Soul Mates?

My husband and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage in a few days. It’s strange that there are ways in which it feels a lot longer than that…like can I even remember what life was like without this man by my side? Then there are different ways where these 13 years feel like the blink of an eye…and I’m still 17 and just excited to be cruising gravel roads with this good-looking guy riding shotgun in my Camaro. Gosh, even that thought, that picture of us fresh-faced in my mind’s eye, makes me blush and smile. Those really were the days…

I was talking with a friend, and we were chatting about if relationships, life partners if you will, are predetermined. Do you have a soul mate or could you have ended up with someone else and still be happy in marriage? Are you happy with your partner because it was predetermined that you belong with them…or could you have made a happy life with anyone?

For my readers, I’m sure it’s not hard to guess which side I fell on. I believe we are made with a soul mate in mind for us, someone you belong with. My friend, who is also in a happy marriage, thinks that we can make a happy life with other people, as long as you and your partner would be devoted to doing just that.

Who knows which one of us may be right, but what I have found over the course of my relationship is that a happy marriage comes from the choice. Even with the right person, the wrong choices can lead you to some very difficult places. So happiness in relationship comes from the recognition that you have the choice to stay or to go…to love or leave…to encourage or to break down your partner. A happy marriage comes from choosing to show up and bring your best to your relationship every single day.

There are points in every marriage where circumstances and problems cause spouses to review their marriage. Challenges come without fail. There are tough times. We can find ourselves wondering what life would be like on our own. We may try to figure out if we could do it on our own. Could we survive…financially, emotionally? If we make that determination in the midst of a tough season in our marriage it may bring us comfort that we could do it on our own, but I think that that very thought is the crux of every downfallen relationship. Thoughts become things, so we have to guard our thoughts bravely and fiercely when it comes to our relationships.

For me as an individual and in my marriage, I know that I’m a strong person. I know I am capable of hard work and that I’m even tougher than I realize. But I also see that my life would look so drastically different on my own and without my marriage, that I never want to “make it” on my own. I never want to wake up and face this life without my husband.

Everyday is not perfect. Every moment is not easy. But every day I choose my husband all over again, and he chooses me. Part of what makes that choice easier, better and more fulfilling, even on the hard days, is that I have come to learn, believe, and know that he, just like I, wants what is best for both of us and for our family. This knowledge…the knowledge that we want what is best for one another and for our family…it allows me to always see the best in him. Paired with my ability to choose to show up in my marriage, I am left with hope, happiness and fulfillment.

These thoughts allow me to stop and recognize the beautiful quiet moments. The moments when he helps our daughter to shower and brush her hair. The moments when he picks up our son and takes him to a car show on a whim or when he dresses our little baby daughter in her pjs and gets her ready for bed. It’s in the moments when he washes the dishes, takes out the trash, picks me flowers, makes our bed, stops me in the kitchen and just gives me a hug that I see the best in my husband. I see my life’s happiness and it fills my heart to the brim…so much so, that the thought of living without all of those little, but big, things…even the thought of living without that…is too much to bear.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong about this soul mate thing. What I do know is that my heart feels so woven into who this man is, who we are together, and what we have that I never want to face this world without him. I know that if he was not by my side, I would feel as though I lost a part of myself, my heart no longer whole. As we celebrate 13 years, as we work to raise these three beautiful children together, as we continue to grow as individuals and as a couple, I will choose my husband in every single moment, to see the very best in him, and to be thankful that, predetermined or not, he is mine.

An Open Letter to my Children 2019

I’m on a flight somewhere over the great state of Kentucky, headed to sunny San Diego. We’ve not reached cruising altitude quite yet, and a few small bumps here and there keep reminding me of my fear of flying. Can this momma get a mimosa over here?

When I think of why I fear flying the truth is that I can’t imagine not making it back home to my husband and children. I left them this morning, all in some state of morning sleepiness. We gave hugs and kisses. We said “I love yous” and “I’ll see you soons”. I stole one final look at each one of them to get me through the next five days. I let their image, their sweet little squishy faces, sear into my brain, and I didn’t allow myself to think about the treasure I was leaving behind, certain that the tears would come, and I wouldn’t make it out the door.

