Sunday, February 27, 2011


For the last several days, my eyes are drawn to nests; small nests, big nests, old ones, new ones.  My eyes keep stumbling upon nests.

As BJ and I were running tonight, I found myself looking up in trees for nests.  I thought with each breath and step...what is the connection here?  What am I supposed to be thinking on?

 Nests are reminders of the common thread of motherhood I have with the universe.  What a beautiful act of nature it is to think about a mother bird building a safe place for her young.  She trusts a big ole dormant tree as a good place for her young.

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" was part of the text this morning for a thoughtful sermon on worry. I could write a novel on worrying and planning and toiling, but back to nests.

I've realized the connection on this beautiful February is not motherhood in general, but my own mother.

(I found this picture out of us on my wedding day...She might not like it because it was taken before she put her make up on!)

 I've been so busy thinking about this little bee's birthday party...

I didn't even get a chance to send a card or a gift, but she has been on my mind all day.

I thought I'd blog about her, how we are so different and how close we are, how much my little family loves her,  how she is detail-oriented, kind, forgiving, patient, selfless, but then on our run tonight, I thought....I think I can just talk about nests.

Molly Bates is a nest builder, a nest preserver, a nest caretaker, even for others.

I think my spirit's eye had me look upon nests today to take note of how much I love a home, be it mine or of a baby bird's. That love of home is the fruit of my mother's work.  She is a home maker and while I don't still live with her, I reap the benefits daily from the nest she feathered. So does my family.

Just last week, she told me a story of how she is rearranging a hanging basket in her garden since she has had birds build nests there for three years in a row. At first I thought (since I'm not a good listener always) that she was doing something to make sure the birds don't nest in her basket, but no, she wants to make sure the bird does nest in the same place this year. She is taking care of a nest, mother-to-mother.

Her story is one of home, of family and of connections.  I am thankful for my dear mother and celebrate her today. I can thank the universe for nudging me to look up at those nests, noticing the beauty of motherhood in our world and reflect upon the beauty of my mother in mine.

"To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life. " 
 John Burroughs

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Outings, Existence, and Learning

Next month is both of the girls birthdays and their parties, so I'm behind on blogging.  I'm going to catch up a bit. 

I've been thinking a lot lately as I'm nursing Molly how it is going to end soon.  I thought about the moment that she was placed in my arms and all she knew was me, and my scent, and how, with the help of the lactation consultant, she figured nursing out.  And I'm so happy we are still connected in this way, and I'm sad a bit that we won't be for long. Pretty soon for the first time in her existence, she will get all the nutrients she needs without me.  And then it hit me, pretty much from the time you are born, you are learning how to  do things, how to cope...and our children never quite need us as much as they do when they are first born.  Or maybe they do, but it is in different ways.  Every day is a step closer to doing it on your own.  I'm not really sure I know what I'm talking about and it is just random, deep thoughts as I hold this little bundle of energy and stare into those big blue eyes and contemplate her existence and motherhood. 

The sermon Sunday spoke about relationships with others as being holy, particularly those times when we give up ourselves for another, it becomes holy.  So this week, I'm thinking at the end of nursing my dear sweet babe that this is indeed holy.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that with this chapter closing, it will bring joy as well. 

On to catching up...

Last week we visited Marian, and Anna Cate absolutely adores Mum-Mum, a name she knows is a privilege to use.  She has been undeniably drawn to her whole life.  Often, I'm nervous to take the girls over there since Marian's home is filled with beautiful pieces (read breakables), but like Marian, her home is the perfect mix of elegance and comfort. While there are several things to break, Anna Cate is lured away with a snack, a task with some crayons and paper and some quality conversation.  
And, Molly is calm enough to sit in her lap. The woman has magic kid dust that oozes out of her pores. She used to teach 1st grade and I would be willing to declare she is one of the most gifted educators I've ever met.  She has taught me a lot, too. 

A few weekends ago in my quest to take the girls to more museums, we combined my desire to visit my childhood friend, Dorinda in Washington, DC in her amazing town home on Capital Hill with her sweetheart Lola...
with a trip to a Smithsonian.

