rituals: morning snuggles (julie holly).

Were you around for last week’s ritual? You may remember Nicole’s words on snuggling with her babies in the morning – well, what fun it was for me to receive these submissions within hours of each other, AND to find two kindred mama-spirits who’d SOMEHOW landed back to back weeks. Julie Holly is a mama and a writer and a friend, and just like last week’s ritual, I love her heart and her story today. Enjoy!

(This is not Julie, but it sure is cute). Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Ṁ‽ǩ€ §ρ!и@ķ.
(This is not Julie, but it sure is cute). Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Ṁ‽ǩ€ §ρ!и@ķ.

Through the seasons of the year, the addition or subtraction of flannel sheets and blankets, one thing remains, the pitter-patter of our daughter’s feet on the wood floor racing down the hall followed shortly by her brother’s echoing stomps.

They make their way into our room, sometimes standing at the threshold inspecting, figuring out if their parents still bodies are in dreamland. Being a light sleeper, I wake most every time when their big toe first meets the smooth grains of wood. I wait, a happy excitement dances in my heart as I expect to see their little frames walk through the threshold of our room. Our eyes meet and dance of groggy jig as I pull back the cloud-like duvet welcoming them in to snuggle close. On cool mornings they press their toes and legs close to mine, trying to leech as much warmth as possible from my slightly warmer body, something you can only do to those who love you deeply.

I cradle my preschool daughter and nuzzle her delicate strawberry hair that smells nothing of the sweetness of spring’s luscious fruit. Her eyes close and she dozes off for a moment more before her clear blue eyes meet my stormy grays for another unspoken “Good morning I love you” gaze.  Some mornings we repeat this a few times. Our hearts filled, intoxicated by the luxury of unconditional love. Her arms reach above her head toward the headboard and an obscure sigh escapes her lips. Strained whispers rush in unison, “Hush, you’ll wake your brother!” He does wake.

The sound of his older stronger frame lugging down the hall ushers him into our room. Some mornings they argue over snuggle placement, which will be on the side by mom or in the middle of mom and dad. Yesterday he went to the foot of the bed and crawled from beneath the covers up to the pillows, where he basked in the ultimate in paternal security and love. These moments are precious privilege.

Attention turned towards the boy who made me a mom, I run my fingers through his soft hair and place gentle kisses on his forehead. “Good morning,” I attempt to say gently in my rough morning voice. We talk about how we slept and the dreams we had the night before as we ease into the day spread before us.

Them come the click-click-click-taps of our yellow Labrador bounding down the hall intent on crashing the snuggle fest.  We’re not a family that allows dogs on furniture, so Buddy’s muzzle nestles into our duvet cover while his hips dance and tail zig-zag-slaps back and forth. His cold nose, slightly moist, brushes against a hand, which quickly retracts and squeals.

Some mornings I pull myself out of bed early for mediation, workouts or writing, but I find myself drawn back to the snuggle bed. Wrinkled noses proclaim I’m smelly and little fingers reach to feel if I’m sweaty the mornings I run and I’m shunned from the sacred space. After a lightening shower (now standard protocol in parched California) I’m welcomed back, wet noodle-like hair and all. I crawl back in bed for a final few minutes before the morning momentum steals another day, because nothing beats sacred morning snuggles.

Our kids are getting older but they haven’t outgrown the snuggle ritual. The day is coming when this ritual will come to an end, but until then, I will welcome these mornings of squishing onto our shrinking queen sized bed.

JPEG-0067Julie Holly is a member of Redbud Writers Guild, contributor for Start Marriage Right and founder of Peacequility where she nurtures the wellspring of life while tackling gritty realities life (and sinful hearts) produce. Her second chance marriage has blessed her with an encouraging husband, two vivacious kids and a loving lab that keep her on her toes.

everything I ever needed to know in parenting…

This is how it happened: I’d been invited to lunch. And not only was it a lunch where Real Live Food was involved (which tends to be a draw for me), but it featured a tableful of female writers, of women seeking to find the balance between heart and passion, motherhood and creativity.