So while I’m in the air praying not to die, missing my kiddos, I figure this is the perfect time to think back over the past year and write them the annual “Open Letter to my Children” letters. The kiddos have actually been asking me to write this blog and asking me to read the prior years’ letters to them. My heart swells knowing this has become a tradition for us and that they truly appreciate seeing themselves through my eyes. So here we go year 2019 of motherhood. It’s been a great one.

Jace –

You are ten years old. You just finished the fourth grade, which is totally bizarre for me, because I can remember when I was in the fourth grade. And yet, somehow, I now have a fifth grader on my hands. And while in some ways I wish I could say that ten is just a number and that you’re still my little baby boy, that is not the truth. I have watched you grow and mature this year into a young man that I am extremely proud of.

You learned the value of studying and preparation this year. When your science grades came in lower than what you had hoped for, you focused and put the work in every single day until you grades reflected your good study habits. You brought your study guide to me everyday and together we covered the material, even before your teacher asked you to. That made me so proud of you.

You wrestled for the first time this year, and Bud, you were a natural. You’ve always complained about being shorter or lighter than other boys your age, but in wrestling you found that your size, mixed with your strength and speed were an absolute advantage, and you excelled. In baseball, you overcame frustration with batting and have started getting hits from the live pitcher. You have a different coach from the past few years and I’ve been impressed that you’ve been able to speak up when needed and form a relationship with him on your own. You’ve learned things like the importance of carrying your own gear to and from the field and thanking us as your parents just for getting you to the game. Your coach this year has focused on teaching respect and responsibility, and I’ve seen you take pride in those lessons.

You’ve continued to be a leader among your friends, still always concerned with others choices about things like cussing and spending too much time online, but you’ve also learned that you can’t choose for others…they have to make their own choices. I’m so proud because I understand the importance of that life lesson.

You are still a total gear head, and I now see that this passion may direct your life path. You spent hours upon hours this year rehabbing old bikes, sanding them, painting them, replacing the grips and brakes, and making them your own. While I’m not loving that we have eight bikes stored in our garage, I cherish that you have found something that you love and that is uniquely yours.

You love your family and continue to enjoy spending time at home. You love spending time with Jema and making her laugh, and you love picking on Jera and making her whine (although occasionally I see you lovingly guide her as well). You are bright, caring, loving and the most considerate person I have the pleasure of knowing, and I’m beyond grateful to call you my son.

Jera –

You are seven years old. That sentence still doesn’t seem real. I look at your beautiful little face sometimes, I see your bright, lively eyes, the freckles across your nose, your sweet and mischievous smile, and I don’t know when you grew from my cherub-faced baby into the young lady you’re becoming. It seems that time just passed when I wasn’t looking, and I suddenly have a smart, feisty, determined preteen on my hands. And my sweet Jer-Bear, you are strong-willed. I love that about you, and rather than fighting to have things my way, I’ve learned to first understand what is important and what really doesn’t matter. You love to choose your own clothes, style your own hair, do things in the order you choose and in the way that you choose, and you’ve taught me so much about embracing your ability to know just who you are and what you want, even at seven years old. I can already see the strong women you will grow into, and that makes me so proud of you. This year you found your voice at school and volunteered to do morning announcements in the gym, to lead in the classroom, and to speak up on your own behalf. You like to play shy, but I see an ability in you to step outside of your comfort zone and do any job that needs to be done. I see you shine in front of a crowd, and I think you will continue to grow and find strength in that ability.

And goodness girl, are you smart. This year I was blown away, BLOWN AWAY, by your ability to write. The stories that you wrote as a first grader are far beyond the capabilities of any child I’ve ever known. Your teacher took notice of your talent for writing and asked your dad and me to continue to encourage your gift as you grow. I really thought my head would pop right off my shoulders, I felt so overcome with pride.

