Monday, December 19, 2011


Dear Gemma,

Hi Sweetheart! I can't believe that Christmas is almost here. I don't feel very "festive" yet... maybe because I'm working so much these two weeks leading up to Christmas. It's been a busy time for me, baby. All this time, you've been sick... still. I haven't seen so much snot come out of one person, ever. Ever! So, on Saturday, I took you to the doctor and got some antibiotics for you. We think that maybe there's some bacteria in there that's keeping you from getting better and you know what?! IT'S WORKING!!! Last night, you only had one coughing fit at 10 o'clock for about a half an hour and then cried out at 4 am twice. THAT'S IT! You woke up this morning with a dry nose, a big smile, and a well-rested body! Yay! I said a prayer of gratitude last night for science and doctors and antibiotics, thankyouverymuch!

We are making the round this Christmas, swinging by both families homes to celebrate. We'll be with daddy's family on Christmas Eve, and my family on Christmas Day. I was hoping to have some "just us" time on Christmas- go to church, look at lights, watch a Christmas movie, read the Christmas story, make cookies etc instead of traveling between homes but seeing your families is so important. Someday, maybe when you're older, we'll claim Christmas for our nuclear family- maybe we'll host, who knows? All I know is that navigating the holidays is hard- trying to make time for "just us" and connecting with our loved ones who we see all too infrequently.

So, baby girl, even though I know you won't remember any of this, I am thinking of you and how our holidays can create lifelong memories for you. I'm wanting to start traditions that someday, you may carry into your own family with your own littles. Maybe I should stake a claim to the night before Christmas Eve- we can pre-pare everything so that Christmas eve can be relaxing and filled with family time. And... I've started to wonder what to do about Santa. How do I keep Christmas about the birth of Jesus AND include Santa... Do I even want to? Do I want to tell you something that I know will make you so sad later? Hmmm... it's just tossing around in my brain and I'm trying to be proactive before you get old enough to go Santa crazy... I mean, let's be honest- I'm pretty creative and dramatic so if we go the Santa route, I might get a little carried away... just sayin'. Anyway- I'm sure that whatever your daddy and I decide will be okay- I'm just surprised by how little decisions carry so much weight with you. Maybe I put too much weight on them, maybe not. Hard to know.

I DO know this. You are really magical right now. You get so excited for everything and are chattering constantly! If anything, the joy I feel when I'm around you points me directly to the gift of that baby in the manger so many years ago. I'm so grateful to be your mama, peanut. You make me so full.

I love you, darling girl.


Alright, Mamas: Santa... to introduce or not to introduce and how... discuss...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Dear Gemma,

Last night was a long one. You are still trying to kick this cold. It seems to have moved into your lungs and is planning a long stay. Maybe some mamas can sleep through their baby's coughing but I can't. So, even when I held you and you continued to cough every minute or so, trying so desperately to get whatever nasty gunk is camping out in your lungs out of your chest, I wasn't tired. I thought about it while we were rocking, walking, standing by the teapot as it poured steam out into the kitchen, wiping noses, and sipping water... that I would rather be doing this "all-nighter" with you than be anywhere else.

I guess that's what makes a mama a mama, huh? Where else or with whom else would you willingly, even joyfully, be coughed on, snotted on and a host of other lovely "sick kid" perks. Selfishly, I liked snuggling you- you are so busy now that snuggles come sporadically and I can't get enough of your warm little head on my shoulder, your soft cheeks, and your little hands burrowing for a warm spot on my chest. Someday, I keep reminding myself, you'll sleep sounder, deal with sickness more easily, and most certainly NOT be wanting your mamas arms wrapped tightly around you while you sleep. So, I'll soak this time up, thankyouverymuch. Every long late night hour of it.

Last night while we were working through "sick time", the house was so quiet. So dark. I left Daddy in our room but I know he wasn't sleeping. He wakes when you make noise too. Even though he trusts me to take care of your immediate needs, his ears are tuned in to baby too. Still, the house was still... except for you.

At 2 am last night, you looked like this:

So, this photo was taken during the day but that wild, can't stop movin', must play face was large and in charge last night around 2am. Love you, but can we go back to the snuggling? :)

Anyway, I would love to figure out how to keep you healthy. I don't know what I can do. AND to top it all off, I know I am guilty of snuggling you, smooching your soft amazing cheeks, and practicing blowing kisses with you even when I'm not feeling 100%. I CAN'T HELP IT!

So, I hope that you are enjoying daycare today, my love. I'm watching the snow fall and wishing I could go back to last night around 230am when you finally dozed off for a bit. You breathing was rattly but predictable, your arms were tucked in front of you while you rested on your belly on my chest. My arms feel empty without you sometimes, sweetheart. Like I've just dropped a package or bag that I'd been so used to carrying that I can't adjust to being without it.

Today, I'd love to watch the snow fall with you and drink hot chocolate, or cider and listen to Christmas carols by the tree. This time of year makes me hungry for quality time with you. And, if history has taught us anything by these last two months of "sick baby time", I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to snuggle you in these upcoming cold months. And, just so you know- I'm up for an all-nighter with you anytime, baby girl.

I love you, beautiful.

Alright Mamas, any tricks to keeping your kids healthy over the winter months? During daycare? I've heard something about saline in the nose... humidifiers- etc. What's your best trick! I think I'm going to need it and I'm sure that there are other mamas out there who could benefit from your wisdom!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dear Gemma- a love letter

Dear Gemma,

Today is Thanksgiving and I though I'd write a little note to you. Someday, maybe I'll print all this out, tie it up with pretty ribbon and present it to you as evidence of how you rocked my world. My words don't do you justice, sweetheart.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude today- everywhere I look it seems that my life is filled to the brim with sweetness. I just read a great book by Shauna Niequist called Bittersweet that met me right where I am. The little vignettes that she led me through made me so aware of the presence of both the bitter and sweet in life. I really like how she said that the sweet is no less sweet when there is a sliver of bitter present.