We sat at Bronwyn’s dining room table, homemade bread in the center and bubbly, steaming bowls of soup before us. Children screamed in the background and Lesley bounced her new baby boy on her lap, shushing and cooing and sprinkling him with love. One by one, updates were given and questions were asked; dreams were whispered and ideas were birthed.

I talked a bit here and there, but mostly, like water to sponge, I soaked up their camaraderie. I questioned whether I fit in then and would fit in in the future. And I listened, intently, closely, scrutinizing their interactions to see if I was one of them, to figure out if I could belong.

And that’s when it happened: as I sought validation, advice spewed forth.

“Cara, you should connect with Tim Fall. He loves women in ministry.”

The woman who spoke abruptly corrected herself, clarifying that Tim, a married, faithful Christian man, had a heart for promoting male and female writers alike.

“He’ll be your biggest fan,” one of them said. And that was all I needed to hear…

Friends, we haven’t even GOTTEN to the wisdom portion yet! There’s more, there’s more! Want to read about how the Barnabas of the Blogosphere became my biggest fan AND provided me with oodles and oodles of parenting wisdom? Click here to read the rest of my guest post for him. Otherwise, what’s some of the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

rituals: counting the good (bri amarillas).

Guest post Wednesday, guest post Wednesday!  We’re coming atcha day a late, but that’s okay because Grace-Grace-Grace.  Meanwhile, I’ve got a treat for you.  I’ve got words from one of my mama-friends that were exactly what I needed to hear today.  I’ve got a nightly ritual for you that will melt your heart and make you want to focus on the positive instead of the negative.  I’ve got a story that will make love stir in your bones.  Friends, enjoy Bri’s words today. 


I want my son to know in his bones that he is loved.

Tonight I tucked my crazy three year old into his bed and asked him if I could count his fingers. He said yes and held out his hand with the fingers outstretched and waited.

“I love you because you are a big helper—and you set the table for dinner. I love you because you are growing up so fast—and you washed your hair all by yourself for the very first time today. I love you because you have the best laugh, and I loved chasing you around the kitchen and hearing you giggle. I love you how you gave me a million kisses when I came home today, it made me feel so loved. And I love that you did not fuss at all when we ended that episode of “Jake the Pirate” before it was over so we could have dinner!”

And then I kiss his palm so he can hold onto my love as he falls asleep.

I started counting his fingers a few months ago because, to be honest, being his Mama was draining. He is in the trenches of three, whining and testing boundaries regularly. He is declaring his independence in the most obnoxious ways like announcing he does NOT like macaroni and cheese, even though that was what he requested for dinner and it is literally his favorite food of all time.

He makes me crazy.

One night, I looked at the day and realized that the balance of our interactions was skewed. I was spending more time correcting him than encouraging him. I spent more time feeling exasperated with him than grateful for him. It left us both feeling exhausted. So that night I snuggled up to my little boy and started telling him all the things I loved about him. The list flowed from me with very little effort and I felt the tension of the day melt away. His eyes danced as he heard me talk about him. We were both getting exactly what we needed. I vowed to keep telling him a new list every night.

In order to come up with a list every night, I am paying attention to him more closely. I am remembering the great parts in the day and forgetting the hard parts. I give him more opportunities to be helpful, loving, or silly. Instead of sending him to time-out when he reacts poorly to something, I am giving him more do-overs and chances to respond better—and he usually does. And even on days when he doesn’t he is learning that my love for him is bigger than any of his transgressions. Even on days when he drives me crazy I am reminded how easy it is to list of why I love him.

Some nights when I ask him if he wants me to count his fingers he says “No thanks.” The first time he declined, I was a little offended. I worried that this ritual that means so much to me didn’t resonate with him like I thought it did.

Then the next night he declined again and said, “No thanks. I know.”

BriBri Amarillas lives in the Bay Area with her super-hot husband and crazy son. Her favorite things are coffee dates, good wine, and watching someone talk passionately about something they’re obsessed with. She can be found instagrammin’ and having dance parties in her kitchen to Taylor Swift.  OH MAN. Cara here again.  I’m pretty sure Bri wrote this directly to me alone, and I just happen to share it with the rest of you.  So, how did her story strike your heart-strings today?  