You also begrudgingly agreed to play your second year of softball. Begrudgingly not because you don’t like softball, but because you just like free play time better. And although your dad and I want you to do what makes you happy, we also want to give you a foundation of involvement that gives you options as you grow. So we agreed, you needed to pick one activity, any activity, but you had to be involved with something. So softball it is. Although you weren’t excited to play, you show great potential. We sit in the stands and hear the comments on your swing, your speed, your natural ability. You tickle me because you never, and I mean not once, look in our direction during the game. I’m not sure if you’re just that focused or if you just don’t need the reassurance from us, but you’re all business when your on the field. It’s been fun to watch you, and while I’m not sure if softball is something you will dive into or leave behind in the future, we are having fun watching you grow in your abilities and make new friends for now.

Your sharp sense of humor makes you so fun to be around. You enjoy time with friends and family, but also don’t mind alone time. I’ll often find you in your room with the door closed, watching television, playing, or just relaxing on your own. I appreciate those moments that you ask for together-time so much, because those moments are a little more rare with you. You are independent, and I admire that about you.

You are also a proud big sister, and are excited to to pick out Jema’s clothes every single day. You can’t stand to see her fuss, and will pick her up any time she makes a noise and deliver her to me. You love your big brother as well, and as much as he likes to pick on you, you also love to push his buttons. It’s an interesting game the two of you play, knowing you also wouldn’t know what to do without each other. My sweet daughter, you are strong, fun, imaginative, and loving. You make every single day interesting, and you add a special spark to our family that I am so thankful for.

Jema –

You are five moths old. Wow, this is hard to believe, let alone write. The last time I wrote these letters, you were tucked away safely in my womb, and I was imagining you face and personality, excited for what was to come. And now, you are here, and you are so much more, SO MUCH MORE, than I could have ever imagined or asked for. I know that I changed with the birth of each of my children, but at 34 I had thought I had most things figured out. I was wrong. You came into my life, and yet again I was transformed. You have reminded me of the importance of family, and while my family has always been important to me, you made me realize just how quickly this time in my life is passing. You came into my life, and suddenly Jace and Jera seem so much older, and I can see that the time I have with the three of you as children is limited. So thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, because I won’t take any of these moments for granted. You have taught me that being busy, worrying about the details, being concerned with others outside of our family circle…well none of that matters….not really. What matters is Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera AND Jema. Everything else is secondary. With that in mind, I’m enjoying…cherishing…all the moments. And you make enjoying it all so easy.

You are the best baby. The BEST. I feel a little ridiculous even telling others that you’ve slept through the night since five weeks, that you made it through your brother and sister’s ball seasons crying at only one game, that you’re content and happy, that you’re so beautiful, that your smile makes me melt into an ooey-gooey mommy puddle. How did I get this lucky? You are simply amazing, a gift in my life.

You love your brother and sister. You will spy them from across the room and you are immediately hooked, watching them and waiting for their attention. You are showered with love from your siblings, cousins, and your grandparents. I watch your dad with you, and I fall in love with him again and again, seeing his love for you, watching him connect with you.

You are getting extremely interested in food, watching our spoons as they come from our plates to our mouths, reaching out and trying to redirect our meals to your mouth. You are so interested in fact, that as soon as I return from this trip, food for Jema is one of the first stops on my itinerary. You are rolling over in every direction, trying hard to crawl, eating every two hours, smiling and blessing us with your laughter and holding up your head and upper body with no problem. You are growing fast. You are my precious baby, patient and calm, gentle and loving, and the perfect final piece to our family.

I’ve made it to Denver now and will soon hop a final flight to San Diego. I’m excited for the learning and growth that await me so far away from home. But I’m most excited for the gift that awaits me when I get back. I am blessed beyond measure, and oh so grateful.

My Definition of Me

My husband and I got engaged over 19 years ago. I was so thankful to hear that he had asked my father for permission to marry me before popping the question, not because I was my father’s property of course, but because I respected that my father had been first in my life up until that point, and now this man would be stepping into the role of the man that I would love above all others. I remember my then baby-faced fiancé telling me that my father had told him only, “She’s fragile, you have to take good care of her.”

At the time, and even today, that sentence makes my heart squeeze. I had lived on my own for a few years by that point. I had paid my own bills, got myself from point A to point B with no assistance, and often been the person others went to for guidance. I was a helper, and hardly saw myself as helpless, let alone fragile. But there was something in those words that resonated with me, and yes, at that time, maybe that’s what I wanted, someone I could be fragile with, someone who would take care of me.