Right now, your daddy and I are passing through some bitter waters. He still looks for a job doing what he feels calls to do and I pray and cheer and hope and pray and cheer and comfort as he continues to search. Even though this bitter season of job hunting is stressful and preoccupying, we do find GREAT joy in each other and in you, my love.

Gemma, you are like a ripple of laughter that opens up across a space, capturing us all in it's giggle and letting us loose with hope. I long to see your face in the morning, hear your yells and new words during the day, and coos as I sing you to sleep. You are in the midst of a season of great discovery. I can tell this because you keep looking at things with wide open eyes and then at me filled with your silly words- you ask me unintelligible questions and expect a clear response. Sometimes I can't help but answer back seriously with garbled words and shocked expression. It's like speaking a different language, you and I. We chatter and have conversations that leave you satisfied and me utterly confused but filled with love.

You are growing so much right now too, darling. Your feet are getting big, your hair is getting longer, your belly is always puffing out over your diaper like Santa Claus. You run now... did I tell you that? You run, Gemma... that's what it's called when Rosie chases you and you squint your eyes shut and move your feet really fast and unpredictably towards the hall. Most of the time Rosie never touches you, but when she does, Violet barks at her to back off, you scream and giggle which only encourages her to chase you again. You three will be best friends forever, I'm sure.

Your daddy thinks your beautiful... he says it all the time, tells you how special you are, how smart and strong you are. I hope we cover you with compliments all the time. You really are beautiful, smart, and strong. I see glimpses of the woman you will be when you stomp your feet and stand your ground... when you rest your head on my shoulder, give hugs, and look deep into my eyes and smile. You amaze me, sweet one. You amaze me all the time.

You love to say "nanas" when you want a banana and "ca-caw" when you want a cracker. And when I ask you to say "milk" you just sign it instead. You make me laugh all the time... and you make me cry. This last week while you were sick, while I was up with you all night breathing in your sour sick smell, I let little tears loose over you... it's shocking how it hurts me physically to see you in pain. Sometimes I think I can't bear it for all the love I have towards you. Sometimes I think I will go crazy thinking about how important you are to me. Sometimes I think, "hey, I got this under control"... wait- who am I kidding? I NEVER feel that way!

I know that sometimes I get frustrated and overwhelmed and snarky. I'm so sorry- you deserve more than an anxious mama and I'm working on that, I promise. I start every day new, or I try to at least, with the rising of the sun there is a rising in my spirit. A newness, forgiveness, a do-over... A promise to play more, and play right, and lead more, and teach more, and give more, and take less... and then, in the quiet of the night, hushed prayers fall out of my mouth- songs of praise, laments for forgiveness, and nuggets of thanksgiving to the God of creation who knit you together and handed you to me to grow and raise and eventually let go. What was He thinking? I mean seriously, how could I ever be enough?

I guess that's the beauty of knowing that you are God's precious child first- I don't have to be enough... it's impossible... but He is enough. He will always be there, always love you just the right way, always guide you, always support you, appropriately discipline you, set healthy boundaries, let you fly when the time is right...

I am a poor man's representation of divine love, pumpkin. And if what I feel is the small version of love for you- it's mind-bending to imagine what God feels for you, sweet jewel. My deepest hope for you is that you find security in the presence and promises of God. He is so good, my sweet girl, so good.

I'm sure in the next few weeks you'll get more teeth, new words, bumps on heads and elbows, colds and sleepless nights, and lots more giggles, hugs and snuggles. I am overjoyed to be on this journey with you, Gemma. You make me a better person, a more repentant person, a more forgiving person... I pray I do the same for you.

And your daddy? Well, we lucked out didn't we, baby? He's pretty amazing and I know you see it... you show him that you love him by resting your little head on his chest, calling out "da DA" in the morning, and grabbing his toes. I pray that someday you'll wear a ring on your left hand that comes from a man like your daddy- a humble, hard-working, patient, faithful, honest, loving, and supportive man- and I pray that he'll hold your hand while you fall asleep, just like your daddy does with me.

Gemma, I'm so thankful for you every day, but especially today- while we celebrate with family and friends all good gifts. You are the best present I ever got...

I love you, I love you, I love you...

Will you write a love letter to your baby(ies)? I'm thinking of making this a consistent practice. Someday, I may just wrap them up and give them to her so that in her darkest moments she can read of God's promises, my love for her and her innate worth.

Happy Thanksgiving, Mamas. I'm thankful for all of you too. Hug your little ones.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It's Tuesday. There has been a whisper of snow in the forecast here in Minnesota. I know a good number of the mamas on this blog will be rolling their eyes and turning their heat up one more degree (or two) but no, not I. I anxiously peer out the window- at home, at school, in the car... waiting for the sky to open up and sprinkle the ground white.

I know it sounds crazy to those of you "sunbirds" who crave long sunlit days on warm, toasty beaches but I love this time of year. I already put up my Christmas tree- not because I'm so intensely fond of Christmas Day but because I am so intensely warmed by this fall/holiday season. There is so much depth to this time of year and the snow really guides me in that journey.

Awaiting the birth of our Savior (and yes, I know Jesus wasn't really born in December and that we are meshing a pagan holiday with a religious one... I know, just go with me) seems to take on more reflection in the silence of snow. I have loved how snow sucks up sound as long as I can remember. It truly does- suck it up, absorb, drown, still, silence, muffle, deafen ALL sound- I love it. I feel like my brain moves so fast all the time, taking everything in, trying to control everything, making sure all my "ducks are in a row" that sometimes, that forced quiet is the most blessed sound.