But before I get to the Smithsonian, let me tell you how fun it is to be in such a powerful vibrant city with such a power, vibrant, beautiful lady.  Dorinda is super important, driven, ambitious and I can't believe all that she has accomplished in the less than 20 years that we parted paths after high school.  We lost touch for a while so it has been so nice to reconnect. She was a dear friend to my family and me growing up and it was endearing to watch her with this new little family of mine.  We went to lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill in the heart of DC.  Anna Cate adored her and to let you know how important she is on many levels, as I just asked BJ "What was the name of that restaurant we went to with Dorinda?" Anna Cate piped up, "Can we invite Dorinda to my birthday party?" (more about that party later) Dorinda is a guest or host for all sorts of amazing parties all across the country in the finest of places including at the White House, yet she has the grace to charm my little girl as well.  Thank you, sweet friend.
 And, don't worry, I won't ask you to drive down to her party!

After lunch...

We went for a short visit to the museum of Natural History.  

I'm telling myself that we have less house for more money because we live close to Washington, D.C so we need to take advantage of all the opportunities that city provides us, including these amazing free museums. Once you get there, it is so kid friendly and worth the trip.  Seeing Anna Cate's delight at new sights, constructing new concepts or facts warms my heart. I get completely swept up in her learning experiences manifesting itself in a child's wonderment at our world and all its glory.

Look at this beautiful orchid photographed by BJ.  I think this could be in a contest!! I love it.
We are enjoying learning more about the camera and seeing things in new perspectives, redeeming ourselves too in the wonder of our world and all the new experiences available. Of course learning new things is available to all of us, but something is pure magic about witnessing it in a child.

Molly has been walking for six weeks and absolutely loves to move.

  She is losing her babyness and while it hurts my heart a little, I revel in watching her find joys in our swinging.
And walking and playing with toys...
And hanging out with her best friend Owen.
But, she has some game, doesn't hang out too long and leaves the sweet boy hanging. Girlfriend has places to be...the child is ALWAYS on the move.
Owen figured out how to get up and leave the area as well. They are so cute playing together. I love it.

We tried the Sunday evening activities for children. I've kidded myself that I'm not sure I'm Baptist enough to do church twice on Sundays, but it was fun for all of us.  After Anna Cate's activities,
She joined the ladies in the knitting circle for her first lesson with Mum Mum.
I really enjoyed being around these people, so maybe I'm learning to be Baptist, after all.

Anna Cate is learning how to ride her bike.
Inevitably she had her first wreck. It was awful to watch. I couldn't leave Molly's stroller to fall in the wind to save her and watched her tumble.  Learning new things is scary for a Mom to watch.  I should have yelled brake, I should have yelled to the other mother passing by to catch her. I felt awful, but picked her up, brushed her off and told her all about my bike wrecks, of which there were many.  
The weekend's springlike weather gave BJ the chance to work on the yard. We are going to learn to grow vegetables this summer, and here is our raised bed. I'm thinking about painting it. What do you think?
While Anna Cate and BJ spread mulch,  Molly enjoyed sitting in the grass.
When I told Anna Cate, I was going to write a blog about learning new things, I asked her to tell me what she has learned. She said, "when you do something wrong, make it right....take care of Molly...when you fall off your bike, it makes you tough."

This week, I sent out Anna Cate's invites with a quote on it that said, "When we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." I have an example from this week.

Anna Cate has a very bad habit of coming into our bed in the middle of the night.  One night this week she did it, and as I cuddled her near me I said kiddingly, "Anna Cate, you are know you can sleep all night by yourself."  She then BURST out in tears.  I said, "WHAT IS WRONG? I'm so sorry. I was just being silly, honey."

"Oh, it's not you," she spit out through tears.  After a few minutes, I realized she had different pajamas on than what she went to bed in and I realized she had peed in her bed.  She got up, took off her pj's and put them in the hamper, cleaned herself up, and quietly crawled into our bed in a new set of matching pj's.  Of course, the kid would want to come to our room where it is dry.  I cuddled her and let her sleep all night long and dealt with the laundry in the morning.  The morale of the story is that we never really know if someone has pee in their bed, metaphorically speaking, so we should be careful what we say. I've learned this lesson before but it is one I can learn over and over. It reminds me of what a kind, wise monk told my Dad once about the most important tip in life, "cut your fellow man some slack."

So catching my blog up on outings, musing about breastfeeding, learning new things, a bike wreck and a new garden don't seem that related but they are all a part of this life. The relationships and the understandings are more than what I see...I just know it.  

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common - this is my symphony."

~William Henry Channing's Symphony

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Anna Cate really loves me and while I know that bringing a child into this world just for the sake of their loving you is ridiculous, I have to say it is quite a perk.  I was reminded on Friday just how fleeting this 4 year old brand of love is.  