Over the years, marriage didn’t go quite as I expected. My parents have a very traditional relationship, with my mom staying home and taking care of most of the domestic things, and my dad going to work and filling the provider role. My parents are attached at the hip, and it doesn’t matter if it’s grocery shopping or a trip to the BMV, they do it together. My in-laws on the other hand, each worked outside of the household and we’re relatively independent of each other, enjoying their own circles of friends and hobbies. Unknowingly, my husband and I each brought these very different expectations of what a normal marriage looks like into our own relationship. These definitions of a “normal” husband/wife were the rules we measured one another by.

There are so many moments I remember thinking of my husband, “You were told I was fragile. You said you’d take care of me. What is happening here?” The moments when he allowed me to mow our grass…shouldn’t he come and take the handle of this mower from my hands and let me go sip some lemonade??? The moment he didn’t hold the door for me, or left me to accomplish a task on my own, or when he expected me to assemble our furniture or shelving. I felt puzzled by this, and not because I didn’t want to do these things, but because I hadn’t expected I would have to. It wasn’t the story I had told myself about marriage.

There’s something else here too that was happening in my heart and mind. All my life other people had defined me. I had been defined by those around me as smart, as funny, as pretty, I was nice, I was the baby in my family, I was fragile. There were negative stories too, the “I wasn’t”. I wasn’t athletic, I wasn’t independent, I wasn’t brave…all of these definitions creeped in and made up the person I thought I had to be.

Our loved ones see a lot of who we are. They see us from a perspective that we don’t see ourselves, and often they are privy to strengths and weaknesses that we may not even be aware of. But even our mothers, fathers, siblings or spouses don’t see all of us. They view us through their own lenses, the lenses of their relationship with us, the lenses of their life experience and the lenses of their personality. There’s truly only one person on this planet that can define us, who we are, who we’re capable of being…and that’s ourselves. We decide who we will be.

34 years of life and 13 years of marriage have taught me a lot about…well, about me. While our spouses don’t define us, I truly believe God puts our partners in our lives for very particular reasons. They teach us so much about ourselves. My husband often believed I was stronger than I thought I was. He thought I was more capable than I had dreamed of. And although he was once told I was fragile, there are still times in our life together, that I wonder if he thinks I am unbreakable.

Through these circumstances, through his faith in me, his expectations of me, I have found some very powerful truths about myself. The woman I am today is very different than the girl that stood at the alter all those years ago. I may still be nice and funny and all of those things, but I am not fragile and I’m not interested in having anyone take care of me.

Through this life, through all of the hard, impossible, heartbreaking things, through all of the joyous, amazing, life changing moments, through all of the quiet, mundane, everyday happenings, I have found myself. My definition of me.

Strong. Stable. Sure. Powerful. Determined. Positive. Reserved. Loving. Kind. Happy.

I have also learned that my character summations of those around me don’t define them either. My husband, my children, my parents, my siblings, my friends….they’re capable of more than I could ever dream for them. I am careful of what labels I give them, knowing that I see only a small part of them. They are more than they show the world.

What if we gave every person this freedom? The freedom to define themselves. The freedom to be just who they are made to be. What if we each gave ourselves this freedom, a life for ourselves without definition from others? What could we be capable of?

I ask my readers, what label has someone, maybe even someone who loves you and means well, what label have they given you that you will shed and leave behind today? Begin today redefining yourself and become the person you are capable of being, not the person you feel you have to be.

I Am Reminded

It is amazing that no matter how prepared I think I am, regardless of what I think life is going to bring me, what actually awaits me around the corner is a total and complete surprise.

I delivered my third child a little over seven weeks ago. Adding her to our sweet family was the happiest of all of my life’s surprises, but my pregnancy felt long and agonizing. I was so happy to have another child, but as much as I appreciated having a healthy pregnancy, I felt physically and emotionally drained…especially in the last three weeks (little Miss decided to come over a week late!). I was happy one moment, crying the next, and trying to continue to move forward in my career, while raising a six- and ten-year old. I was ready for this pregnancy to end so I could enjoy my maternity leave, and run immediately back to work.