This season, fall-Thanksgiving-Christmas, is the height of family nesting for me. It's soups and stews in crockpots, fires in the fireplace, snuggly fleece pj's, hot cocoa or cider with my sweetie, an extra blanket on our bed, and slippers. It's sneaking in to cover Gemma with a warm blanket, feeling her little neck to make sure she's warm enough. It's warmth and everything that goes along with it. It's a very reflective time for me- I think about my family, my child(ren) and all the things I want to do with them in the future. I think about traditions and activities, practices and remembrances I want to instill in my family. Abe and I have talked about it but we haven't really defined what we want our "family practices" to look like in regards to the holidays. There are certain things we'd like to do and will, we're just not sure if Gemma is old enough yet. There is always the argument that if you start young, they'll never know anything different.

We'd really like to serve every holiday- either in a soup kitchen, or in some concrete, tangible way partnered with a local organization or our church to make lasting connections between gratitude, service, and celebration. My husband is especially passionate about this as he was the recipient of service like this as a child.

We've talked about how to really make the Christmas Story meaningful to our kids. How do we make Christmas really honor the beautiful gift of a Savior? I've heard so many wonderful ideas- advent calendars, nightly readings of the Christmas story from different sources- children's Bibles, books, different Bible translations; Nativity scenes. But really, the most tangible example of the reality of Christ is in the example of the parents, right? Humbling, huh?

And then there's Santa, presents, and the hoopla that goes along with the commercialized Christmas. How do we give our family the innocent joy of gifts and giving without making them greedy? How do we introduce Santa knowing that someday, we may have to break a child's heart with a grown-up truth?

As much as I love, love, love this time of year, the truth is- I love whatever forces me to reflect and focus on my family. For me, that's a forced indoor retreat. It's bundling up and cuddling together; it's eating warm food together, lighting candles that smell like Apple Pie, and reading stories under hushed covers. Truth is, I can do this any time of year, but this season inspires me.

What about you? What are your happy family traditions around this time of year? If you hate winter, Heather :), what do you do to make this season meaningful? And by season, I mean this whole Fall-Thanksgiving-Christmas season.

I really hope that you are bundled up, warm, safe, and surrounded by your loved ones this lovely time of year.

waiting for snow and all it brings...


Monday, October 31, 2011

In another life... or the post with a lot of "quotation marks".

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"
- Mary Oliver

This post is not as much about mothering or parenting but more so about us as women with dreams. I really hope you comment- I think the responses could range from inspiring to hilarious, from humbling to ridiculous (see my long commentary below!)

Ahem... I've been thinking a lot lately about my life and how it is different now than I thought it would be. When I was in high school, I had a dreamy, naive idea of what my grown up life would look like. I imagined I'd be hustling from one audition to another, or I'd be doing a show night after night in New York. I thought that it was a far-fetched idea at the time, yes, but I also could imagine it. I could see my "name in lights". I know- so silly, right?

Well, not really... I was given this insane imagination and the gift of this imagination is the opportunity and necessity to dream "Big". I thought that life would fall in line for me along a path that I perceived was right. I think in the back of my mind, I was nervous that I might not make it... and looking back at the talent I possessed compared with the talent out there... I know I would NOT have made it! :) This is not a sob-story or a poor-me "I'm just a teacher" whine, because I love what I do. I feel like I get to "perform" every day and have adoring fans all around me! (Ha! Little kids are so good for the ego!) So, in a way- I am living my high school dream- in just a very different way.

When college choices loomed, I told my dad that I was going to graduate High School and head to New York to start auditioning. He said... "No way." He required that I do at least two years of college and then I could go do whatever my dramatic little heart desired. Looking back, I could have left- I was 18- legally able to be on my own. But that thought never crossed my mind. Maybe I was relieved to not have to venture out on my own just yet. I applied to a school whose drama department I loved but then didn't get accepted. Then, my fall back school became my only option. I enrolled, joined the drama department, and got involved in student ministries. I realized that in order to be successful in theatre, you don't need a drama degree so I started pursuing other Major options. Enter: wild imagination... Pre-med for a day (I envisioned myself a part of Doctor's Without Borders- saving lives all over the world- Oh! the drama!); communications for a day- (Of course, newscaster, interviewing important people in the middle of life changing events- dodging bullets to get the good story); Youth Ministry for a day- (Saving souls, y'all! What more important work is there? I would be the best at it... but also incredibly humble, of course...); Psychology for a day- (new treatments, saving people from the dark recesses of mental illness, seeing break through after breakthrough); oh, yeah and education... (the person who is every child's most influential voice- who inspires, challenges, and changes lives.) From this list, you can see I have a bit of a savior complex... how many of these are about saving the world, changing the world, saving lives?

I think that's where a lot of teens are when they envision their futures. And that's all fine... we should dream... we should envision ourselves adding positivity to this planet, changing lives, helping people, challenging each other, and adding goodness not hostility to our daily lives. But, somewhere in the middle of all of that, I followed a nudge and ended up in Art Education. Now, for someone who also wants to be respected for their intelligence and wisdom in their career, art education is not exactly the most respected field. In many schools the arts are the first thing cut, the first thing to go by the wayside in honor of testing, math, etc. But with that savior complex, comes intense passion. I am intensely passionate about the value of art education... I know that I'm doing more than just teaching kids about color mixing, tone, value, composition and art history. I'm teaching them to express themselves in a healthy way (hello, psychology), to connect with their inner creator thus tying themselves tighter to the Great Creator (hello, youth ministry), to communicate with each other about important social and global issues affecting our visual world (hello, communications) and of course, keeping an eye out for the physical, social, and emotional health and well-being of 1000 kids a week (hello, Doctors Without Borders).

