War Crimes

I like to tell my kids this is a benevolent dictatorship…and I kind of run a communist style ship around here, if I’m being honest. Everybody shares everything, too bad if you don’t like it, no soup for you, I’m not sorry.


So, seeing as I’m basically my family’s Vladimir Putin and all, I thought I’d take a little time to charge some folks for some war crimes. As one does.







Maggie, age 6

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#wildwoman #newyearseve

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Charged with Inciting Panic. You know that hour right after dinner when you’re completely exhausted from being an adult all day and the act of pretending like you’ve got your life together is really taking its toll? You know…it’s the hour when you feel as though all the life blood has been sucked from your body by a parasite and you’re about to fall into an unbathed pile of exhaustion. This is the hour in which she strikes. She will sneakily lure unsuspecting younger siblings to the stairs and whisper potty jokes to them, convincing them that screaming “poopy diaper head” in the faces of your dinner guests is a good idea. She will laugh maniacally while forcing you to listen to yet another knock-knock joke. Under the guise of entertaining her little brother, she will start a game of “chase” in which someone most certainly will be tripped and maimed. She will insist on leading the others in illegal games of “jump all over the damn couch even though Mom told us eight thousand times not to” and “let’s all violently wrestle until Lily’s hair gets pulled and she shrieks like a banshee.”



Lily, age 3 


Charged with Harassment and Stalking. She’s kind of the least offender because I truly believe that her intentions are pure…but she’s always there. She’ll demand to help with every single task ever of all time. Have some strong chemicals you want to clean with? She’ll pour. Have a sharp knife you’d like to chop with? She’ll show you how it’s done. Have some detailed sewing to be done? She’ll hold the needles. Have to finish your taxes? She’ll file ’em for ya. Have some sleep you’d like to get? She’s in your bed. However, if you actually ask her to help with a task she’s so uninterested it’s not even funny. Chores to be done? Nah, she’ll sit an observe the other fools and cry rather than comply.


Also, she’s an accessory to every other crime committed. She’s not usually the mastermind (…yet. Kid’s brilliant, so once she realizes her powers I have no doubt that she’ll use them for evil), but she’s usually coerced into helping, so we’ll let her off with a lighter sentence and call it good.



Everett, age 2


Charged with Aggravated Assault. Even his hugs hurt. Gentlemen visiting our home are advised to wear an athletic cup in order to protect themselves from the colossal skull that will crush their testicles approximately ninety-seven times during their visit. Also, watch for flying dump trucks being launched down the stairs, blocks torpedoed toward faces, and strategically placed Hot Wheels that were definitely not under your feet a second ago, but most certainly are under your feet now that you’re carrying a lot of stuff. The perpetrator has been known to climb basically anything with an elevation of…off the ground. So, watch for falling boys, as well.

Also, while we’re at it, let’s charge him with Indecent Exposure and Disorderly Conduct. You know, for good measure. And ’cause he never wears pants.


Remy, age 8 months

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Over it. #grumpybear #remyvincent

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Charged with Disturbing the Peace. Bro doesn’t sleep. Or rather, he sleeps, but only long enough to give you the illusion that you’re going to be able to get something done. He’ll nap juuuust long enough for you to get right into the deep disgusting middle of finally cleaning out the refrigerator and then he strikes. It basically goes on like that ad nauseam.


Alright, so that’s my legal work done for the day. Time to go dole out punishments! Mwuahahahaha!

Stretch Marks


I knew it was bound to happen sooner rather than later. After all, I’ve answered a zillion questions about nipples and bottoms and the like. So it didn’t surprise me when Maggie asked me about my stretch marks the other day.


“What are those, Mama?”

“Those are called stretch marks, sweet baby. Do you know how I got those?”




“From having you and Lily and Ev in my belly. You got so big in there that my belly grew and stretched and stretched and streeeeeetched until I got these stretch marks. What do you think of them?”


“They’re beautiful.”


And she’s right, you know. They are beautiful, these pink-tinged silver streaks tracing their way all over my belly.


They’re beautiful and they’re history. They tell a story that begans at adolescence, a story that is just so full of self-doubt and self-loathing. You see, those stretch marks began even then. I had already resigned myself to hating bathing suits, so the marks were just icing on the crappy body image cake. I always hated changing in front of friends, knowing that we were all sizing each other up, all comparing, all making mental checklists to review later, desperate to know whether or not we hit the mark. We didn’t. We never let ourselves.


But those stretch marks also tell the story of a girl finding herself pregnant after just getting home from her honeymoon, excited, scared, and insanely hormonal to the point crying over Superbad.


They tell the story of a hot evening in May, when she knew the second baby was coming that night. They tell about the laughter in the hospital over breastfeeding songs on YouTube and the perfect first meeting between two sisters. 