I love my career, and I would readily call myself professionally driven. When I found out I was pregnant with my third child, one of my first thoughts was of how the timing of the pregnancy would affect my career. I had decided our baby-having days were over, and I was fully focused on advancing in the workplace. So when I became pregnant, I was ecstatic, but also sure that my career-focus would remain strictly in place. While on maternity leave, I had planned to read professional books, listen to my Human Resource podcasts, and go to several work-related meetings. I thought I knew how I would feel. Heck, I had done this “momming” thing twice before…right???? I should know what to expect.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my time with my first two children…but I felt very ready to return to work when the time came. I missed the challenge that my career offered me, I missed the routine…probably most of all, I missed talking to real, adult people…I had some great conversations with my tiny little tots, but they didn’t add a lot of content aside from a few giggles, gurgles and bodily gas sounds. So I thought this maternity leave would be the same. I thought I remembered how I felt and what I thought. I was wrong.

I love my job, and I am so extremely grateful to be working where I am and in the position that I am in. I know that when I return to work, I will fall right back into that excitement and passion that drive me to do what I do professionally. But in this moment, this moment only a few short weeks out from dropping my baby off and leaving her every weekday for nine plus hours….for the rest of her life…I don’t feel excited. I feel sad. The overwhelming thought that I keep having is of the first time she opens her eyes from a nap, looking to see me, and I won’t be there, and the thought gives me a tremendous guilt.

And this experience…this mix of reality, joy and heartbreak, is exactly what it is like to be a mom. I’m wondering if maybe I did have these feelings with my first two children, and much like the pain of childbirth, those memories faded with time, and all I remember is the happiness of the time with my children and the satisfaction I found in my work when I returned. Could that be? How do we forget the feelings that come with this stage in life?

I am so passionate about supporting women, whether it be in the workplace, at home, or in the community. But I must admit that I had forgotten about the difficulties of pregnancy. I had forgotten about the physical exhaustion and sickness that comes with the first trimester. About the sleepless nights in the third trimester when you can’t roll over and have to take a bathroom break every thirty minutes. About the absolute inability to think of anything but your child’s arrival in those last few weeks before baby comes. And now, about the absolute joy of having a newborn…and the pain that comes from separating yourself from them to return to life….my life outside of being Mom.

I had no idea I still had nearly two weeks of pregnancy left!

Now, after this unexpected third maternity leave, I am reminded. I am reminded of the beauty and difficulty that comes with having children…actually birthing, nursing, diapering, rocking, bathing…whispering sweet songs to, stealing midnight smiles from, holding close to your chest, living in your bubble where all that exists is you and them for just a moment…I am reminded.

In a few weeks, I will return to work. I will return to my routine of working mom. I will find joy in my work as I always have. My baby won’t remember this time we’ve had together, so she won’t even know to miss me two weeks down the road. I will provide for my family financially. I will set an example for my children of what hard work and dedication can bring them. I will soak up every free moment that I have with them after work and on weekends and vacations. But I hope not to forget this feeling I am having right now…and all of the feelings I’ve had over the past year. I hope I can use these memories to lift up and support my co-workers as they go through the same moments, that I can be a better friend and mentor because of my experiences.

It is impossible to understand the feelings that a parent experiences until you’ve walked in their shoes…and even after that, it is easy to forget and minimize these moments. But these moments matter.

As for me, I hope to enjoy every sleepy grin, every midnight feeding, every unintelligible jabber while this time slips away. I will be thankful for this time that I never expected, my third maternity leave that I never hoped for, and now could not live without.

An Open Letter to My Children 2018

To begin this letter, I looked back at my previous open letters in 2016, An Open Letter to my Children 2016 and 2017, An Open Letter to My Children 2017…it is breathtaking, and I am so thankful to have this forum, to remember, to focus, to explain all the things in life that make this journey so magical.  My hope is one day my children will read these letters, and they will know just how special they are, how very much they are loved, and how very much I cherish this time I’ve been given to be their mother.