10 minutes in the life of a toddler.

In order to illustrate the concept of change for an upcoming talk this weekend, I decided to record everything that happened in the life of our toddler in the span of ten minutes.  If you’ve ever been around a two-year-old, or parented a two-year-old, or been a two-year-old yourself, you might be able to relate to his shenanigans.  Enjoy!

"Gentle, gentle... That is not gentle!"
“Gentle, gentle… That is not gentle!”

5:45 pm: Cancan stomps five times on the floor, runs over to the baby bouncer halfway across the room and bounces in said bouncer. He lays down on the floor and rolls around on Baby Brother’s play mat.

5:46 pm: He says to the play mat, and/or to whoever happens to be listening, “No go on it, no go underneath,” and pops down underneath the fabric play mat.

5:47 pm: Cancan discovers that he knows the word “underneath,” and proceeds to say the word “underneath” 15 times in the next 30 seconds, while simultaneously going under baby’s play mat, again and again and again. He then hurls himself toward the Bumbo in the corner, grabs the Bumbo and tackles it to ground.

5:48 pm: He comes up on couch, to where Baby Brother and I are sitting and proceeds to jump on the couch. He responds to mama’s request, “No jump on couch, Cancan” by jumping three times on the couch. He proceeds to sit down on the couch, out of breath from all the illegal jumping.

5:49 pm: Cancan goes to the corner to take “a space.” He sits on floor quietly for about eight seconds and then he sees his shoes two feet away.

5:50 pm: He says mine [about the shoes] in a scary ghoulish voice. He comes back up to the couch. He jumps off the couch and goes over to the large, empty Amazon box on the floor.

5:51 pm: Cancan sits down in the box. He lays down in the box. He gets out of the box. He goes over to the bouncer and bounces it violently. He lays down in the baby’s bouncer.

5:52 pm: He gets back in the empty Amazon box. He says “hi mama,” twice, and he sits down on floor. He picks up his Batman book, and begins singing one word of the Batman theme song that he knows, over and over again: “Batmaannnn! Batmaannnn!”

5:53 pm: Cancan fake falls on floor and says, “I fall down.” He comes over to Mama and Baby, and says, “Hi baby brother, hi baby brother, hi baby brother,” three times.

5:54 pm: He leans backwards over side of couch. He says hi to baby again. I put the phone down, for obvious reasons.

So, wanna to come over and play?  

xoxo, c.  

look who’s talking, 3 (a screenplay).

One of the handiest parts of mama-hood involves trading childcare; even if it’s just once a week, that’s three more hours I have to write, or be reminded that I am an adult who has the ability to speak in sentences longer than four syllables.  [See also: Baby, no no; Car?  Car?  Car?  Car?; Say bye-bye!]  Of course, there then exists the realization that “swap” is a two-way street, which takes us to this past Tuesday where the almost 17-month olds, Cancan and Baby Ruth, found themselves at play in our living room.

Photo cred: IMDB.  Look Who's Talking.
Photo cred: IMDB. Look Who’s Talking.

The two littles have been playing nicely in the living room for an hour or so.  The Parental Unit is giving herself kudos for her most excellent child-rearing skills, when she decides to give them each a snack-time mini-carrot muffin treat.  The following ensues….

CanCan: Wabada!  Baby Ruth, take my muffin!  No, really, I don’t want it – let me forcefully cram it into your mouth!  Now, now!  

BabyRuth: Ga!  Ga!  I don’t want your stinking muffin!  Get away!  You’re mean!  Shoo!  

CC: Haaaaaaaaaw!  Baby Ruth, I insist.  Eat my muffin.  Here, I’ll help you: let me shove it down your throat.  

Tears well in Baby Ruth’s eyes, for she is not about to eat Cancan’s muffin.  She begins to cry; at this point the Parental Unit decides to intervene, using such words as “Gentle, gentle” (and other four-syllable sentences), but to no avail.  Baby Ruth cries louder.  And louder.  The Parental Unit decides that she must need comforting, so she picks her up and takes her to the couch.