As the story gets longer, the marks get longer. They have to in order to tell about the third one, the one they said she couldn’t deliver because he was so big. She did it and those stretch marks are a badge of honor for bringing all nine pounds, fifteen ounces of him victoriously into the world.


The self-doubt part of the story is an ongoing theme, though. It still permeates the tale, which has become a tug-of-war between self-acceptance and shame.


All of this is rushing through my mind as my girl’s words resonate through my soul.


“They’re beautiful, Mama.”


“You’re right, Mags. But you know, some people don’t think they’re very beautiful.”


“That’s silly. Why not?”


And I don’t have an answer for her because there’s not one. There is not one good reason for thinking that stretch marks aren’t beautiful. Not one.


“Someday I’m going to have stretch marks just like you. They’re going to be purple and red and silver all over me like a rainbow!”


I hope you do, baby girl. I hope you do.










Note: This is Part 1 in a series on loving our bodies. Stay tuned for more, including some guest posts from some fabulous people! Don’t forget to love yourself. -Mary Susan


I read this beautiful blog post today and something in me clicked.


“Every day I have this desire to accomplish something. But every day it feels I accomplish nothing. I try to clean something, but I don’t finish…. I try to write, but this little person cries for all of my attention when I sit at the computer. I clip coupons and price match, and still go way over on our budget. Agh. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for the last 9 hours of exhausting effort. Of doing what?”






“You kept me safe today Momma, you kept me alive. You kept me fed, and rested. You played with me, and made me laugh. Does that count Momma? Am I one of your goals Momma? Just to be together? Even if no one sees it? Or knows it?”




Even if no one sees it. Or knows it.


I realize now that I’m much too preoccupied with recognition. I’m ashamed of my home, of my days, of myself because it doesn’t look like I’ve been doing anything. In my mind and my heart, I live in a world in which the quality of the house reflects the quality of the person. My messy house screams, “Neglected! Lazy! Worthless!” I look around and chastise myself for not being capable of accomplishing the simplest of tasks, sweeping the floor, for instance. It’s always covered in…something. Yet I neglect to remind myself that that damned floor doesn’t reflect me. It isn’t me.


I’m so worried about my environment reflecting me and my daily activity that I fail to remember that this house is incapable of mirroring us and the depth of what we do.  My filthy floor is covered in baby food puffs because I’m exhausted from rocking that baby through his nightmarish bout of teething. My floor is covered with books because we read None of our clothes are folded because we had to play dress up and somebody bonked her head and the kitchen is a mess because everybody got to crack eggs today. The table is sticky because I didn’t manage to wipe up all the spilled milk because after the third time the cup got knocked over I honestly stopped caring.


If you walked into my home you’d see an episode of Hoarders waiting to happen. But my days are full of love and effort and sacrifice and tears and just hanging on by a thread because three babies under age four is hard. You might not recognize all of that through the piles of laundry and that dining room chair that’s still in the living room from the fort two we built weeks ago. And I need to be okay with that.


“Do you remember when I said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me?” (Matt. 25:40) “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward?” (Matt. 10:42) Do you not see it here Child? 

All these days you live at home to serve this fragile girl, what you really are doing is serving Me. For whatever you do unto her, you do unto Me. So let me ask you:

Am I enough?

What is My worth to you? In the secret places, where no one sees? Look deeper Dear One.”



No one sees. No one recognizes. I’m not getting credit. I’m not being graded. I’m doing Christ’s work, being the hands and feet for these little ones.


But I’m failing and I’m trying and I’m realizing that I’m addicted to recognition. I crave the credit and I’m ashamed when I’m not producing a readily tangible finished product at the end of my day. But the thing about children is, they’re not a floor to be scrubbed or a sink to be rinsed. They’re souls to be cherished and nurtured and respected.


Henri JM Nouwen said,

“We are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth: I am the Beloved Child of the Creator.”


It’s time to let go of that desire to be recognized, that deep seated longing for approval. It’s time to come home, even if that home has messy floors and unwashed hair and is wearing the sweatpants from yesterday and the day before. Because if I can claim the truth of being the Beloved, I can love these three little souls wildly, which is what I was called to in the first place, clean floor or not.

Taking Time

So, my friend Stephanie just started a blog (Follow her at stephaniecov.wordpress.com!) and she wrote about the challenges of getting back in shape after having her second (adorable) baby. And it’s really about so much more than that, cause what I just wrote sounds lame, but the post is great and you can read it here.


Anyway, now I keep thinking about bodies and appearances and motherhood and how that’s all tied together. But, I’m mostly thinking about time. How there’s not enough. How I’m supposed to take some for myself and how that never seems to happen.


Lately, my version of taking time for myself essentially consists of me being all frazzled and crazy, sneaking away from my highly suspicious family (“Where you goin’ Mama?”), locking myself in the bathroom and frantically consuming something sweet because I just don’t want to share every single bite that goes into my body, dammit. And then I feel bad about the fact that I just snuck a candy bar like a criminal and, in all likelihood, I then consume another candy bar because I’m a guilt eater. I do usually share the second one with the kids, you know, to be fair or whatever.


Clearly this version of taking time for myself is not a healthy one. Clearly.


And this bothers me. It also bothers me that I rarely wear makeup when I’m not going to work or church. Not that I absolutely have to wear it…because, let’s face it, I’m pretty hot. But seriously, it would be nice. I mean, I like to look like a human sometimes and not just an extra on those cracked out meth scenes in Breaking Bad.


And my family needs it, too. My husband deserves to come home to a wife who makes some effort, not that he would ever complain, because he’s such a good person.


Then there’s the girls and soon to be boy-child. They deserve to see their mama take some time to make herself look presentable and to be presented with an image of womanhood that isn’t self-depreciating, but self-celebrating. Now, I don’t go running around the house talking about how nasty I look, but I can’t say as I’ve ever talked to the girls about how great my body is, either.


And I know these things take time. I just go through these cycles of frustration where I’ll resolve to do better and to be better and it’ll be okay for a little bit, but eventually I’m back to my old tricks. Example: I love writing. It is SO good for me. I know this. Time and time again I resolve to blog at least once a week. And a lot of times I do a good job with this goal. Which is why some of you get a ridiculous influx of email for a few days and then nothing for like three months. And that’s sad, because this is something that really makes me happy. So, why am I not making time to do it?


“But, when?” I keep asking myself. When is there time? When is there space? Where is the peace and quiet in the day to even contemplate doing this?? Especially those days when the baby’s poop falls out of her diaper and she steps in it as she’s getting on her toy horse? You know, the days when you clean up the poopy baby and she pees on you as you’re putting her in the bath to clean the poop from her widdle toes? Where’s the time in those days, I’d like to know?


While I was having a tea party with Mags, someone helped herself to the potting soil. Oy.


According to social media every other mom on the planet has her shiz together and has plenty  of time to cut box tops and creatively swath her child’s room in handmade decor while designer cupcakes cool in her spotless kitchen. I, however, cry foul. That jazz is not real and if it is, it sure isn’t as widespread as social media wants us to think. I have proof in the form of very comforting texts I get from one of my friends. Here’s my most recent favorite: “Days are long and years are short. Blah freakin’ blah. I’ll tell you what’s short. Patience. She’s a short b-.” God bless her, she always knows what to say to make me feel better.


Now, because my three year old daughter is smarter than I am, she just waltzed in and figured it all out for me.


I’ve been doing this thing with Mags about 30 minutes before her nap time that we’re calling “Quiet Time” because we’re original around here and we come up with sweet titles for things that we do. Suffice it to say, this is a time when Mags gets to sit on a special blanket in a special part of the living room and gets to complete tasks that I give her. She’s usually required to read a few books, do a few puzzles, and if I’m feeling particularly pinterest-y, I’ll have some clever fine-motor skill challenge for her. But usually puzzles.


I laarve Quiet Time because, she actually likes it and I actually have time to load the dishwasher in peace.


Today, I plopped myself down on Mags’ Quiet Time spot and just began writing because I had to. And my sweet, sweet girl wandered in and said, “You havin’ some quiet time, Mama? Good. You sit there and when you finish on your computer you can take a little rest.” From the mouths of babes, my friends, from the mouths of babes. Because it’s obvious, right? I need Quiet Time just as much as Maggie does. And, shoot, if she’s doing it, I might as well be sitting there right along side her. I could learn a lot from this kid.


She also pretends to be Betsy Ross, so she’s way cooler than I’ll ever be.


Motherhood is hard. Emotions are hard. None of this is easy and I need constant reminders that I’m worth it and that, like Stephanie reminded me, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ve been given talents and gifts that need cultivating. I struggle with guilt, with the feeling that I need to be doing other more important things with my time than make up or blogging or reading. And though I feel selfish for taking time sometimes, I know that the negativity is all a lie. I am not required to live up to the false image of womanhood depicted on social media. I’m worth the five minutes it takes to put on some eye shadow and mascara. I’ve been given gifts that need cultivating and so have you. You are just as deserving as I for a moment’s peace, for some rejuvenation, for Quiet Time.


So, how do you do it, good friends of mine? Where do you take the time? And if you find the time, what is it that you’re doing?


I know this isn’t something that will be solved overnight and that I’ll probably fail about a million times before I figure it all out…if I ever do. But, I do know this: we need each other. We need the sisterhood of girls who are in the trenches everyday. We need the sisterhood of girls who did all of this thirty years ago and are still mothering everyone around them. We need the encouragement, the text messages, the blogs. We need daily reminders that we will all get through this. Because, we will. We really, really will.