To Jace:

You are nine years old.  At times you seem so much older.  You have a maturity about you that is so far beyond your nine years.  This year you finished the third grade.  Brock Moehler was your teacher and you shared a very special bond with him.  It warmed my heart that he just “got” you.  You came home from school each week with stories of the jokes and laughs you shared.  You looked forward to gym class each week, where you made sure to wear your best running shoes so you could beat all of your classmates in whatever game you were to play that day.  You played basketball, baseball, and continued as a Bear in Boy Scouts this year.  You attended Cross Country Camp for the first time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as proud as I did when I saw you running, with all of your strength and heart, striving for a good finish.  You have so much heart, it overwhelms me and I admire you for it.  You attended STEAM Camp for the first time too, and each day I heard stories of the projects you completed and how your design won each day.  You were so proud and excited, and I was so happy for you.  You’re still a total gear head and each and every day, you are telling me about one car or another….about the names, about the designs, about the prices.  You dream of getting a classic car and rebuilding it on your own.  I hope that someday you can make that dream a reality.  You have lost your zest for scary movies and prefer comedies lately.  You love to laugh.  You started your first paying job, mowing the neighbor’s yard, and you are completely motivated to earn money of your own.  You come in from mowing, dripping in sweat, red in the face, and I’m amazed by your dedication.  You want to be a surgeon or engineer, mostly I think, because you want to earn enough money to buy your dream cars.  That makes me smile.  You worry about some of your classmates who have started to cuss or bully other kids, and you try to be a good influence on your friends.  That makes me so proud of you.  You are pumped to be a big brother again, and are hoping for a boy so that you can share your room with him.  You are kind.  You have the best sense of humor.  You love and care deeply for others.  You are a good friend, and you’re a ton of fun.  I love to be around you, and I’m so proud of the young man you are growing into.  Thank you for being such a strong, loving, uplifting and understanding son.

To Jera:

You are six years old today.  You leave your dad and me speechless often.  You are witty, playful, hardheaded, and kindhearted.  You took Kindergarten by storm this year.  I was absolutely astounded when you picked up reading as though you’d been doing it since the day you were born.  You borrowed Jace’s books this year and read through them with ease.  I gave you the option to pick any fun activity to celebrate your report card this year, and you chose to go to the library.  I am so excited by your passion to grow and learn.  You enjoy the challenge of learning something new, and I know it will take you far in life.  You played softball this year.  I was amazed to see your competitive spirit.  You listened attentively to your coach and played so well, always putting forth your best effort.  You also began dance this year with a combination class of tap and ballet.  Your first recital was just a couple of weeks ago, and you literally brought tears to my eyes.  Your ballet number was set to the song Smile, and you were the most graceful and beautiful ballerina I had ever set my eyes upon.  Your tap number was set to the song Boogie Shoes, and there was a part in the beginning where you shook your hips with all of the sass that only you have.  I am so proud of your courage, and although you shared with me that being on stage scared you, you didn’t show it for a moment.  You have the best giggle.  It is the sweetest sound and it immediately brings a smile to my face every single time.  You have taken over your brother’s love for scary movies.  You can’t get enough of all things spooky.  You are completely fearless.  You are still full of kisses and hugs, which I’m still soaking in as often as possible.  You are beyond excited to be a big sister, and stop several times a day to give my tummy a kiss.  I took me two days, a week’s grounding from the XBox and iPad, and about two thousand reminders to get you to clean up your room this weekend.  We’re working on this messy thing….but we’re about progress, not perfection.  Maybe next time we’ll get it done without the two thousand reminders…but maybe not.  You are a bright, shining light in our lives.  You bring energy and excitement to all things.  You may be hard headed, but you match that hard head with an even softer heart.  You ask me to sing You are my Sunshine to you each night as you fall asleep. You like to read two books and have your back scratched at bedtime…and then somehow you still end up in my and your dad’s bed by 3:00 a.m. every night.  I love you wildly and deeply.  I see the all of the world’s potential when I look into your eyes.  Thank you for being such a wonderful, vibrant, amazing daughter.

