I have long been miffed with the word “just.”

I can trace my visceral distaste back to the last election, when Obama (who I love and voted for- let’s be clear) kept referring to health care reform as “not JUST a woman’s issue”. Every time I heard that minimizing phrase it incensed me. The fact that an issue would impact more than half the population means it is deserving of merit on its own. He should have claimed health care as important BECAUSE it was a women’s issue, not in spite of it.

The war on “just” became personal when I became “just a mom.” I cannot count how many times I have been called that. I wonder if doctors or lawyers or other important workers get called “just” doctors or “just” lawyers. I suspect not.

I hate being cast aside as “just a mom” almost as much as I dislike being told that I “don’t work.” Because, let’s face it, I work all day and all night with little to no breaks. I JUST don’t get paid (in money) … there’s an appropriate use of the word.

Just remember that.

Motherhood by Association

Some little girls picture their weddings, with pillowcases covering their heads they dance around their bedrooms.

Other little girls picture themselves as teachers filling classrooms with stuffed animals as they prepare lesson plans and lectures.

I think we all of inclinations and inklings of our gifts and talents from a very early age and for me, I’ve pictured myself as mother to a houseful of boys for as long as I can remember.

It’s been a struggle, over the years, as practicality and reality have played out—exercising their authority well beyond our control.

After our first pregnancy, and again recently, we’ve had to come to terms with the size and shape of our family being something we don’t get to define.

I remember in the interim before we got pregnant with Luke, coming up with elaborate plans to put our possessions in storage and travel the world, exhausting a nest egg we wouldn’t need if it was just the two of us.

But, while I firmly believe in finding the upside in any Plan B, I had trouble defining how I’d fill the gapping hole in my life that I knew was there to be a mother.

Fortunately for me, the universe is prepared to beat me over the head…repeatedly…with the lessons I need to learn.

On Christmas Eve 2012, my side of the family got together for our celebration. In the throws of grief having lost our first son just two months earlier, I was searching for some sense of normalcy. Our nephew Gavin was just four at the time, and a bundle of sweetness and energy that make me partial to little boys. As he settled on my laugh and we both burst into fits of giggles giving each other “pufferfish kisses”, I felt honestly happy for the first time in months as I realized my ability to love and mother could go way beyond any child I bring into the world.

It brings me to tears every time I think about how much comfort each of our nephews and niece give me. And even from the otherside of the country, I hope they feel supported and deeply loved.

I’m thankful each and every day for the opportunity to raise a child but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how desperately we want our family to grow.

In the last few months we’ve had to think long and hard about our ability to have another child; and, if we’re prepared for the physical strain it would put me through if something went wrong again. Sitting here today, I just don’t have the answer to that question. Following drs. orders, we’ve had to take time off from exploring that which I believe has been a very good thing.

In the meantime, thankfully, the universe is chiming in to remind me that my vision isn’t the only way this magical life works.

In May we celebrated my sister’s marriage by dancing wildly with our niece and nephews. (Okay, not Jack who at 15 was mortified to even know us all, let alone participate.)

11060169_10153460652629898_8378640166429362647_nA few weekends ago we went camping with a dear friend and his daughter. His wife, who isn’t much for camping, met us for a few hours Saturday morning. But for the bulk of the weekend, I got to hang solo with these two guys and enthusiastic toddlers. When Harper was struggling to sleep in new surroundings, away from her own bed and comforts of home, we got to cuddle by the campfire and read stories in her tent.

Last weekend we visited friends with a brand new baby boy. Joshua gave me a squinty, newborn examination before deciding my lap was a perfectly great place to take a nap.

And as it would so happen, a college friend of mine who hasn’t met Mr. Right has decided life is too short and there are two many children who need homes to wait for motherhood to begin. She just shared that she’s finishing her home inspection on the journey to become a foster mom.

I feel so personally and fully invested in the lives of my friends’ and siblings’ children, that I know for sure if Lucas is our one and only, we’re going to carry on in this life just fine. Vice versa, in sharing our story, we’ve seen a host of individuals—women and men alike—who are particularly invested in Luke and his future, that I know we’re not the only ones shaping who this kid is going to be.

Life doesn’t always pan out the way we’ve pictured it. And I’ve yet to meet someone where that hasn’t been true in some way. But, I think if there’s a way to find the alternative route–to get close or even halfway there–you can make the most of just about anything.


Calvin’s Birth Story

Today my youngest son turns one. Here is his birth story.


You were due on August 18, 2014, but we had a feeling you would make your debut a little early. At 36 weeks I had a flurry of contractions, which made us realize we were not at all ready for you to arrive. We spent the next few weeks getting ready. We packed your bag, finished your nursery and took care of all of our last minute to-dos.

Grandma Mary was set to arrive on Tuesday, August 12. On Monday, August 11, you started to let us know that you were ready. I had a few contractions that evening, but did everything I could to keep you in for one more day. I took a bath, had a tiny glass of wine (my first in 9 months and it tasted like liquid heartburn) and listened to a hypnosis track. I asked you to just stay in until Grandma Mary arrived, because I really felt like I needed her to be at your birth. After an hour or two of mild contractions, I was able to relax and go to bed.

The next day I returned a library book, but didn’t want to tempt fate by getting out of the car (your brother’s early labor started at the library) so I just dropped it in the box and kept driving. At home that day I let your brother watch as many movies as he wanted so I could just sit still. I felt that if I walked around (or moved at all), then you would want to join us.

That evening we drove to the airport to pick up your Grandma Mary. Your dad came with us just in case, and the car was already packed with everything we needed for your birth. Grandma Mary’s flight was on time and I breathed a sigh a relief when she arrived. Then I told you it was fine to arrive whenever you felt like it. We came home and had a nice dinner with Uncle Danny and Aunt Brenda on the screen porch. They tried again to guess your name (Cameron, Champ and Cricket were some of their suggestions). We made plans to go over and see their new house the next morning.

But, the next morning, I woke up at 4:30am and couldn’t sleep anymore. At 4:45 I went to the bathroom and my water broke. We called the birth center and told them I was 39 weeks and 2 days and my water broke. We knew that once things started with your labor they were going to move quickly. Your brother was born in just 6 hours (start to finish) and we labored at home for a while with him and just made it to the birth center in time to push. We didn’t want to do that with you, so we started getting ready to leave right away.

I took a quick bath while your Dad went dowstairs to wake up Grandma Mary. She thought we were playing a joke on her when we told her it was time. We called your Godmama Maggie to come over and be with your brother, and we were out the door by 5:30am.

At this point my contractions were about three minutes apart, but very manageable. The drive was so much more pleasant than it had been with your brother. We listened to music and laughed on the way.

We arrived at the birth center and the doors were still locked, so I was standing outside in just a giant robe tied underneath my big belly. I looked like a sumo wrestler. The midwife on call, Elke, came to let us in. We went into the green room. Elke checked me and then told us “not to get comfortable, I’ll check you again in a few hours.” That is a really weird thing to say to a laboring lady. I stressed about that for a while, because I was planning on having you in my arms in a few hours. We found out later that I was only 2 cms dilated at this point, so they thought it might be a while even though I birthed your brother quickly.

Then we had to figure out how to labor at the birth center, which we had never done before. The nurse bound up my belly in a purple wrap and we went for a walk around the parking lot. It was a cool beautiful summer day (which was unusual for NC, but the whole summer had been the coolest and nicest anyone could remember). When we came back inside I really wanted to labor in the tub. They filled the tub with water and I got in. At this point we were about half way through your labor, but I had expected things to be moving faster, and I was pretty psyched out that they weren’t. I wasn’t really connecting with the midwife and that was hard for me too. Labor can be as hard mentally as it is physically. At 8 am I looked up from the tub and saw two midwives. It was time for a shift change and the new midwife on duty, Carey, had caught your cousin Blake. Yay! I immediately relaxed, and that is when things started moving.

Carey checked me about 30 minutes later (I was 5 cms dilated, but I requested not to know that until after you were born so that I wouldn’t get hung up on numbers). She told me I was “progressing” and encouraged me to get out of the tub and get upright to help you move down. I labored through a few contractions in the bathroom on the toilet, which was very uncomfortable. Your dad locked eyes with me, which helped me not focus so much on the pain. He said that was the highlight of the labor for him because he felt really connected in that moment. (I am glad it was good for someone).

At that point I really wanted to get back in the tub. The midwife still wanted me up and moving, but I wanted to push. I got back in the tub and begged to start pushing. Carey checked me again and said I wasn’t fully dilated (I was at a 9), but if I wanted to push I could try. I took that as a challenge and on the first push I felt you really move down. My contractions at this point were still very strong and fairly close together. I pushed one more time and they started adding warm water to the tub. I pushed for the third time and I could see your Grandma Mary getting teary. And on the fourth push, at 9:45am, you were born.

Carey scooped you up out of the water and put you on my chest. I held you and was so relieved to be finished laboring. The top of your head was completely purple from being squished so quickly. You looked a little like Frankenstein’s monster (but a really cute one). Your dad was right next to us at the top of the tub and I told him I loved him. I felt so much love for all of my boys in that moment. They drained the tub as I delivered the placenta, all while holding you on my chest.



Your daddy took off his shirt so he could hold you skin-to-skin, while I got out of the tub. We cuddled you and after a few minutes you wanted to nurse. You took right to nursing. We called your Uncle Danny and Aunt Brenda and they came to meet you (and brought us celebratory bagels). Your brother arrived with Godmama Maggie next. He loved you from the start. As we were packing up to leave the nurse came in to check you one last time and Ellis protectively turned your carseat away from her and told her you were “feeling a little shy.”


The four of us drove home together and saw your birth basket hanging from the heron/stork, which made us smile. All our friends at the farm knew you had arrived. You slept for the rest of the day (and night) while we visited with Uncle Danny, Aunt Brenda, Godmama Maggie, and Grandma Mary. It was the sweetest first day.


Garlic Harvest


Garlic is my favorite thing to grow. Probably because it is simple and fool proof. Growing it literally takes zero effort. It takes less than two minutes to plant. It over winters and it tells you when it is ready to be picked by falling over.

The hardest part is getting it cleaned up to dry. I get real satisfaction from stripping off the outer layer to the pristine second layer.


I have come to love the ritual of the garlic harvest. Everything from the collecting to the cleaning to the braiding. This year I even learned how to french braid the garlic into beautiful ropes for drying.


I got a real kick out of the fact that our garlic gestated longer than our baby. And we were down to our last head of garlic from last year right when these guys fell over. It was so nice to be able to make it the whole year using only the garlic we grew.

This year Ellis helped me with the harvest. Gotta keep the vampires away from this cutie. I love that he is wearing bats while we worked on the garlic this year.


I found this antlers for free. Adam says they are “crazytown” under his breath every time he goes out to the screen porch, but I think they make for the perfect garlic dryer.