Category Archives: Gratefulness

A love letter to the first house I lived in with my husband, and the one to which all my babies came home to after they were born, on the eve of our departure.

Dear modest two-bedroom rancher on a corner lot with a huge yard and a garage door that seldom closed on its own without some kind of applied brute force:

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Our first house.

Seven years and three months ago we moved in. There were just two of us then. We were pleased to have found you, even if your wooden kitchen cabinets overwhelmed us with their, well, woodiness. And even if your dirty white vinyl siding never quite appealed to us.

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Woody cabinets. Too much, right?

You welcomed us with open rooms—six, to be exact. Seven if you include the half-finished basement that for years I refused to enter except to do laundry, for fear that mold and mildew and cobwebs would compromise my immune system. And, there was that one time when Nora was an infant and we took refuge there during a tornado warning, even though Liam insisted on telling me the whole time I was being ridiculous.

Over the years though, basement, you grew on me. Kind of. I spruced you up with furniture and covered your drab wood-paneled walls with colorful bunting. I set up a doll house and a train table. A handmade teepee hideout. I transformed you into a sort of kid play space. I tried to ignore the darkness and the presence of the occasional mouse nest and the rotting window wood as best I could, so that on cold, wet days my kids could enjoy playing somewhere other than the living room.

Thank you for watching over the girls and for keeping them from concussing their little heads on your hard cement floors, covered only by an old, worn out carpet, maybe an eighth of an inch thick. Thank you also for preventing them from falling down your scary dangerous, steep, wooden stairs, with the hand rail so high, the kids couldn’t even attempt to reach it until they were two. I’ll admit to you now, them falling was one of my worst fears. Maybe you always suspected that though, because, when I wasn’t hovering near the top of the stairs holding my breath as I watched the girls go down, I was forever cautioning them to take their time and not push one another, or else walking in front of them should I need to break their fall. I have to confess. I am glad the boy will be elsewhere when he learns to walk. He is crawling swiftly and steadily climbing already just shy of seven months old. I fear for his physicality and can only imagine how recklessly he would have handled your stairs.

Basement, you saw us through the exchange of countless washers and dryers. The filling and dumping of a rusty old dehumidifier. The storage of loads of photos and baby clothes and camping gear and important documents and random furniture we couldn’t bear to throw out. Lastly, I’ll never forget your sump pump with the gnarly rotting wood covering the hole that led down to the well that will always remind me of the one that Baby Jessica fell into back in the 1980s. Thanks be to God that none of our babies fell down that well like she did all those years ago in Texas.

I will miss your spacious yard and magical trees maybe the most of all. Not raking your fall leaves, mind you, an annual activity I really could have done without. One that could be expected to last over a month, with four or five consecutive weekends spent raking abundant leaves onto a weathered green tarp, and then dragging said tarp to the side of the yard to dump pile after pile after pile of brown crinkly yard waste where the grass met the road. But, I did love gazing out your living room, kitchen and bedroom windows and watching the spring and summer leaves on the branches of your old and wise trees blow about in the breeze. I did sometimes worry that during bad storms one of the branches on your biggest tree—the one closest to the house—might crack and strike our house and impale one of us in our sleep. So, thanks again for keeping that from ever happening.

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Nora among the many fall leaves.


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And years later, doing her own part to help.

House—in the beginning, I loved mowing your lawn. The riding mower was new to me. A challenge to be learned. As a teenager, I was never allowed to mow the grass at our childhood home. My mother had suffered from an unfortunate mowing accident, whereupon running over a piece of rusty metal wire, the sole of her sneaker was pierced by the same flying wire debris, which resulted in a broken bone in her foot. And no Yost child ever partaking in the mowing of the lawn thereafter.

Somewhere in the middle, I detested mowing your lawn. When Liam got busy at work, it meant that one of the two of us had to spend two hours of our only weekend day off together mowing. Precious time we wanted to spend with each other.

Toward the end, I both loved and hated mowing your lawn. Yes, it was a time sucker. But it also provided me precious free time to escape being a mom for just a little bit. For two hours every other weekend, I got to zone out and enjoy the peace and meditation that came from mindlessly weaving linear patterns back and forth across your yard. Perhaps most importantly, mowing your lawn provided me precious opportunities to show my daughters that girls can cut grass just as well as (if not better than!) boys. We would have included the kids more in mowing but for your mower’s loud ass engine as well as its shifty seat which liked to wobble dangerously from time to time.

Remember the year of the bountiful cut flower garden? It had always been a dream of mine to grow a patch of flowers from which I could cut fresh stems to bring inside and display colorful bouquets. The neighbors oohed and aahed over you. We never could quite get you to grow to the fullness of that one summer. Liam insists it’s because he planted the seeds that first time, not me, that the garden flourished. Hmmpf! It’s not my fault the rabbits were particularly hungry in subsequent years.

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Nora and our cut flower garden in all their glory.