BR: [Between hiccuping tears] Uh, uh, uh!  I just wanted to eat MY muffin …and, and… he wouldn’t let me.  He made me eat HIS muffin.  He stinks!

The Parental Unit doesn’t exactly have the most emotionally sensitive of a child, so she’s not sure what to do.  She must want comfort, the Parental Unit decides, so she rubs her hair, she rocks her slightly, she whispers sweet toddler-nothings into her ear.  Meanwhile, Cancan is ready for friendship again, so he toddles over to the couch.

CC: Hi!  Hi!  Hi!  Hi!  Want to play with my car?  Want to catch the ball?  Want to eat the gravel in the backyard with me?  Hi!  Hi!  Hi!  Hi!  

BR: Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!  Oh-no-he-di’nt!  You did NOT just enter my space.  This is a Ruth-only zone, man!  Get away from me, booger-head!  

CC: Garbalarbadarb.  It’s okay, Baby Ruth.  We’re besties.  Here, let me pat your legs violently and reassure you of our relationship.  

BR: WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!  You’re not picking up what I’m putting down, buddy.  I do not want you in my space, and I certainly don’t want your toilet-water hands touching my legs!

The Parental Unit continues to try and soothe Baby Ruth, now cradling the 17-month old in a newborn rocking position.  This is a silly idea on her part.  The Parental Unit whispers, “Shhhhh, shhhhh,” to Baby Ruth in order to produce a calm environment, while Cancan continues to throw punches and reassure her of their friendship.  Chaos ensues.

CC: [Grunt, grunt] I know!  I’ll crawl up on the couch, and sit on the other side of my mama; that way, we can really be friends.  

BR: AH! GA BA BA WAHHHHHH!!!  You are not hearing me!  I don’t want to see you!  Your proximity makes me ill!

The Parental Unit continues to rock and soothe, rock and soothe, with one arm whilst trying to keep her son away with the other.  “Uh-uh, no no,” she whispers, in between hushes; Cancan looks at Baby Ruth, he looks at his mama, and he reacts the only way he knows how: he begins to fake-cry violently.  

CC: Wah!  Wah!  Wah!  Look Baby Ruth, I am crying sympathy tears for you. Faux cry, faux cry!  I’m an empathetic little dude, I swear!  Look: I can even match your pain and cry harder.  Wahhhhh!  Wahhhh!  Wahhhh!

BR:  [Hiccup, hiccup, hiccup.]  Is this really happening right now?  Are you MOCKING me?  The nerve!  WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

The Parental Unit is besides herself, so she copes the only way she knows how in a high-stress situation: she laughs.  The littles continue to wail for the next five minutes.  She texts Baby Ruth’s mama to see if she can give her a bottle of milk: a reply “yes” comes in.  Handing Baby Ruth a bottle, she cannot get up from the couch now, for she cannot leave the littles alone in a room to fend for themselves.  12 more minutes go by.  Then she realizes: maybe Baby Ruth needs her diaper changed!

BR: Uh n mama n baga babaaba.  Wahhhhhhh!  Who is this lady?  Where is she taking me now?  And why does that kid want to follow me everywhere I go?  Can’t a girl get any privacy anymore?  Wahhhhhh!!!

CC: Ca ca ca ca ca!  Whelp, I’m done crying, but what?  We’re going upstairs?  I love the stairs!  Let’s play!  Mama, I can beat you, watch!  [Cancan hustles up the stairs, eager for his room.]

The Parental Unit attempts to change Baby Ruth’s diaper.

BR: WAHHHHHHHHHH!!!  That’s not what I’ve been crying about!  I don’t care about my diaper!  You are not my favorite person right now, lady!  Where’s my mama?  Ma ma ma ma?  [She hiccups and gulps for air.]  WAHHHHH!!!!

CC: Bagiwawagigigigigig.  And this, Baby Ruth, is my throne.  This is where all the magic happens.  These are my books.  This is my ball.  This is my bear.  Welcome, welcome.  

The Parental Unit places a wailing Baby Ruth on the floor; she should probably call the other parental units by now.  Consolation is nowhere to be found.

