52: Sisters

52 Week 14 They love each other, these two. When Ellie's at preschool, Celia inquires, "El-wie? El-wie?"

"She's at school," I tell her.

"School," she repeats, nodding emphatically.

Five minutes later, it begins again. "El-wie? El-wie?"

When we go to the mom's group at church, Ellie insists on staying in the baby class with Celia. "She won't cry if I am here," she says.

They also squabble and push and vie for attention, but in the good moments, when their joy in one another is evident, I can't help but wish I had a sister too.

On the Joy and Sorrow of Mother's Day

Mother's Day I am weary this Mother's Day. Last night, I burst into tears at the prospect of making dinner in a kitchen littered with unwashed dishes, unopened mail, and the food from my daughters' play kitchen.

My husband took one look at me and sent me to bed. "I've got this," he said.

All I really want for Mother's Day is a nice long nap.

As my own amazing mother has always told me, being a mother is hard, hard work. It is beautiful, fulfilling work, but it calls for all of me everyday. Or as it often seems, it calls for more of me than there is to go around.

For this reason, I am thankful for Mother's Day, for a day that honors and celebrates the many women who have sacrificed to give and to nurture life. I think of my own rich legacy of motherhood: my grandmothers, my mother, my mother-in-law, my friends' mothers, and the many, many older women who took note of me over the years, who in their own unique ways encouraged and invested and loved.

These women, some of them mothers themselves, some of them childless or single, taught me to cook and to sew, to see Jesus in the everyday, to value myself and my gifts, to count the nurturing of little souls as sacred, significant work. My own mothering is in so many ways an overflow of what they poured into me.

It is right and good to celebrate these women and others like them. I'm glad for the existence of a holiday like Mother's Day, for the way its regular appearance on my calendar reminds me to stop, take a break from my own busyness, and remember with gratitude.

But I also know it's not quite as simple as that. I remember the pain of my own childless Mother's Day, when CJ and I had been trying for nearly a year to get pregnant. I remember how alone I felt when all the mothers in our church stood to be recognized, how I left the service sobbing.

This Mother's Day, I ache for the daughter who is missing, and I ache too for many of my friends. I think of my pregnant friend caring for her two young daughters, wishing her own mother could have met her sweet babies. I think of my single mom friends, with no one coming home to relieve them of dinner preparations after a hard day. I think of my friends who long for children of their own, of the many brave ways they love and invest and nurture.

I'm sad that Mother's Day can be a hard day for these friends and others like them, even as I am grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the many amazing mothers I know. It is hard to hold onto both of these emotions. I understand the impulse to ignore the hurting on a day of celebration or to rail against Mother's Day because it can be a source of pain.

And yet, I hope there is another way, a way we can somehow embrace both the beautiful and the broken, a way to sit in both the joy and the sorrow with one another. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I hope, this Mother's Day, that I can do both.

52: Silence

In the complete draft of my book manuscript, there are 69,226 words. For the past two weeks, since I sent the draft off to my editor, I haven't been able to find any more. I think of writing sometimes, when the girls are playing peacefully for a moment, when I collapse on my bed during their afternoon rest time, and I start crafting sentences in my brain. Mostly though, my creativity is drained. I read - Tim Keller's book on suffering, Andrew Solomon's exploration of children different from their parents. I think a lot about pain and loss and God and the unanswerable questions. I sleep. I watch TV. I sort through the mail that's been piling up since December. And I wait for the editor's feedback and for my words to come back. This is part of the process I know, this percolation, this steeping, this silence.

52: Sunshine

52 Week 13 On days like today, days of sunshine and still, warm air, we go outside as much as I can manage.  Bubbles and chalk and bikes are all new again after their winter's hibernation, and the mosquitoes and Virginia humidity have not yet arrived.  We eat picnics and lick popsicles and come in for dinner tired and sweaty and grimy.

52: Spring

52 Week 12 We've replaced the winter magnet with the spring magnet on our little preschool calendar, but weather is not regulated by neat human divisions.  In our front flower bed, tulip blossom push their tips through the thawing earth.  Our long-silent neighborhood is again full of little voices, of scooters and sidewalk chalk and pick-up soccer games.  But still, snow flurries sneak up on us, and even in the sunshine, we shiver in our fleece jackets, the ones we are all determined to wear.  "Where do we find summer?" Ellie asks one morning, longingly.

52: Winter Ends

52 Week 10 The earth is heavy with snow and ice.  My heart is heavy too with cancer battles and divorce and babies sick and dying. So many questions I can't find answers to, no matter how many times I turn them around in my brain.  I feel the physical weight of them sometimes, a tightness in my chest.  I write my book, and I read the blogs, and sometimes the cumulative impact of so many hard stories seems too much to bear.  One afternoon, the girls and I drive to pick CJ up at the airport after he's been gone for five days. The grass is still covered with snow, but the sky is bright and the air is warm.  Strangely, a Christmas carol comes to mind.  A thrill of hope, I think, the weary world rejoices.  

Almost Four

Almost Four You've been talking a lot lately about your upcoming birthday, about the fact that you are "almost four."

The other night at dinner, you asked, "How old will Celia be when I turn four?"

"Still one," I replied.

You stopped to consider that for a moment, then asked:  "Is it because Avaleen died that there is a number between Celia and I?"

I understood immediately what you meant.  You are three.  Celia is one.  Avaleen would be two.

"Yes," I said, a soft smile on my lips.  "That's right sweetie."

"If Avaleen were here," you continued, "we could play the three bears.  I would be Papa Bear and Avaleen would be Momma Bear and Celia would be Baby Bear."

"Yes," I said simply.  "That is true."

I did not cry as I might have if we'd had this conversation a year or two ago, when my grief was still more raw.  But I could have.

I felt sad in that moment, wishing that both of your sisters were here, wishing that you could play the three bears together and enjoy decades of adventures as a trio.  But mostly, Ellie girl, I felt proud.

I love how you love your sister, even though you never met her, even though we didn't tell you about her until two years after she died, when we thought you were finally old enough to understand.  Your eyes filled with tears then as you looked at your Daddy and I.  "I want to go to Heaven to see her," you said as we wrapped you in our arms and all cried together.  "I want my sister."

You still talk about her almost every day, and while I struggle to answer the question of how many kids we have, you don't hesitate.  "There are three kids in our family," you say, to me and to strangers alike.

You may never understand what a gift those words are to me, Ellie girl.  They are natural when you say them, absent of the awkwardness I feel when I try to articulate the same thing.  I worry about what people will think, about whether or not Avaleen really "counts" since she died before she was even born, but you have understood from the beginning. She is one of us, and her death leaves a gap.  A missing number between you and Celia.  No Momma Bear for your imaginary play.

You are right, Ellie girl.  There are three kids in our family.  And I'm so glad you are one of them.

15 Months

52 Week 9 You have opinions these days.

You do not like snowsuits, doctor’s offices, ground beef, weaning, or sharing my lap with your sister.  You love breakfast sausage, your two soft baby dolls and fleece blanket, watching videos on my phone, climbing on stools, and trying to keep up with your sister.

You’re saying more words everyday, acquiring a vocabulary with the same fearless tenacity you showed when learning to work.  While Ellie generally waited until she knew a word well to start saying it, you are constantly imitating the sounds we make, unconcerned with whether or not you get them just right.

You are emphatic with your answers, a clear “yah” for an affirmative, a vigorous headshake for a negative.

We all adore your bright smile, your bear hugs, your perfect little curls.  You bring smiles to strangers everywhere we go.

You are growing up so fast, my Celia Bug.  It’s hard to let go of the thought of you as my baby, but it is a great joy to watch you become a little girl.

52: RSV

52 Week 8 She screams when they take her temperature, when they force her body into a harness for a chest x-ray, when I hold the nebulizer mask over her face.  Eventually, eyes closed against the medicated steam, she falls asleep in my arms, her breathing still labored.  I am sitting on the urgent care examining table, and she is warm and heavy against me.  I wait to hear whether or not she will need to be admitted to the hospital overnight, and I remember losing one child and the long months I feared I might never hold this one either.

52: The Simple Things

52 Week 7  

It is a Pinterest-worthy photo of a Pinterest-inspired activity:  a holiday-themed sensory bin, baby and toddler playing harmoniously while sun streams onto clean hardwood floors.  What the photo doesn't show is the half-hour it took me to set up the bin while the girls were sleeping, the fact that it only entertained them for about ten minutes, the soaking wet outfits that had to be changed afterwards along with dozens of little foam hearts to lay out to dry.  The next afternoon, while Celia finished her nap, Ellie played with the dirty dishes in my kitchen sink for half an hour:  no planning or extra clean-up required, no Pinterest-worthy pictures taken.  Sometimes, I am realizing, simple and spontaneous is just as good, perhaps even best.

52: On Baking Alone

52 Week 6 She is excited about Valentine's Day, almost as much as Christmas my husband thinks.  Together, she and I planned a little Valentine's Day play date with a few of her friends from preschool:  heart coloring pages, red snacks, cookie decorating.  The plan was to bake the cookies together the night before the play date, after her baby sister had gone to bed.  The dough was ready in the kitchen, waiting, but she sat at the dining room table squirming, whining, playing with her milk, doing anything but eating her dinner.  We told her she had to finish by the time her sister was in bed, or there would not be time to make cookies.  When I came downstairs from putting Celia to bed, she burst into tears, knowing she'd lost her chance.  "I was just about to eat it," she wailed, as we sat on the couch, both CJ and I holding her close.  She was so upset she couldn't speak, and I cried too.  Everything in me wanted to cave, to let her bake at least a few of the cookies the next day.  But CJ said no, and I knew he was right.  I baked alone, after she was finally asleep, and I cried more.  Love is a hard, hard thing.

52: Reminded

52 Week 5  

CJ took the girls to his parents this morning so I could write, and I've spent most of my day alone, in the quiet, with my computer.  I've been talking for weeks now about how I was looking forward to the silence and the solitude, to all the things I'd be able to get done.  And all of that has been beautiful:  the ten fresh pages of writing, the afternoon nap break, the time and space to think.  But it's reminded me of the many Saturdays of my single years, Saturdays spent alone grading papers and doing grad school homework, Saturdays I longed for the busy chaos of family life. It's funny how easy it is to forget the challenges of the past, how easy it is forget gratitude for the present.



52: Stillness

52 Week 4  

She wanted me to color.  It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, the house unusually still.  The toddler was sleeping, and CJ was working at his desk in the basement.  I wanted to crawl into bed and take a nap myself, but I sat and watched her stencil shapes and draw pictures of Fancy Nancy and her family.  She didn't really want me to color with her, I realized as time passed; she simply wanted me to be with her, to watch her, to pay attention.  It was hard.  I kept thinking about the shirts I could've been ironing in the basement, kept turning on my phone to send a quick text to a friend.  I'm very aware that being constantly busy with small children is hard for me; I crave silence, stillness, peace.  But on Sunday, I realized that being still is hard for me too, that slowing down to simply be with my little girl required real effort of a different sort.  To pay full attention to her, to focus solely on her interests and desires, requires both a stillness and a degree of selflessness that are difficult for me to muster, but so very important for us both.

Some Exciting News

Contract It's official.  I've signed a contract with a little press called Wipf and Stock to publish my book.  I am now Abigail Waldron, author.

It sounds very glamorous and exciting, and it is.  Sort of.

I'm still spending most of my time changing diapers and feeding little people.  And there's still a lot of work to be done before my manuscript deadline of December 2015.

I will keep you posted as things progress, but for now, Abigail Waldron, author, needs to go figure out what we're eating for dinner.

52: Grace to See

52 Week 3 52 Week 3 (2)


Most parenting moments are mundane:  dishes washed, diapers changed, tantrums managed, books read for the hundredth time.  In the midst of the busyness, the noise and the chaos, it is easy to lose sight of your child's personhood, the beauty of her unique mind and heart.  But every now and then, something makes you stop, slow down, and see, really see. You tell your three year-old to set the table and come back to find she's created "house napkins" for everyone.  You turn around and realize that while your one year old may be pulling all the toys out of the dollhouse, she understands that babies should sit in shopping carts.  They really are amazing, these little people.  It is easy for me to forget; it is grace when I can see.

52: Embracing Chaos

52 Week 2 He told me, while my tear-filled eyes surveyed the toy-strewn floors and piles of still-unpacked Christmas gifts, to embrace the mess, to enter in to the moment.  I don't do mess, I wanted to say.  I can't cook unless my countertops are clean, can't write unless my desk is clear.  But he is right, I know.  Life with two small kids is mess.  I can either fight against my kids and their clutter all day long or I can fight to enjoy them in the midst of the chaos.  I often make the wrong choice.  But on this day, I choose mess, extra mess.  I choose my toddler's flour and water soup, dry rice and oatmeal running through my baby's fingers.

52: New Magic

52 Week 1 There is magic in Christmas, in piles of packages, in an abundance of sparkle and shimmer and sugar.  But there is magic too in a fresh new year and in the pleasures of a simple hour:  a girl and her mommy, one slide, two swings, winter sun on our cheeks.

A New Series: 52


For 2015, I'm attempting a little series here on the blog called 52.  The idea boils down to this:  52 weeks in a year, 52 short paragraphs capturing my reflections on life in this crazy busy season with small children under my feet, on my hip, calling my name constantly.

Most days, I barely have time to wash my dishes and fold my laundry, let alone pause for reflection.  But the weeks keep flying by, and I know this will all be over soon.  They will grow up, move on, need me less.

Then, I will have time for more writing, longer writing, but for now, I will write the little snatches of life I can manage.  Once a week, one paragraph.

One Year

C One Yer

I've been nostalgic this fall, thinking about last October and November when my belly and ankles were large and my soul was full with the anticipation of meeting you.  It was a sweet time those months, trick-or-treating and snuggly stories with your sister, all the little preparations we were making for you, readying our little corner of the world for you to enter it.

There was excitement, but there was fear and anxiety too.  The brief life of your sister Avaleen had taught us, among many other things, that there was no certainty, that a little life could be moving and kicking one minute and then, inexplicably, still the next.  She should have been turning one last November, but instead of celebrating her first birthday, we were waiting to welcome you, the baby who might not have had existed had she been born as we planned.

And now, my baby girl, you are one.  It's hard to believe how quickly this past year has gone, how much you have grown.  I spent last Christmas with you as a sleepy newborn cuddled against my shoulder, and now I spend my days chasing you off stools and up stairs and pulling your chubby fingers off of the Christmas tree ornaments.

There are many things I could say about you on your first birthday Celia, about the precious gift of your life, but no matter how I start to write it, it always circles back to this one word:  joy, the middle name that has proven such an apt descriptor of you.  You have brought joy to my heart in a way I didn't think I could ever feel again after your sister died.  You have brought joy and laughter to our home, your busy, babbling self filling in the spaces that once felt so empty.  And even on your worst days, when you whine with endless frustration at not being able to keep up with your big sister, when you can't seem to stay out of trouble, I see you smile your beautiful smile, and I can't help but rejoice.

God has been kind to us in you Celia Joy.  We love you more than you will ever know.