As soon as she woke up, before she opened her eyes on Friday morning, she said, "I'm so excited." Why, I asked, "Because I get to sleep with you tonight." BJ went out of town camping with friends.  Later that day, a cheery mother brought her daughter snacks and cupcakes on her 14th birthday and the young girl was absolutely mortified, shooing her mother out of the classroom, refused to eat the cupcake and rolled her eyes. What a difference 10 years make.

With BJ's absence, we enjoyed a girly play date, crafts, snacks and wine for the mommies. It was super small because I didn't want chaos when I had the girls alone, but it was such a nice mix of women and girls.  From dress up to laughter, crafts to words of wisdom from a mother with older girls over wine, the King girls had fun.

(Leana is clearly in deep thought about her craft)

Luke was the only boy so he resorted to the pink car for entertainment. I'm sure he'll learn to deal with plenty of pink on Valentine's Days in his future.

It was such an easy get together to host. I just asked friends to bring either a snack or a craft to share. Norah brought these two and they were adorable.  Like most everything she does so well, she made it look easy! Notice how the deep thought paid off in Leana's prideful glance at her Valentine's Day character.  

Tonight we worked on store bought Valentines.  I'm so proud that Anna Cate can write her friends' name with such ease.  I can only imagine how fun it will be at Miss Diana's to share the cards with each other.

This last week, I had another snow day so the girls and I made cookies. I got these ideas last year from Southern Living February 2010's issue.  I'm not a crafty/baker of a mother so when I do, I feel like it is a very big deal. I think Anna Cate does, too.

I let Molly taste test it before the glaze and sprinkles were put on. Butter and sugar are good for babies, right?!?

I find myself completely engrossed in the memory making business during times like this and I like it.  I'm reminded that all I've ever really needed in life are good times, good company and love.  These girls provide that for me....and so does their Daddy.  He really is the butter and flour and we are the glaze and the sprinkles, so to speak. He is practical and we aren't so much. We need it all and although I've joked about his going away the weekend before Valentine's Day, it gave use some good times....some time for the sprinkles.

I'm going to remember this in ten years when not only do I not excite them, I mortify them! I wonder if I will still be blogging? 

When you have brought up kids, there are memories you store directly in your tear ducts.  ~Robert Brault

And finally, if you are on facebook, please click this link and like our picture. I entered a contest and could win a photo session and a 16x24 canvas. I think you have to like the photography business first, then like our picture.  Thank you so much!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Life, Motherhood, Love & villages

Life is precious.

I’ve been keeping up with the plight of my sweet friend whose tiny baby has been in ICU for RSV. (If you’ve been in my home, you know her, too; she takes the beautiful photos of the girls) I’ve read updates on Facebook, texted her because I can’t stop thinking about them, and added little “Doc” to my heart and prayer list at home as well as at church. Last Thursday, Mom went to see him and I was so thankful to hear how good he looked, how his coloring was perfect and I just knew he was going to be ok in the face of this scary virus. But as usual before I hooked up my pump during lunch on Friday, I got out my phone to look at Facebook to check on her. I was shaken to the core to read, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” AHHH!!! He just looked so good…how did this happen? Then, I read on… it was not her baby but her sister-in-law, leaving her husband and two young children.

I didn’t quit shaking. It is awful. I only met her once, but she was friendly and kind and obviously a wonderful mother and friend.I keep thinking about children not having a mother.

Motherhood is precious.

This is not about me, but it has affected me and I want to share my thoughts. Little is more tragic than children growing up without their mother and I’ve been slammed with the realization that this business of raising Anna Cate and Molly is a privilege not to take for granted. Kissing their boo-boos, pouring the juice, snuggling in the morning, pulling the pony tail just right, crying it out, fighting it out (reserved for the teenage years, I’m sure), teaching the manners, re-teaching the manners, saying I love you, doing the laundry over and over and over again, cutting up the food, holding vomit in my hand, wiping the stinky bottoms, modeling the manners, saying I love you, more laundry, more kisses, talking it out, repeat and then it will become a whole new set of rituals with homework, sports, balancing hormones but it will still be manners, love, laundry, repeat. This motherhood opportunity is not granted since it depends on the fragility of life.

I just can’t get these children out of my mind. I know from watching my parents and husband lose their mother the raw ache, how as my Dad says, “it is a primordial pain.” But something is just sickening about a child, a real child (not child as in we are all child of God way), to lose their mother, and for a mama not to get to raise her kids. I’m thinking more about being here as a mother. It is both a duty and a gift.

On motherhood and life….
My sister-in-law Becki gave me these great books for Christmas including inspiration for busy motherhood, and the quote "The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children" touched me. It speaks to me that the art of living isn't just about schlepping yourself to take care of someone else and of their physical needs or emotional needs but it is to balance out living life myself, too. Lately, I have really been thinking about the fact that I want to make sure I introduce my daughters to art, music, and culture early for these are important aspects of living. I want to take Anna Cate and Molly to more museums, less movies, read more books and have more deep conversations. I know I'm a bit of a nerd, but rest assured, the cool Dad will make sure my kids get their fair share of pop culture, tv and movies.

On Saturday, after a precious little boy’s 1st birthday party…

We went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. 
I went here on field trip for teachers and loved it and was willing to risk taking my kids to a place that is free. We can spend 30 minutes or an hour and then leave. If we paid $20 a ticket, I might turn into the Mom that says, “you WILL STAY AND ENJOY every exhibit here” leaving my children to loathe the museum experience.

But we let her lead the way, feeling quite comfortable there. Molly was awesome.

So, we leisurely strolled through a few exhibits. She gazed and commented – not necessarily about art. “Look, Mommy. I can read, that says, “do NOOTTT touch.”

On the way home, I asked Anna Cate what her favorite piece of art was and she said, “I liked the scribble scrabble one.”

On love…
Friday evening, Molly’s high chair (with her in it) tipped because Anna Cate tripped over the chair. As I’m holding Molly tightly having just heard hours ago about Melanie, Anna Cate said, “you still love me, right?” So I started holding them both tightly…. “Of course, I do.”

My girl gets what love is though; maybe she doesn’t quite understand unconditional love yet. I didn’t until I became her mother.

A valuable understanding. I hope I’m around to show her more about love, but if not, I know my children are loved by others and that gives me peace. When I told Anna Cate that some little children lost their mom, and if something ever happened to me, I hope she knows how much I love her and I would hate not to be here to be her Mommy. She said, “that’s ok because Norah can be my Mommy.”..or Aunt Becki, or Patti, or Nana. Though the thought seems light to her, every prayer since then, she has ended with, “help the children who don’t have a Mommy” so maybe she is aware of the value of motherhood, too. I probably didn’t until I became one.

When I got a snow day this week, we enjoyed a lunch/play date with dear friends at Nana Sharon's home. These friends changed the course of my life.  And now, they often help me navigate it, sharing my journey. I'm so grateful for them.

(Sharon is a beautiful hostess and everything was delicious especially the cupcake^)

On community…
Recently in Sunday school, we discussed what to do when you hear a parent losing their patience with achild in a store. Patti asked, “in a perfect world, what would you do?” I said, in a perfect world, you would live in a small town, be in community with them, know that family and that child by name and be able to say, “you look like you are having a hard day, let me take ___ home for an afternoon.” A friend kidded me, “like Centerville, Tn.” I said, “that is not exactly what I meant.”

But, maybe it was….as much as my heart hurts for these children who lost their mama, I’m comforted a tad because I know the village who will help raise them.  I also know first-hand the void that friends will fill when a mother (BJ’s) is gone. (In September, I wrote about both villages).

Susie’s void in our lives creates an irreplaceable loss, but Anna Cate and Molly have a few special relationships that fill the gap a bit. 

I used to think that these women loved my girls because they saw a piece of Susie in Anna Cate to love, but BJ thinks they love my girls for Susie. She can’t love them so they will. I bet the same will happen in all sorts of ways for the Porters. I know my home town and I believe it will.  
It takes a village.
Perchance, I’m still here on an August day 13 and 17 years in my future, hopefully on some beautiful college campus, when tears are streaming down my cheek as I’m giving my girl one last hug before a new chapter unfolds in her life, I have promised myself that I will think of Melanie Porter and her children. I will say a quiet thank you for the privilege of raising my daughter, of being her mother. I will think of Melanie when I hug Anna Cate, when I embrace Molly. You don’t quit being a mother when they are18, so I’ll say silent testaments of gratitude in the midst of many steps beyond that, but I will never forget the gift that is raising a child, of being a mother.

One lamp - thy mother's love - amid the stars
Shall lift its pure flame changeless, and before
The throne of God, burn through eternity -
Holy - as it was lit and lent thee here.
~Nathaniel Parker Willis

I will hold the Porter family on my heart and in my prayers. So, if you are reading this I’m asking for your prayers if you pray, your chants if you chant, and your light if you can send it.