So, in essence, I am LIVING THE DREAM, baby! But, in another life- a life that could have gone in a different direction- fulfilling my childhood fantasies, I would have been on Broadway. Yep, my name in lights...


and I think that is more than fine...

So, in another life, where would you be? Not at the expense or loss of your current life. We all know and understand how wonderful our kids are, our jobs are, our lives are... but, if you were to dream big, baby.... where would you be? What big, wild, irrational things would you be doing?

Dream big, ladies... I'd love to hear that I'm not alone in my teenaged (and sometime adult) wild hopes for my life!

Love to you, ladies.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The moment she stole my heart...

I remember that morning so clearly... so dreamily. If I were to paint a picture of it, the edges would be blurred, the lighting would be soft, the colors muted and quiet. The house was sleeping- but we were not.

It was early, early Sunday morning, over 24 hours after I brought my sweet baby girl home from the hospital. She was tiny and wriggly. He legs always bunched up like a frog. She wasn't eating well, was choking a lot, I didn't know why at the time. I was tired and clueless- oh so clueless.

When I gave birth to Gemma, I was exhausted. Not, "hey, I just gave birth exhausted" but "I haven't slept in two days, just worked out hardcore for 11 hours, and why the heck did I let them give me a sleeping med" exhausted. I remember thinking as they put her on my chest that this was supposed to be some breathtaking supernatural moment. I remember feeling like something was wrong with me because this little wrinkly, screaming, smushed-nose, purple thing felt more like a stranger to me than the resident who helped deliver her.

I know I said all the right things, I even tried to muster a tear- I felt like I should- but none came. I know I kissed Abe; I know I said hello to Gemma and told her I was her mama; I know I thanked God. I know that I wanted to nurse her right away but I didn't- I held her right away but let them weigh her and clean her up pretty quickly. I always thought the earth would slow and it would be just me and her in this dreamy moment and I would fight anyone tooth and nail if they tried to take her from me. I kept waiting for that cosmic, earth shattering moment when you see that baby and know your heart will burst a million times over if it could. And, it didn't come. Sure, I thought she was precious and I knew on a logical level that I loved her but no supernatural moment.

We took her home and I sat in the backseat with her, because that's what moms do. Not because I couldn't leave her side but because I thought I wasn't supposed to. She was tiny and helpless and not eating well, crying a lot, not sleeping, and unhappy. I thought she was just fussy- that I was doing something wrong... that I'd feel that magic soon.

I left her the next morning to go to Target. My mom came over- she was Gemma's first babysitter. Abe and I went to Target, bought a video monitor and some more diapers and then came home. It wasn't hard for me to leave her. Is that horrifying? I don't mean to imply that I didn't love her but it wasn't that fierce mama bear love that I expected. I read that some moms don't bond with their baby right away. Was I one of those?

I took her home feeling completely responsible and utterly incapable.

That Sunday morning, October 10th, 2010, I fell in love. I laid her down on the changing table for the first diaper change of the day and then it hit me. Like a cement wall, like a tidal wave, like a ton of bricks, like a semi-truck going a thousand miles an hour... like that cartoon anvil on my chest. It hit me.

Like a gentle warming in my soul, like an ache that was ecstasy and agony all in one, like a shattering and simultaneous rebuilding of my heart. That supernatural mama love hit me. I said out loud over my wriggly little newborn, "There it is."

That moment, I looked down into the face of my daughter and she broke my heart. I never thought I could love anyone or anything as much as I love her. At that moment, that cosmic, life altering, mind-bending, heart breaking, beautiful, reckless, relentlessly tender love of a mama for her baby, hit me. It was supernatural, cosmic and unexplainable. In all reality, I'd known her 3 days. If she were an adult, she'd still be at the acquaintance stage but no, not here.... on this changing table, on this day, she became my flesh. She became my soul. She became my song. She became mine. I had snuggled her and told her I loved her. I had held her and cuddled her but oh, as my tears fell over her little half-naked body, I pledged my love to her anew. I breathed over her, "Oh, I love you, sweet Gemma. Do you know how much I love you? Do you know?"

I felt like my heart had shattered into a trillion pieces and I felt like it had swollen with more love than I knew it could hold. I saw her fingertips in a new way- the tiny fingernails... I saw her little pouty mouth and felt her sweet breath on my forehead as I kissed her little chest. I wept over her, pledged my life and love to her, and tenderly changed her. Then, I cradled her tiny body in my arms a changed woman. She was weightier then... she had stolen my heart.

If we are made in the image of God, if we are indeed His children, if He indeed feels this way about us (all of which I believe) what WONDROUS love is this!? What amazing, earth shattering love we are the recipients of. And, what a gift that He gives mamas a special taste of this supernatural, unbelievable, indescribable, heart breaking, life giving, perfectly possessive love for their children.

Before that morning, I was a mom... a mother. At that moment in the hazy morning light, surrounded by blurred and softened colors, in the eyes of my daughter, in the tiny grasp of her finger, in the innocent trust of her heart, I, Sarah, became a mama. And I haven't been the same since. She broke my heart, rebuilt it and now continues to shatter it with love on a daily basis.

So, when did you become a mama? Not, when did you give birth but when did you BECOME a mama? Were you one of those lucky ladies who was blown away the moment she met her baby? Were you a mama the moment you found out you were pregnant? The moment you found out you would not raise your child here on earth? Was it the moment your baby nursed for the first time, the moment you held his/her hand? Or were you like me, and it hit you later?

There's no wrong answer with this obviously, but I long to know your hearts. I really want to hear that special story- that moment that changed you forever; that moment a tiny little soul made you a mama.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

we made it...

Just a few pics of Gemma's party this weekend. She won't be officially one until the sixth. We had family over (about 35 family members) to our little house and celebrated the first year of our girl's life. I have a great question for later... well, I think it's a great question so keep checkin'.

Love to you all!

Monday, September 26, 2011

here we go...

This weekend, we will celebrate my daughter's first birthday with our families. My husband has a very large nuclear family so there will be 40 people celebrating our girl! I'm a bit overwhelmed with preparations and yet excited to honor the beautiful life of my daughter. I have been so moved by your posts- hungry too! I can't wait to try some of these delicious meals. I will include my beef stew recipe soon... yum... wait for it... wait for it....

This week's question is a bit of an odd one... and suits my current frame of mind. Let's talk birthdays... what do you do for your kids? I have a lot of friends who do things differently- some have big parties every year... some have only kid parties... some go all out with decor... some have a party every 3 years... some just have one friend and a fun-day.... I'm curious as to what birthdays look like in your home.

I know that some of you have kids that are no longer 1 year olds so I'm definitely interested in what you've done as they've gotten older. I mean, how often do you get to really reflect on a practice that most people take for granted?

Because I'm not the "party planner" type, this party for Gemma is taking a lot out of me, mentally. I really want to enjoy the time with my girl, watch her face light up as she eats pumpkin cake for the first time, and hear her laugh as she crawls through leaf piles. I am hoping to avoid being concerned with everyone else- except, I am the host... so... I suppose I HAVE to be concerned with everyone else.

I know that a first birthday is for the adults more than the birthday child (she won't remember) but I would really like to soak it in with her. I'll post pictures next week! In the meantime- I look forward to hearing all about what has worked, tricks and great input about birthdays in your home.

and while you post wonderful stories/ideas/input about birthday and celebrating the life of your babies, I'll be mentally preparing for a whole-lotta people up in my house! Here we go...

Love you mamas!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

and then some...

This past Saturday, a group of us walked in the Hope and Hearts walk to benefit the Missing Grace Foundation. It was freezing cold but everyone's heart was warmed as they honored their little lost lives. We listened as Briana's name was read, as Brody W. and Brody V's names were read, we listened as miscarried babies names were uttered and held our collective breaths as mamas whispered their tiny ones names. We watched hundreds and hundreds of balloons fly sky high as music carried our messages of love to the heavens. We shed tears, laughed, walked, ran, chased healthy, beautiful babies, and held each others hands as new memories were created. We embraced our flesh babies, breathing gifts from God, and choked out prayers of gratitude for the lives we've been blessed to steward. We celebrated being mamas, daddies, family, friends, and relatives of lost little angels. We celebrated them. All of their tiny feet that have left indelible footprints on our hearts.

Thank you so much for donating, praying, attending, walking, celebrating, and remembering our children. Your love and support was what we all needed... and then some.

Today I want to post an easy question- something that ALL of us mamas should have something to offer up. We are stretched to the limit, yes? We are busy ladies! We have support at home from a spouse, or we're doing it all on our own. Either way, we've got little time to be Julia Child in the kitchen. So, bring it on!

Question #6: What is your go-to meal? Your best and easiest comfort food? What do you feel like your heart goes into when you make it? (For all you chefs, maybe you have too many to fit in one comment... well, then do multiple comments! :) AND, leave recipes, people! I want some new ideas... and if they involve a crockpot? All the better!~

Love to you, mamas... as the chill in the air builds, so does the warmth in our hearts. Snuggle your loved ones tightly- they are food for our souls.


And please, join me in remembering and wishing sweet Briana Joy Hanson a Happy 4th Birthday in Heaven. We wish you were here, sweet girl.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thursday. Four Years. Forever.

2011-07-21 10.43.51

It was a Thursday evening. I was all packed up- nervously sorting lenses and memory cards; making sure that I had everything. The wedding I was shooting was for my sister's in-laws so I felt a bit of added pressure since I would be seeing these people for the rest of my life. If they didn't like what I shot, I'd feel horrible. I was always nervous before a shoot- but for this one, I was especially anxious. I heard my phone ring in the bedroom. I remember that I had plugged it into a wall outlet in the center of the room so I'd remember to bring my phone charger.

The caller ID showed my best friend's husband, Dirk's name.

Heather, my best friend since we were 18 (also a beloved member of the Mama Confessions), was almost ready to have a baby. Less than three weeks from her due date, I thought this phone call was it! Our first little one, the first baby of the next generation of our friendship was on her way! Briana Joy was on her way!

I answered with a huge smile, "Hey Dirk!"

He responded softly, "hi."

"How are you?!" Still smiling- oh, how I wish that moment could have been frozen.

"Well, I've been better."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"We lost Briana."

and with that, a cloud settled over my soul. I clutched my chest, curled up, and said all I could think of, "What? Oh no."

I don't remember what I said next, or what he said. I remember bits of our short conversation with startling clarity and bits are lost forever.

He told me Heather told him to "call Sarah" and so he did. I asked if Heather wanted me to call our other angle of the friendship triangle, Katie, and he told me he'd leave that up to me.

I asked if there was anything I could do. He said, "Pray, Sarah. Pray for Heather, she still has to deliver."

I hope I told him to tell Heather that I love her, that I'm praying, that I'm so sorry, but I'm still unsure how our conversation ended.

I do remember what happened next. As I hung up the phone, I raced into our home office where Abe was working and burst into tears, sobbing "Heather lost the baby! Heather lost the baby!"

Abe got up right away, wrapped me in his arms and held me while I cried for my "niece", and mostly for my best-friend, the girl who walked with me through ten years of life by this time; who was in a hospital room a plane ride away, listening to a silent fetal monitor.

