautiful. If those rushing, less than, imperfect moments could all just be clicked away. But, they can’t. They are there. And I would wager that this drowned in dirt and sleeplessness feeling is one that is fleeting but known by every mother. Our sleep has been sparse lately and these feelings run so close to the surface when I’m extra tired.

I told a friend last night “today I just kept thinking, “have I ruined everything?” like.. sleep, attachment, the whole thing.” and she confided back, “yeah, I think that at least once a week. About. . . anything.” And that’s it. When you are engaged, and thinking, and researching, and praying, and asking, and. . . and. . . and. . . it’s really really hard. But, if you are doing that. If you are meeting their needs, and loving them hard, and sitting there, back rubbing, through the screaming, and nursing through the tooth pain of your baby, and cuddling in with those big babies just because they “need some extra time with you”. . . and the hard days, you have not ruined everything.  And you aren’t wrong for putting them first. And you will make it through. And these really are the shortest years. And they are worth this work.

And, as today showed me, there will be different days. Beautiful, overfull to the brim with confidence in your choices, even when they are hard, and the kids just thrive. And you can see the wheels in their beautiful heads just turn turn tun as they figure it all out. All the love, all the attachment, all the closeness. And it’s all worth it. And those baby faces with old old eyes seem like they could blink and be 15, and I could just weep for the loss of years that aren’t even gone yet. Because baby hood, all five years of it, are so heartbreakingly beautiful.

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I scooped armfuls of clutter from the back of the car. I have two dirty secrets. One is that I had never taken my kids to the dentist, the other is that for all my tidy home keeping… the car. The car is a mess.

There are layers of banana chips, jars full of dirt (Ever?), old baby dolls, endless clothing changes, dirt and mud covered pants from fall’s, so many pairs of shoes, and lost socks. Books discarded, library borrows sulking in the back corners, and abandoned muffins we shouldn’t  have bought and couldn’t afford but splurged on anyway… near needlessly.

Yesterday was a hard day. A day where I doubted my choices. Doubted that I was the best Mom for my kids. Where I couldn’t leave the house. Where my brain went ten thousand miles and hour and wouldn’t slow down with thoughts of “I love them so much!” “I am so deeply tired.” “when will I ever be alone again?” and I let the thoughts grow with speed. With spin. With a tornado of weight that made it destructive and pointless and heartbreaking when the dust settled.

It settled around three crying girls. Appologies pouring from my lips. Tears dropping from my eyes. And wise words from Nolie. “it’s okay Mama, everyone had hard days sometimes. That’s why tomorrows are nice.”

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fathers day; Dear Charlie

I wish I had all the moments bottled up. They’d fill the mason jars, overflow the cups, it’d be the moment when the bath runs too high and Nolie starts giggling and Ev stands tall and the water just barely drips over the edge and all of a sudden it’s an overflow of love/holdme/read another book/can you build that papa/I’m your baby/toss me up high/draw another picture with me? and those looks you give. The exchange between all of those sparkly artist eyes, the ones you all share.

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The look of concentration Nolie has, ear protection on, while she builds a fairy world in the scrap wood box below you as you craft art for our home.

The tiny voice saying her known words, “Ebby Papas Baby. Ebby Lobah you.” that she’s felt since the start and can now put to voice.

It would be canisters full, memory cards overloaded, words piled on top of each other in the tiniest scrawl I could fit on a card, that would start to scratch the surface of those moments.

You are a super dad. A super husband. And a constant source of hand squeezes, kisses, encouragement, and growth. You see where we fall short and work to build up. You look at our girls as precious, important, and people in their own right. You don’t steam roll, take over, covet control, or put your foot down. You give empathy, words, affection, read books and care about learning what we can change and do better.

My hope was to be with a man who was always growing. Someone who knew that they knew nothing, who didn’t take the roll of Dad lightly. You study it. You pray over it. You talk and talk and talk with me through the ideas and ideals. You put effort and time, care and thought, and so much love into being a Dad.

When we first found out I was pregnant with Nolie. And I sat there on the big green ottoman, knees to my chest holding that test. And you ate peanut butter cup after peanut butter cup after peanut butter cup and I shook and shook and said “I think I should just call my Mom. I really need to just call my Mom.” and you looked at me, with steady eyes and said. “Autumn. I am so excited, this is good!”

You were right. You were so right. This is good. This is past good, out of the park, beyond my wildest dreams, the best adventure. Thank you. Endlessly, over the top, don’t have the space or words in the world to put it together, Thank You.

You blow me away my Love.

Happiest Fathers Day Charlie, your title of Best is shared with only one other man, my Dad. And I don’t have to tell you what a high honor that is.

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hands in deep.

I have my fingers dipping into so many little pots, stirring and tasting and trying, but not quite seeing the ends yet.

It’s a phase of calm and consistent. Eating well even if my jeans stay tight, of running the miles even if they feel hard each time, of talking her off the ledge and using calm words and decibel even with my crazy rises and bubbles up into what could be explosive. I am in a space of meal planning, the same simple meals, to save the pennies. To paint the same colors and love them each time I stroke them on. It’s feel like a hard space, waiting. The in between. The “results” and “behaved” are far off, or maybe right there, but I can’t tell because it’s all around a bend.

All I can do is remember two things; I am worth moving, eating, loving well. No matter what. No matter what the ‘results’ look like. And no matter how long any of it takes to achieve.

And, two, the girls are worth my calm-loving-empathetic and listening response. Every.Single.Time. No matter if it’s the hundredth time Ever has hit Nolie, or the thousandth time Nolie has deemed a trinket “too special to share! NO EVER! NO!!!”, no matter if I didn’t sleep the night before, or if we are out of coffee. No matter what. They are worth that. And hand in hand, they are worth apologizing too. Even if they don’t apologize back. They are worth the fresh starts, the clean slates, the ‘no keeping of accounts’. They are  girls who pour grace out on me when I fail, and model to me all the love I want to give right back.

This is a good space, a good season, a waiting and calm and consistent space.

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