BR: Ga?  Ga.  Gaaaaaa.  [One last hiccup.]  Ga.  Well, why didn’t you take me up here in the first place?  I love oversized stuffed animals that I can slam myself into and hug, over and over again.  And books?!  Gimme, gimme!  My favorite!  I am happy!  I am in love!  I am happy Baby Ruth baby!  

Baby Ruth slams herself into the giant Costco bear, comfort gained with each impulsive hug.  Cancan, Baby Ruth and the Parental Unit sit on the floor, reading books for the next 45 minutes.  And all is calm, all is bright with the world.


And the moral of the story is: Keep Calm and Read Your Book.  And Slam Your Body Into an Oversized Bear Whenever Humanly Possible If You Feel Sad.  And…

What about you?  What’s the best conversation – imagined or not – you’ve heard between children lately?  And, more importantly, when was the last time you therapeutically slammed your body into a giant, oversized bear?  

Mama’s Losin’ It

my help-thanks-wow.

It happened just a few days ago, I swear: I woke up and my baby, my mine, had officially become a Little Man.

No longer is he this…

Fresh-plucked from the wombie.
Fresh-plucked from the womb.

but he’s this:

Playground professional.
Playground professional.

In the blink of an eye – in 100-400 milliseconds, according to Google – he’s begun toddling and waddling around the house, my very own tipsy little sailor swaying side to side, step by step.  His pudgy baby cheeks have been replaced by thinner and more defined cheekbones, Little Caramel emulating more recognizable traits of his daddy’s racial heritage.

Be still my heart.  

His hands are sticky all the time, and from what, I’m really not quite sure (although I’d venture a guess that it has something to do with his profound fascination of garbage cans, toilet bowls, toilet seats and the diaper pail, in general).  His feet are always, ever dirty, which obviously has nothing to do with the state of our hardwood floors, and his poop has long since carried with it the faint newborn scent of buttery popcorn – for Lord, he stinketh.  

He’s dropping his morning nap – at least, according to the sleeping adventures (or lack thereof) of the last week or so – and this dynamic, far-from-linear child is climbing up on couches while flinging himself fearlessly toward the ground just seconds later.  He’s a skydiver in training, and I’m just hoping he remembers to pull, or at least reach for, the safety cord.

He’s squawking and grunting and speaking new syllables every day, tongue darting in and out of his mouth like an 11-year-old tween practicing the art of kissing on her pillow.  He’s rounding the dining room table, one time, two times, three times more, a fast-talking Clint Eastwood, exaggerated waddle of a cowboy-swagger his signature stride in the 11th lap that morning.

As a mama, as a parent, I heave a big sigh and I smile a big smile.  I pick him up and I squeeze him tightly, and I whisper, Mine, Mine, as I kiss him over and over again.  I lean into the moment, I embrace the tension, I marvel in the miracle of the everyday.  I let myself wear my sappy hat for a few minutes if need be, because I’m a mama, and oozy, drippy sap is part and parcel of the outfit I sport.

And then when it’s hard – because it’s tiresome and thankless and monotonous, a lot – I put on my Big Girl Panties.  When Cancan is having a Sleepless in San Francisco week [see: the past week and a half], I give myself a pat on the back and I whisper sweet nothings to myself because, Lovely, This Too Shall Pass.  I make the HBH hug me and hold me for a couple of extra seconds each evening, and then over margaritas with a girlfriend, we clink glasses, and with sparkly, teary, knowing eyes, say to each other, You got this, you got this.  I pray to the One who gives me strength, because sometimes when it’s really, really hard, I don’t know how to keep going on my own (and quite frankly, it’s pretty freeing to admit this truth).

And before I know it, a new day is dawning, a minor resurrection of sorts and in mercy and in grace, I’m given a whole new chance.

So I utter my help-thanks-wow’s*: thank you, God, for this little miracle-man, for the past and the present and the future.  Thank you for the beautiful, messy, lovely here and now, and for my waddley, toddley miniature Clint Eastwood of a son.

Thank you for my mine.  

What about you?  What do you say help-thanks-wow for today?

* = Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow