four weeks

I held Evelyn Jane for the first time four weeks ago, and I've held her every day (almost all day) since.

Four weeks ago our world turned upside down with this babe's entrance, and every day for four weeks I've been filled with immense gratitude.

Every day for four weeks I've cried at least once from mental and physical exhaustion.

Evelyn has more leg rolls than she did four weeks ago, and with each passing day this daughter of ours comes more alive to her world.

Four weeks ago and a day, being a big brother was an abstract concept to Asher. He's spent the past four weeks coming to realize what siblinghood really is, and despite the learning curve, he's taking to it well.

Four weeks ago we went from three to four, and now our Evie is irreplaceable. Her newborn perfection has altered how we see everything.

The past four weeks have been filled with love from so many friends. I've been overwhelmed with congratulations, encouragement, and so many loaves of homemade bread. The empathetic outpouring of love from my fellow women has been a tender reminder that I'm not alone in this remaking of my family.

With each passing day I'm coming more and more back to myself and into my new self. These last four weeks have been beautiful and messy and hard and gentle. While I probably wouldn't choose to relive these weeks, I wouldn't trade them either. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, and it also gives me more than I'll ever deserve.

Miss Evie, we are so happy you're in our lives.


year 5

These past twelve months have been some of the most difficult for me personally. Since last October, we've miscarried twice, been to doctors, conceived a baby, all followed by a pregnancy marked almost continuously with some brand of illness or discomfort. (Though it has been a healthy pregnancy, and I don't take that for granted.) I've endured many personal, emotional, mental, and physical trials since Josh and I celebrated our last anniversary.

Yet despite my individual mountains, this past year has perhaps been my favorite of my marriage so far. One particular moment stands out.

I'd miscarried for the second time the night before. In the dark hours between night and day, Josh and I cried and held each other in bed, mourning another babe who wouldn't be. Josh still had to go to work that day, and as he was dressing he said that I shouldn't worry about making dinner that night. 

"You take care of yourself today, and tonight we'll go out to eat. Let's go somewhere special," and he thought for a moment, "like Red Robin." 

Let's go somewhere special--like Red Robin

I stared at him, knowing that he really meant somewhere not teriyaki take-out, and started laughing. Just hours after we'd lost the promise of a babe, we laughed together--and we laughed hard. 

Josh Wilson makes me laugh when I didn't think I could (and even when he doesn't mean to) and loves me always. Year five proved to me that amid storms, together we can always find laughter, light, and love. Mr. Wilson, how I love you and your fancy restaurant choices. 


final days

I reach 40 weeks on Monday. Part of me says, "It's about damn time!" And the other part feels like I just barely announced this new babe. My doctor and I decided that if the baby lady hasn't come by my due date, then we'll induce next Wednesday (October 28). I am so relieved to have a finite end date, but even so, when I left the doctor this morning I cried.

When we made those definite plans for induction--a this-is-the-latest-you'll-have-this-baby plan--my heart went into mourning. I'm not sad for the end of this pregnancy. In many ways, this pregnancy has been difficult--physically, mentally, and emotionally. But the imminent loss of my daily status quo does make me sad. 

Asher and I have been this every-day duo for over three years. We have our groove. I know him, and he knows me. We're pals, partners, and friends. And a new babe will change everything. 

I am so excited for this baby lady, and I've wanted her for so long. I'm beyond happy that we get to welcome this girl into our family, and I know she'll be exactly what we all need. And still, part of me mourns these almost-gone days of mom, dad, and son only. Our family will change, I will change, Josh will change, Asher will change. 

We're sacrificing our comfortable and predictable life for the unknown, and even though I'm excited and happy, I'm also apprehensive and a tiny bit melancholy. The other day when I was mulling on the paradoxical state of my heart, I remembered something that Gordon B. Hinckley once said: 

You will come to know that what appears today to be a sacrifice will prove instead to be the greatest investment that you will ever make.

I don't know if he was thinking about growing families when he said this, but yes, bringing this baby lady into our family will be a sacrifice for everyone. But I also know, even in my post-appointment tears, that she will be perfect for our family, designed for us and us for her. Any day the Wilsons will go from three members to four. We can't go back. And I know that we won't ever want to.


parenthood right now

Right now parenthood involves lots of conversations about Daniel Tiger and many rounds of hiding under a blanket and saying, "Where am I?"

Parenthood is reading books and transitioning out of board books and into legitimate picture books.

Parenthood is baking cookies together and sharing the beaters. It's negotiating how many more bites to eat and enduring meltdowns when dessert is a mere two bites out of reach.

Parenthood is trying to teach toilet autonomy and the concept of privacy. It's cheering over correctly pulled on underwear and conceding when it comes to picking out what shirt to wear.

Parenthood right now is also in a specific phase of motherhood, when while being the dinner negotiator I'm also growing a new babe, a phase of continuous multitasking.

This part of motherhood is in its final weeks, and means an increasingly achy body. It means having to be so many things I don't feel I have the energy for. It means simultaneous and overwhelming physical and mental exhaustion.

Right now parenthood is full of apprehension about how our family will change when we go from three to four, uncertainty about how I'll adjust, and concern over how my relationship with my sweet boy will evolve.

Parenthood is full of hefty doses of tears and belly laughs, usually all on the same day. It's cuddles and hugs, discipline and instruction. It's full of prayers, spoken and silent and sometimes desperately cried.

Right now parenthood makes me feel inadequate and empowered. It's full of contradictions that fall into place, even though I won't ever understand how. It's full of mistakes and triumphs, grace and growth. It's beautiful and messy and I wouldn't go back and choose any other life.


clearing the table

The past couple of weeks have been weird for me. I've felt noticeably off. And there's no surefire reason for any of it, just a million little contributions: high creative energy clashing with low physical energy, my body turning the "uncomfortable" level up to the red zone, wacky hormones, a messy home, plus my grandpa's funeral on top of all of that.

Everything was building and I could feel these factors all coming to a head. The disjointedness of my mind manifested itself in my surroundings, and the tidiness and cleanliness of my home atrophied swiftly.

Last weekend I still hadn't replaced the dirty, crumb-laden tablecloth I'd had on for Asher's birthday two weeks earlier, and All the Things were accumulating on it. I hadn't really been making meals, and whenever we did sit down to eat, I'd just shove the junk piles off to the side. Sure this was seemingly a low-maintenance approach to living, but it definitely wasn't easy on my mind or soul. Everything felt so cluttered and out of place.

So on Labor Day (after an emotional and frustrating maternity shopping excursion), I took a deep breath and tackled our kitchen table. I put away items, threw away mail, and took armfuls of stuff upstairs to place in their rightful spots. I took off that dirty tablecloth and threw it in the wash. The birthday banner came down, and I wiped the chalkboard blank. And I started over.

After some thoughtful searching on Pinterest and Goodreads, I settled on an autumn-themed chalkboard design and went to work, slowly and thoughtfully drawing and lettering. Then I pulled out a new tablecloth and bought out some fall decorations. In about 90 seconds I gathered the vase, flowers, ceramic pumpkin, and metal bird, and let it all be.

All week this small space has been a mental haven for me. It's given me space to breathe and has served as a reminder that yes, I may be out of control of many things--including much of my physical comfort--but I can take care of my home. And I've learned that when I take care of my home to make it pretty and pleasing, I'm really taking care of my soul.


why I'm glad I read Go Set a Watchman

I love To Kill a Mockingbird. And I'm certainly not alone. I firmly believe that every American needs to read this novel, and I may unabashedly judge you if you haven't. (If grade school was the only time you've read this novel, I implore you to read it in adulthood, free from reading assignments and group projects.) Mockingbird could even be the keystone of American literature. Everything about it is beautiful, and I never tire of it.

So when Harper Lee's publisher announced the publication of a new novel, I was mostly excited. And as the time approached for its official release I steered clear of reviews and opinions, because I wanted to read it cold. I know the issues surrounding the novel, and I didn't want my experience to be informed by disillusioned readers or pedantic newspaper reviews.

Today I offer you a few guidelines for your own reading of Go Set a Watchman, followed by some thoughts that will contain spoilers. (But I'll let you know when that's coming, so you can quit reading if you want!)

First, Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.
And you can't read it like one. Think of Watchman as a companion to Mockingbird. Some articles I've read say to consider it as an alternate reality of sorts, but for me I don't think even that was necessary. Watchman is different, and if you know going in that it won't be necessarily a sequel, then I think your experience will benefit. The best way to not pigeonhole Watchman as a sequel is to--

Know the manuscript history.
Few books really require you to know its origin and its authorial context. But you really do need to know the context of Watchman's genesis and publication. Harper Lee wrote Watchman before she wrote Mockingbird--before. She submitted Watchman to a publisher, and her editor asked for more content about Jean Louise's childhood. That led to To Kill a Mockingbird.

The manuscript for Go Set a Watchman's 21st-century publication was lightly edited. It did not undergo rigorous substantive or developmental edits, and in many ways could be considered a first draft of Maycomb and its inhabitants. Knowing how Watchman came about greatly informed how I read the book. I found myself asking questions about Lee's experience with Maycomb and Atticus and Jean Louise and how she might have written things differently had Mockingbird actually come first.

But Mockingbird didn't come first, and that's really important to understanding Watchman.

Read critically.
Don't read Watchman if you're looking for straight-up entertainment, because this book begs to be read critically. Your experience with it will be greatly enhanced if you ask questions along the way and think seriously about the story. Strive for empathy with the characters, and remember that we are reading this on the other side of civil rights, most of us having grown up post-1950s and '60s. Perhaps history books make it easier for us to understand the right/wrong of civil rights better than the good-at-heart white Southerners who lived it and had their entire worldviews challenged. That would be hard, and I think we really aren't in a position to judge Atticus, Uncle Jack, or Hank. They underwent a massive cultural shift, and I don't think many of us know what that feels like.

When I closed this book, I was filled with the truth that good people--even great people--aren't perfect. That perhaps even Atticus--arguably the greatest American literary hero--is human and fallible. Good people are imperfect, and imperfect people can still be good people. Maybe American literature has propped up Atticus as a too-perfect beacon, and I may love him even more than I did before after reading Watchman.

Don't read Watchman with emotions only--use your brain.

Spoiler time--I'm eager to share some of the specific experiences I had while reading Watchman, and those include some spoilers. So if you want to stop here, please do, and come back after you've read it!

:: I really wonder what Harper Lee would have done with Jem if she'd written Mockingbird first. You find out early on that Jem died young (in his twenties) of sudden heart failure. And I was devastated. I had to remember that for Lee, Jem was already dead when she wrote Mockingbird, and I'd love to know about her experience developing Jem's character in Mockingbird knowing the fate she gave him. Jem's death blindsided me.

:: If Mockingbird is Scout's coming-of-age story, Watchman is Jean Louise's quarter-life crisis. I love the Jean Louise of Watchman and admire her passion and empathize with her idealism. Later in the book she recognizes her figurative color-blindness, and while that's a wonderful quality, it also prevents her from being able to easily see the civil rights issue from another's perspective (like Atticus's and Uncle Jack's).

:: I love Dr. Finch (Atticus's brother). His character was my favorite next to Jean Louise. He's obscure, but insightful and helped me understand the issues in this book better than I would have on my own.

:: I don't hate Atticus, nor am I disillusioned by Watchman's rendering of him. I found his fallibility refreshing more than anything and also wondered who he might have been had Watchman undergone more serious edits, or if Mockingbird really had come second. I would love to hear what Harper Lee has to say about these two books, their relationship to each other, and her relationship to each of them.

:: In many ways--and despite Atticus's beautiful championing of justice in Mockingbird--Atticus is still a man of his time. In his 70s, he was witnessing a turbulent rebirth of his homeland and social systems. I truly don't believe his involvement in the segregationist movement was born of hate, but rather his attempt to reconcile his values and worldview with an imperfect and evolving social system. I wish readers today would give him more grace.

::  I loved this quote from the book (spoken by Uncle Jack--Atticus's brother--to Jean Louise):

Now you, Miss, born with your own conscious, somewhere along the line fastened it like a barnacle to your father's. As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man's heart, and a man's feelings--I'll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes 'em like all of us. You were an emotional cripple, leaning on him, getting answers from him, assuming that your answers would always be his answers.

How many of us fastened on to Atticus when we read To Kill a Mockingbird?

I would love to talk more about this book one-on-one, over Starbucks cocoa, Facebook messenger, in a book group, or in one of my old literature classes. Yes, it's different, but it makes you think if you let it. No, it's not in the same revolutionary, canonical league as Mockingbird, and that's okay. I read a library copy, because I didn't know if I'd like it enough to own it, and now that I've finished I want to buy a copy for my library. Go Set a Watchman does have something to offer if you can set aside your Atticus-worship for 278 pages.

Have you read it? Will you read it? What did you think of the book?


on thinking differently

I certainly wasn't surprised at the SCOTUS ruling last week, and I also don't believe that every governmental act needs to align with my own personal values. That's one of the things that makes this free country so beautiful, that we are free to think differently.

But that's also what concerns me most about the Supreme Court decision. I'm not worried about same-sex marriage, but I am worried about how I will be able to express my own personal dissent in future. I'm worried about how schools will teach my children about this moment in history. On Friday my social media feeds were flooded with celebration--which I do not object at all--but it also contained noticeable doses of snark, gloating, and derision toward those who disagree with the principles at hand.

I've written before about my feelings regarding sexuality and marriage (see here and here). While I cringe over the tactless and unkind expression of my stance from my adolescence, I have spent the entirety of my adulthood seeking to find a balance between defending values and doctrines that are important to me and still treating everyone with kindness and compassion.

My opposition to same-sex marriage does not stem from hate or bigotry; rather I understand gender, sexuality, and marriage differently. I don't expect others to share that view, and that's why I'm not sulking about or bemoaning last week's historic court ruling. I understand that we all come from different places and that I can't expect people to see things the same way I see them.

So when I see posts and links that ridicule my sacred books, marginalize the opposing side, and throw around accusations of bigotry, I hurt. I hurt because I know how hard I've worked to find balance and kindness and understanding. I know how much I've thought about why I see matters differently and how much I've strived to cultivate empathy in my heart for those with whom I disagree. And I also know that not once has anyone come to me to ask how I see things, how I understand these essential tenets of personhood and love.

Because I do have a differing approach, one rooted in doctrines of my faith that, if discussed, could at least give explanation to an opinion that's too often labeled hateful. If I ever express my views to someone on the "other side" it's because I volunteer them in a medium like this one, not because any individual actually sought out a discussion of understanding. Perhaps liberal tolerance isn't always as far reaching as the media would have us think.

I don't want to argue or debate--I want only mutual understanding and respect. For those of you celebrating this ruling, I encourage you to celebrate because that's your right. We all should feel comfortable to rejoice when values close to our heart are validated, especially when it happens in such an official and public way. But please don't be a sore winner. I have to believe that mutual kindness and respect really are possible in an environment wherein disagreement is inherent. I have to believe that this country can continue to afford me the freedom and safety to think differently. I have to believe that even with all that makes us different from one another, that there's a world in which we could all shout from the rooftops that love wins.


ice cream for lunch

I had actually already planned on having ice cream around lunchtime. But our plans suffered a twist. This morning I lugged my toddler, my sewing machine, and my serger down to Portland's Alberta Street where I dropped off my machines at my favorite local Bernina dealer for some quality TLC. (These babies work hard--they deserve some spa time, right?)

I reached into my bag for my wallet. And then I started pawing through my bag for my wallet. But it wasn't there. And I didn't know where I'd left it. So not only could I not shop in my favorite independent sewing shop, I also couldn't treat Asher and myself to Salt & Straw or the Grilled Cheese Grill where you get to eat your sandwich a school bus. So many things wrong with this situation.

With Asher buckled in and the AC blaring, I called the last place I remember paying for anything: Costco. And they had it. So back to my Portland suburb I went, ice-cream-less but soon-to-be wallet-carrying. Some good soul had turned in my wallet, complete with credit cards, cash, and identification. In celebration, Asher and I shared a full-sized swirl frozen yogurt for lunch. Asher thought it was spectacular, and I couldn't help but agree.


on big brothers and ultrasounds

Right around when Josh and I decided we were ready to grow our family, Asher started talking about a "bebe sis-uh." Few of his friends had baby sisters, so he had little social context for his persistent assertion. Yet over and over, he would talk about this baby sister he was convinced he had. 

I listened to him and took him seriously. One of the key pillars of my faith's theology is the teaching that our spirits existed before mortality, that mortality begins when the spirit and body unite. So in more practical terms, I firmly believe that every child that will come to us already exists and is spiritually already a part of this family. So when Asher kept going on about a baby sister, I felt a sweet peace that perhaps he really did remember a little girl.

Though just because my two-and-a-half-year-old talks about a baby sister, doesn't mean that this baby will actually be that baby sister. So as we talked to Asher about the baby I tried to prep him for the possibility that this babe would be a brother. As far as my personal preferences went for this babe, I had none. Being a total boy mom would be so fun, but that "bebe sis-uh" would be equally delightful. I couldn't lose either way.

Yesterday morning before I headed off to my 20-week ultrasound (20 weeks already!), I asked Asher one more time, "So, is the baby a boy or a girl?" Asher gave me a look that said, Mom, how many times do I have to tell you? and stated matter-of-factly, "Girl."

Our ultrasound showed a blessedly healthy, growing, active little babe--and she's a girl. Asher will, indeed, be big brother to a "bebe sis-uh," and my heart is full and expanding to make room for both tractors and tea parties. Baby lady, we're so excited you're halfway here.


why you don't have to be happy for me

Posting our babe announcement was almost bittersweet for me. And that may seem weird. But the thing is that not that long ago I had a really hard time with most baby news that filled my newsfeed.

We had to wait for this babe. Not nearly as long as many couples have to wait for a babe, and our waiting didn't involve extensive treatment or invasive surgery. But all the same, it was waiting, and we weren't sure how long the wait would last. There came a point in our waiting when I had no emotional energy left to be happy for others' happy baby news.

In the midst of our waiting, we suffered two early miscarriages, which demanded even more of my physical, mental, and emotional reservoirs. I had to come to terms with seeking medical advice, and that required more of my reserves. Pregnancy announcements would pop up, and I couldn't bring myself to click the "like" button. Instead I'd make the effort to hide the story from my feed completely.

I felt ashamed to admit that I did this, that I couldn't summon happiness for another. Because when you announce a babe-in-the-making, it's so wonderful to feel love and support from those around you. Happiness multiplies, and I usually love to be a part of that beautiful equation. But sometimes I had to excuse myself. It was too painful; I wasn't privy to the divine details of my family's own eternal plan and had to proceed every hour on trust in a loving Father. And that trust consumed me, for if it didn't, sorrow and fear would.

All of this to say, when I posted my happy news, I knew that someone out there would probably hurt. Someone might hide it from their feed or feel renewed waves of anger and grief. And that's okay. It really, really is.

If you are struggling with infertility--which could easily be much more difficult than my months of uncertainty were--and you wanted to hide my announcement from your feed, it's okay. If you are grieving for a babe or the promise of a babe and can't be happy about my happy news, I get it. I may not get what it is to struggle with long-term infertility, when your body quits working on you, when you have one shot at IVF and that's it. I don't get that. But I do get what it's like to ache for a babe and not know when you're going to have one of your own, and I do get that sometimes you don't have the emotions to spare for someone else.

My own experience with waiting and loss has infused me with an increased sensitivity to how I talk about pregnancy and babes, especially in public forums. I hope that as I document this pregnancy that I will be sensitive to those of you who may be wanting a babe of your own and have to wait. I carry a special and fervent prayer in my heart for you that you'll feel peace in your waiting and comfort in your grief.

I want to state again that my experience is in no way comparable to those who struggle with long-term infertility, who pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for treatment, who wait for years and years and often suffer silently. That was not my experience, and I'm not pretending that it was. But though I can't fully empathize with that specific experience, I do know what it's like to want a babe and not know when that babe will come. And that is so, so hard.

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