I had all sorts of pictures pass through my head- I prayed, but prayed with a complete absence of words. I didn't know what to say to God. I cried out to him and let my tears be words- let my sobs, be petitions- let my cries, be beads of hope for a different outcome. I talked to Katie, figured out how I could get from Iowa to Atlanta in two days- as soon as the wedding was over. We decided that Dirk and Heather needed this time as parents and a couple and that we'd wait to hear from Heather before we hopped on planes to be with her.

And then, I waited.

Can your brain be nauseous? That's the only way I can describe what I felt for the next 72 hours. The next morning, still no word from Dirk, Heather or her family, I got up really early, picked up my friend who would be shooting this wedding with me, and got on the road to Iowa. I waited for news- any news. I waited for a miraculous text message claiming the impossible- that she had been born awake! Breathing!

Instead, Heather's mom called me and confirmed the unthinkable. Still no heartbeat. Still no baby. Heather was still laboring. This was Friday afternoon, September 21st, 2007. I was in a Target, buying a necklace that I could wear to the rehearsal dinner that evening. I remember sobbing in the racks of clothing in a Target in the middle of Iowa and not caring who saw me, what I looked like, what anyone thought. My best friend, the sister of my heart, was suffering in ways I couldn't even begin to understand and I wasn't there.

I shot the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and the reception- all the while, trying to keep my head in the game. I didn't want to miss anything. I didn't want to make any mistakes. I remember I was caught off guard a couple of times where I felt the walls were closing in on me. The air was being sucked out of my lungs and I had to run outside. Yes, RUN to breathe. I cried so many times that day- in secret. It was the happiest day of the bride and groom's life and one of the darkest for me; the darkest day for someone I love very much. The only person who knew what was going on was my sister. She was a bridesmaid and had lots of duties that day and was busy and enjoying herself, as she should. I wanted so badly to lock myself up in a room and will it to be different.

I drove home the next day- Sunday. I dropped off my assistant and while I was at her door, I missed a call from Heather. The call I had been waiting for since Thursday night. I called her immediately and got her voice mail. I had called multiple times over the past two days, just to tell her that I love her, that I'm so sorry, that I'm here when she needs me and so I left another message of the same. I drove back to our apartment building and got another call from her while I pulled into the lot. That conversation changed my life.

I can't tell you what she said- I can't remember. She did tell me that Briana was beautiful, and perfect. But, I will never forget the sound of her cries. Like a wounded animal, with a broken spirit, she wept for her baby girl. The one she repeatedly said was "perfect". God, if I could have reached through the phone to envelop her, I would have. I would have broken myself to be poured through the receiver just to be with her.

We cried, and we cried; the first of many tear filled sessions for this first girl. At the end of the conversation, I asked her if she needed me to come there. I told her we'd be on the first plane, the first flight, just say the word.

"No, we're coming home."

2011-07-21 10.34.10

2011-07-21 10.33.51

With that, we now live in after. For any tragedy, there is a before and an after. I didn't know it then, but losing Briana was like an seismic anomaly- an earthquake. The actual event, while short in time, leaves the ground changed forever. There is so much more to this story, so many more details, conversations, points of gut-tearing sorrow, and improbable hope. I've tucked many of those moments into a treasure box in my heart that only Heather has access to. Some of the things I remember, we've never talked about. Some of the things I felt, we've never talked about. Even though some things are left unsaid, many things need not be spoken to be shared.

It's obvious that loss changes a person. It has changed Heather. It has changed Dirk. It has changed me. And as I experienced the miscarriage of our first baby, loss again changed me. I felt as Heather did when she was asked shortly after Briana died "how can you believe in a God who let this happen?" Heather responded as though from my own mouth, "I don't know any other way to survive."

Now, as a mama to a healthy, beautiful, breathing baby girl, loss still changes me. I see her and I see what could've been- for Briana and for our first baby. I also feel that I'm grieving for my friend again- in a valley that I didn't have access to until God brought life from my own womb. Sometimes, I ache for the empty place in Heather's heart at the most unpredictable times- at the grocery store while Gemma smiles up at me, in the front yard while she plays with grass, at night when she breathes deeply in her sleep.

I am also intensely grateful for Gemma- I'd like to think I'm infinitely MORE grateful than I could have been had we not experienced loss. I hope that I can balance the fear of the fragility of life with the joy of experiencing all the God has in store for us. I don't even know if I can put into words fully what loss has done to me as a mama. Briana is not the only loss that has changed me. Mark, Ellen, Rachel, my grandpa.. each of these lives has awakened in me questions, challenges, dashed hopes, and fulfilled dreams. On this journey of motherhood, loss always affects us, as does gain.

Loss of a job, a loved one, a promise, your health- loss is loss. No loss should ever be minimized because loss changes us even if we are unaware at the time the impact it will have on us later. It leaves behind an emptiness, a hole, if you will. That hole, never to be filled the same way or completely again. The presence of that emptiness eases some and then aches anew a moment later. The dance of motherhood is loving another while being painfully aware of the gigantic hole their absence would leave in my heart. Motherhood is walking through life with my heart beating outside my body in a now 11 month old flesh baby. Never have I felt more vulnerable and more invincible than when it comes to Gemma.

Never have I felt more empowered or more helpless, more whole or more fragmented, safer or in more danger than as a mama. I think that's because I've loved and lost. I've experienced the joy and the hope of new life and the sorrow and emptiness of a broken womb. I've lived the ecstasy of birthing a squirming purple baby and absorbed the cries of the still mama. Motherhood is delicious paradox; the best of this world, of God's hope for this creation- and the potentially most painful.