To Baby Hafele:

You are the size of a peach this week, week thirteen.  You are so small, and yet, you have totally and completely changed my life.  Someday you may read my blog “2, 4, 6, 8…Nah 2” and I wonder what you’ll think about the fact that we thought two children were enough….and here you are, surprising and wonderful number three.  What can I say?  What words are there to explain all of the thoughts, decisions and feelings that come with bringing a child into this world.  I was scared.  I should explain that.  I wondered if I could do it, be a great parent to three children, build an amazing career, pay all the bills, clean all the house, do all the laundry, balance all the life that came with having three children.  I was also scared of having another miscarriage.  I hadn’t told anyone that.  You, Jace and Jera should have an older sibling, but that was not meant to be.  I felt blessed to have two healthy pregnancies after suffering the loss of my first child.  I worried if I tempted fate, if I tried again, I may have to go through that suffering again.  But then, you came.  You came without any stress, without any trying.  You are this wonderful gift in our lives.  And with your arrival, all of the worry left me.  I have been lifted up to a place of pure confidence, where I know I can do this, together with your dad, we can do this.  We’re so excited to meet you, to have you in our family, to get to go through this amazing experience one more time.  I’m moved beyond words in this moment.  I’m brought to tears.  You are the piece to the puzzle that we didn’t know was missing, that I know could not live without.  I thank God that he knows exactly what he is doing.  What an amazing, beautiful ride this life is.  What an unbelievable gift you are.  I am undeserving, but so thankful.

To my readers:

Make time today.  Write down the wonderful things about your children.  Tell them out loud.  They may not understand yet, but someday they will.  If life ever changes and we can’t tell them anymore all of the joy they bring to us, they’re left with the written things we leave them, with the spoken words we shared with them.  I encourage you to bare your soul when you can.  Be an open book.  Life is too short to keep all of the beautiful things hidden inside.

My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

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My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

2, 4, 6, 8…Nah, 2.

This week was hell-ish. I began my eighth MBA course, Strategic and International Management. I had the stomach flu. And then my husband had the stomach flu. And then my daughter had an asthma flare that landed her home from school for two days. It’s the month following quarter-end, which involves all of the work-fun that one could conjure up. We had Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. My dishes were unwashed. My laundry is completely out of control. I was in tears at times from the amount of overwhelmed that was me. And I was absolutely, positively sure that I did not want any more kids. Totally sure.

You see, our son is turning nine next month. Our daughter is five. My husband and I are in our mid-thirties and we had agreed that we don’t want to be having babies in our forties. We’ve hit this now or never moment. For a minute, we wanted more. If you have children, it’s impossible not to wonder who number three would be. Would they be reserved and laid back like our son? Or kind and dramatic like our daughter? Or would his little nugget be someone completely new and original? 

Then months went by. I finished another class and started my current class. Life went up and went down. We got good news and we got bad news. We had moments that we couldn’t take a single extra stress for fear of completely losing it. 

And I changed my mind. Because maybe things are exactly perfect the way they are. Other families never had choices. Children just came, one after another and there wasn’t a lot of time for thinking. But things were never like that for my husband and me. It was always a choice, and then we had to try to have a baby. It was fun, but it was also stressful and sad at times. 

I felt certain last week that it was time to move forward to the next stage of our lives. Then today as I was folding my mountains of laundry, Knocked Up was playing in the background. I watched Kathryn Heigl give fake birth and I cried. My heart squeeezed in my chest as I watched a comedy about becoming a parent. I hesitated. Can I really go the entire rest of my life and never have that experience again…the miracle of having a child?

Having my children, the actual grueling process of giving birth, is the absolute most amazing experience that I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve never felt stronger, more sure of myself, more comfortable in my own skin then when I was bringing my babies into the world. Can I really not ever feel that again? There are no words that can describe what those moments meant to me. Perfection comes close.

I still think two is the right answer for us, for our family, for who we are and what we want. I’m sure I’ll have other moments. Moments of mourning what might have been. 

I’m curious from my readers…when did you know you were done having children? Did you have moments of temporary insanity after you decided your baby-making days were done? I feel my common sense returning…in the form of needing to stop writing and get started with putting laundry away, putting away the groceries my hubby just brought through the door, getting bathtimes started, getting this supper thing done. 

Two is totally enough. Totally. 

But how can you help but reminisce about these moments…