Loss has made me aware; in good ways and bad. Of the beauty and the brokenness of this place we call home. Until our Zion (our promised land) is a reality, loss will continue to burrow holes in our heart and we will continue to live swiss cheese lives. Punctured but not popped. Pressed but not crushed.

...and so I invite you to answer this question... or to share. Let this be a place where you feel safe to share and celebrate your loss. NO LOSS is unimportant- no hope dashed to be ignored. For it is in this place of deep wounds that we can most vividly experience His Holiness. God's love is a mighty tenderness to experience.

Question #5: How has loss changed you? How can we celebrate, honor life in our loss? Please feel free to share your story, answer the question, or just offer hope. I hope that you can fill holes a little bit here today.

Please, before you comment and write... please, donate to the Missing Grace Foundation in honor of Briana Joy Hanson. The webpage to visit is


Just click and give. Honor the loss and the life of your loved one and of Briana. She has changed us all.. no, God has changed us all through her tiny and tremendous life. I would be honored to share more of the joy that has come from her life with you. Please give.

The Lord says,
"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

Monday, August 29, 2011

In a nutshell...

Happy Monday, Mamas!

I have so much to tell you about!

For those of you teacher mamas, welcome back to school! Yeah! or Boo! Depends on how you feel about it, I guess!

I have missed the first day of school because both Gemma and I are sick... just colds- a sinus infection for me (I hope, so that the antibiotics will help). Today, we went outside for the first time in over 48 hours and ate popsicles in the driveway. It was fun and made me just relish in the innocence of my little jewel. (for bad phone camera pictures of this picnic, check out

I've had a bit of a struggle finding childcare while she's sick this week- a struggle that I believe will come again because I work full-time outside the home. It really makes me wish we could make me staying home work. Although, I do really LOVE my job and my kiddos. I just need balance. Sigh.

On a totally different note, I watched a brilliant movie that made me cry and smile called "WarDance". It's a documentary about a group of school children in Uganda who win a regional music competition and get to represent their tribe at the National Music Festival. More than that, it's a story of hope in the midst of IMMENSE suffering, unthinkable cruelty, and harrowing warfare. These children are the most resilient babies I have ever seen and I'm floored by how tiny my problems are in comparison.

I saw a side of children, in this film, that left me awestruck. In spite of horrific circumstances, they survive- more than that... they thrive. I don't know if I could be as resilient as they are. Keep in mind, this movie is not for the faint of heart- it doesn't show anything but the kids do tell their stories... and what shocking stories they are.

As a mama, I wanted nothing more than to pick up these 13 and 14 year old babies and run them away from all of this. As a citizen of the world, I was and am outraged (mostly because I know, full well that this is not the only country where this is occurring). What a fallen world we live in! What a FALLEN world! I thought of my worries, my complaints, my fears and was so thoroughly ashamed of my petty concerns.

These mamas, these daddies and their babies have looked evil dead in the eye... and still, they sing.

What a beautiful, beautiful, song it is.

I will refer to this again in next week's question- another tissue grabber, but I can't write it right now, it's going to take awhile and a will to write. Please join us next monday with an open heart, a box of kleenex and some time to write.

Today's question comes from this place of gratitude for what I have; no, that's not right... more than WHAT I have, WHO I have. I am two feet away from my husband right now, and across the hall from my girl. They are alive, they are safe. We can worship as we please, we have safe travel to and from work, we have food and clothing. Oh, my! We have so much to be thankful for. From this place of awestruck gratitude, I reevaluated how and why I parent the way I do. I want to break my parenting down into the truest, purest form. That got me thinking about what my parenting philosophy is... and that led to...

Question #5: What is your parenting philosophy, in a nutshell?

Please join the discussion! I can't wait to be blessed by your thoughts!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Breathe.... just breathe....

I have talked to many of you in the past weeks and have heard such positive response to the confessions. This is what I longed for; a place to share stories, encourage, and uplift. Simultaneously, I've been struggling with something and need you, my community of mamas, to come along side me with advice, shared stories, even similar concerns. I'm looking for kindred spirits here- tell me you have been there. Tell me it gets better. Tell me you have strategies for coping.

I went out to dinner with my best friend and just burst into tears while I told her about all the fears I had for Gemma and my family. I've been pretty good at denial in the past but with Gemma's health issues early on, I couldn't deny her care or the presence of such issues. In the grand scheme of things, her health issues are minor- although no one could tell me that in the beginning and technically, they still can't "clear her". She is now completely off meds and her feedings are the same as any other baby without feeding issues. PRAISE GOD! What an answer to prayer!

However, I feel that I opened the door to fear, anxiety, and worry all those months wondering if she'd be okay. I can come up with the most irrational fears that have to do with anything horrible happening to her or Abe and I. I know I don't have complete control, or any control for that matter, over her ultimate safety and that I can only do my part but sometimes I get crippled by the thought that I might have missed something. I might not have protected her in some way and left her vulnerable. This gets even deeper, breathe... I trust God to be able to intervene, however I don't trust God to always intervene in the way I want Him to. I have had too many friends lose babies, loved ones, get sick, etc to rest comfortably in the assurance that "He'll protect Gemma". I trust that God is ever-present and after talking to Heather, have created a bit of a mantra for myself: Choose Joy. In the midst of what I can not control, I am surrendering to God and choosing Joy. The bottom line is: I can't protect her from everything. I can be smart about safety but if it takes over my life or my mind, I'm MISSING OUT ON HER! I'm missing out on enjoying my daughter! Therefore, I am choosing joy; over and over again- choosing joy.

I can't control everything, not even close. I can't protect Gemma from everything- she WILL experience pain, disappointment, hurt, heartbreak, fear, and loss... Oh! how it pains me to think that she will have to walk through that. I would give anything to shelter her heart from hurt. Isn't that what all of us would do? So, that's where this week's question comes from...

Question #4: How do you parent with a healthy sense of fear? or better yet, How do you parent fearlessly?

I long to hear your shared experiences, mantras for peace, verses you rely on, warm fuzzies you cling to, and hope that you live by. Let's share in order to grow. Let's be fearless together, mamas.

Choosing Joy,

Monday, August 15, 2011

on and on and on...

Last night I laid in bed for a long time before I fell asleep. I've mentioned before that I've had all these questions bouncing around in my brain that have been making me quite self- reflective and last night was no different. I have lists of things that I want to "discuss" here and I am going to take us to some really vulnerable places- purely because I'm wrestling with these big questions and want to hear how others wrestle too. I pray that you are willing to dig with me, to open up your hearts so that we may grow together. Thank you for being my "village".

Today however, I want to give us something that we can all write about forever: our kids. Even if you have babies in heaven, in your tummy, in your arms, in another state, there is something that makes them special... what is it? Feel free to go on and on and on... as there is no limit to our love for our kids, there is no limit to the length of your comments! (at least I don't think there is... :)

Always excited to read what you have to say,

Question #3: What is it about YOUR kid(s) that is wonderful, unique, miraculous, marvelous, endearing, inspiring, and lovely?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heartbreak and Healing


I can't begin to communicate how deeply wonderful it has been to read all your comments and your introductions. I knew that by bringing our own mothers into this conversation I was touching a subject that would be received in many ways. Thank you for being honest, opening up, and sharing. It's what helps us grow- the heartbreak and the healing.

I really love that we can take the risk of opening ourselves up to "strangers" (trust me, I know all of you and you are all phenomenal- take my word for it!) and feeling safe to be honest. I was reading a blog that I follow by Ann Voskamp and immediately wanted to share it with all of you. I got so excited that I had a community of women who will walk this whole self-reflective, exhausting, humbling, thrilling, exciting, tedious journey of motherhood with me. In a word, thank you- for showing up; for reading; for commenting; for praying; for laughing; for tearing-up with "friends". That's what we are now ladies- friends. I count all of you as such and hope you find kindred spirits here.

Just because I'm post happy does not mean that you can't at any time go back and comment on other posts. I will continue to check in on all of them and upload any incoming comments. For any post, the comment section will not close. :)

Question #2: (Let's lighten things up a bit) Sleep. How do we get it? How do we help our kids get it? Go wherever you want with this one! :)

Love you all!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ladies... start your engines...

I've been mulling over what I should ask us to inaugurate this little community into sharing with one another. One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was having these questions at night... questions that I was tossing around with myself- questions that I wanted to hear other mamas answer too. Some of them are really personal, vulnerability inducing, risky questions... and some of them are certainly not. When I thought of what to start us out with, I didn't know whether to force us into immediate intimacy (and hope you were all willing) or let us play a bit.

So, I kind of came up with something in the middle. Take it however you'd like... answer it seriously or humorously or not at all. Whatever you choose. But remember, the only way to be in COMMUNITY is to BE in community so please join us. Share. Grow. Celebrate motherhood in all it's many facets- even the icky self-reflective ones!

Question #1: How has becoming a mama affected your view of/relationship with your own mother?

Oooohhhh.... that could be a doozy, eh? :) Happy posting!

Love you all!

I am overjoyed to be on this journey with you. I'm so very excited to see what comes of this and I'm filled with anticipation over what you all will share, how we will laugh, how we will cry, and how we will be transformed.

Friday, August 5, 2011


If you are here, I've contacted you in some way and invited you into an intimate conversation- about motherhood. I have longed for a group of women in my situation-new moms, and those who have a bit more experience- thank God for you- to come together and support one another, learn from one another, and laugh with one another!

What I came to realize is that if I want a community of supportive mothers, I should create it. So, that's why I'm here and why you're here. I created this space as a place for conversation- a place for advice- a place for funny stories, prayer requests, sanity checks, and encouragement.

We don't all have the same aged children, we don't all believe the same things. We come from different backgrounds, different family makeups, and different idealogical belief systems. But, we are moms, mommies, mamas, mothers- we are all embarking on what I believe to be the greatest journey in life; raising another human being. I am not trying to eliminate or minimize the role of a partner/spouse/husband in this journey, but let's face it- the mom takes the brunt of the responsibility for kids, huh?

So, the format is this... I envision asking a question and opening up the comments for us to just answer as we feel led. No judgement, no pressure. I hope that you feel comfortable sharing your experiences, your struggles, your hopes and dreams for your children as well as for yourself. I don't want to travel the road of motherhood alone and let's face it: sometimes ya gotta have girl talk.

Sometimes, the questions will be really deep and serious, and sometimes not. Sometimes, it will be about a common struggle and sometimes about a philosophical take on parenting. I just want to open the lines of communication and see what happens.

This may start out with no comments (and stay that way!- who knows?) or some of us may fade in and out. I hope that this becomes a vibrant place to mend our souls with the balm of shared experience. I hope that you find friendship here.

The nitty gritty...
1. Please post a comment(as long as you'd like)
2. You can be anonymous or leave a name and link to your blog, if you'd like
3. Please be polite (I must say this even though I really don't think I need to)- do not leave mean-spirited, or judgemental comments. I will have to okay all comments before they are published so I'll have some say over what is allowed on. This should also help control spam.
4. Please be honest. None of us are perfect and if you are, please don't tell me that you are... it'll just make me feel bad! :)
5. Please stick least for awhile. Give us a chance to form some community.

First question: Who are you?

I can't wait to talk with all of you.