We cut our gardening teeth on your soil. In addition to flowers, we grew vegetables and planted blueberry bushes. We composted halfheartedly off and on over the years. We experimented with canning, pickling and preserving foods like cucumbers, asparagus, strawberry jam, and tomatoes—always a scene of frenzied chaos!

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Frances and her basil leaves.


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Nora with one of the caterpillars who so loved our dill.

Another beloved outdoor space of ours—your front porch—was home to many creative and hands-on projects. We made art there with sidewalk chalk, paints and natural materials. We husked corn and ripped kale. We smushed ants—well, at least the four-year-old did. We blew bubbles and whistles and screamed at the top of our lungs at passersby. We swung on the hammock swing and sat on the steps to pass the time and wait for Daddy to get home. We danced in rain puddles and stomped around in snow.

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Sitting on the front steps wearing classic expressions.


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The setting for many photo shoots gone awry.


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Finger painting in the water table.


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Sidewalk chalking.


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Ripping kale leaves for dinner.

For sure, the space that most evolved over the years was the bedroom. In the beginning, there were just two people sharing a giant king-sized bed. If we had to give away all but one piece of furniture in our home, I am sure my husband and I would agree we could not part with the bed. It is that comfortable. Our safe haven.

One of my most vivid and meaningful memories of our time spent under your roof involves that bed. One evening, in late fall of 2011, Liam and I had just finished rearranging the bedroom furniture. I was five or six months pregnant with Nora at the time, and we were making space to accommodate some new things for the baby. We pushed the bed under one of the windows in the bedroom, and then stopped to enjoy a moment of rest on the bare, plush mattress whose sheets were being cleaned in the laundry. We snuggled up side-by-side in the dark, with the window cracked open, so we could enjoy the cool breeze. We lay quietly for a time, appreciating the stillness. Then, rather abruptly, I started to cry. I confessed that I had been worried about what having a new baby might do to change the relationship I had with Liam. I felt that although I was excited about the new baby, I was somehow mourning in that moment, the loss of the two of us. We would soon be three. Our lives would change forever. We agreed that although we decidedly would change, we would strive to always make time to be two again.

Many years later, our lives have changed. Sometimes beyond recognition. Sometimes not. We no longer binge watch TV shows on the couch. Or stay up late just hanging out. Or cuddle up without some clinger wedging herself in between us. But, we still make time for date night. Well, at least once every few months. And we still make each other laugh out loud. If one were to walk into the bedroom now, one would see how we have wedged a twin bed up against our beloved king—an accommodation we made just two months ago to include everyone in the family bed. I admit it’s a tad bit ridiculous. But it works for us. I still lie under that window and feel the breeze from time to time and remember that moment years ago, and thank God for how lucky and blessed we all are to have each other.

The twin pushed against the king family bed.

Over the years we have ensconced ourselves safely inside your bedroom walls. Sleeping, dreaming, bonding, nursing, cuddling. Waking. Waking. Always waking. Your walls have heard our nighttime whisper curses being flung about here and there through teething spells, stomach bugs and that infant developmental bullshit where babies just decide to be up for no good reason at all but to piss their parents the fuck off. You have heard us say time and again, “Why the hell don’t we have cribs for our fucking children?!” And yet, we have remained steadfast in our desire to sleep next to our babies. We have grown our family of just two to a very full FIVE. We believe our children are becoming affectionate, confident, independent and empathetic beings as a result of sharing this sleeping space with us (if not also attached). But one day they will be gone, and these memories will remain.

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The three little bears snuggled up in their bed.


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That time when we moved two twin beds into the second bedroom that was once a playroom, and then a Nora-Daddy bedroom, hopeful that the girls would sleep together in there, but then just became a playroom again, only with two unused beds in there.

I think, perhaps, the room I liked least in your space was the bathroom. Mostly because I abhorred cleaning it. Remember those three or four times when I lost or left house keys somewhere out and about, and had to break in through the only open window in the house—the bathroom window. I always made quite a scene when that happened. Thanks for being open, though. We woulda been screwed if you hadn’t been.

We loved building fires in your fireplace and making blanket forts in just about every room. We used your walls to adorn photographs of our loved ones and artwork made by little hands. We spread cushions on the floor and bounced around on them. We had picnics with fake food and picnics with real food on that same floor. We said prayers together at meal times and prayers at bedtime. We watched way too much PBS Kids (especially in recent days, what with all the packing that’s been going on) and built towers of wooden blocks again and again and again.

Remember that magical Christmas Eve when Liam made seafood fra diavolo for dinner, and he and I talked about how blessed we were to have had such special grandparents in our lives? And then he proposed. Do you remember how I said yes? And how we laughed and laughed afterwards? He still makes that same meal now every Christmas Eve. It’s become a tradition that began at a table in your dining room, and will continue on for years to come.

Remember also the time my water broke at 2:00 a.m. and we rushed off to the hospital? Sorry about that mucous plug that dropped on your floor. I had no idea it was coming. Really. It scared the shit out of me, too. I was fortunate to begin to labor with the other two babies under your roof as well, but in a much calmer state than the first time around. Each time we brought home a child from the hospital, we enjoyed peaceful days of sitting on the couch getting to know her or him. Then, there were the sleepless nights. Not so soon forgotten.

You gave our children their first sense of feeling part of a community, a neighborhood. There is Mr. Larry and Mrs. Betty right next door. They ADORE the kids. They’ve told us time and again how they have loved watching the kids grow up in the backyard from the sunroom behind their house. They recall fondly the way Nora waddled about when she first learned to walk, and how she chased around after the wiffle golf balls Liam would hit about when working on his swing.

Then there’s Tim and Deb across the street. I’ll never forget the first Halloween after we moved in. Liam had been working late in Harrisburg. I saw Tim and Deb huddled up in winter weather gear passing out candy to the neighborhood youngsters. They had coozies of beer in one hand, and Twizzlers in another. I left my bowl of candy when I saw them, went in to grab my winter hat with the ear flaps, and trudged across the street carrying my own beer in a coozy to join them. Because why the hell not?

Miss Isabel is next to them, and beyond that house, Mrs. Dorothy and Mr. Charlie, along with Snickers, the dog. Over the years, we loved watching out for Miss Isabel taking walks, and driving her car on errands, long after she was supposed to have given up driving on orders from her doctors. We loved spotting Mrs. Dorothy at church, in addition to looking out for her daily walks with Snickers. We enjoyed stopping to chat with everyone. Especially Miss Val, and her pooch sidekick Potsie. Miss Val always had all the news of the neighborhood and always greeted the kids with genuine concern for their wellbeing.

Our girls made their first little friends in your neighborhood too. In the beginning, there was Tella. And then her little sister, Emme. More recently, we’ve befriended Avery and Katie. A gaggle of girls.

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The girls: Frances, Nora, and best buddy Tella.


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The neighborhood gaggle o’ gals.

We so enjoyed walking the streets of your neighborhood and getting to know our neighbors. We always made our loop around the ‘new’ neighborhood (which one friend recently dubbed the ‘rich’ neighborhood—ha!) and then figure-eighted back around to your neighborhood, our neighborhood—the old neighborhood. We rode trikes, bikes, friends’ scooters, strollers. We carried babies in wraps, slings, backpacks, Bjorns, and Ergos. We ran, walked, marched, sang, skipped, hopped, jumped, and held hands. We sometimes threw ourselves down on your streets because things were not going our way and cried. We spied pumpkins, Christmas decorations, pets, cars and trucks, sewage drains, stop signs and the occasional running water. We collected pinecones, acorns, leaves, bugs and rocks. We happily exchanged books at the Free Little Library in front of Deborah’s house.

Strollin’ with the babies.


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Cranky Franky on the trike.

And so house, in just five days’ time, a moving truck will pull into your driveway, and we will pack up our belongings and move north to Connecticut. I don’t know who will live in you next, but I hope it is a young family who will find you charming in precisely all the ways we did. And will be willing to overlook and put up with all that’s wrong with you—like the summertime ants, the deathtrap basement stairs, the damn portable dishwasher that hooks up to the sink, and the broken front screen door which my nephew Desmond ripped off its hinge, and which we never made time to fix. Oh, and the cable that fell down in the back alleyway during a storm years ago. I’ve called Comcast to come and fix it about five times over the years. I’m sorry to say that to this day they’ve never responded. Maybe your future tenants will have better luck.

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This little guy learned to crawl in your rooms and ate his first meals of broccoli and squash here. He will learn to walk under a new and different roof. And his first taste of ice cream will be elsewhere too.

We are looking forward to moving on to someplace new. But we are sad to be leaving behind the home—your home—in which we have had so many happy memories, and a neighborhood in which we’ve made so many wonderful friends. We will not soon forget you. Know that we will be back to visit. In drive-bys and walkthroughs, I am certain our paths will cross again.

In the meantime, don’t be lonely. This winter will be sure to bring back the mice. And then, the summertime ants will be just around the corner.

With deep love, gratitude and affection,

The Powers Family

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Anxiety Episode #13: While watching an up-close and intimate fireworks display, one of us becomes injured by a wayward spark.

All of of my anxiety posts to date have concerned events about which I’m fearful, but haven’t actually ever happened. The one I’m about to write about did. Last night. And it was terrifying.

For years and years my dad has been in charge of putting on a fireworks show for scuba divers and their families on the 4th of July. The show locale is on top of some limestone cliffs overlooking the Susquehanna River adjacent to the diving quarry where my dad has worked part-time off and on since the late 1980s.

The quarry and the land surrounding it was recently sold, so the owners of the dive shop there held one last picnic last night to celebrate. And, there was one last fireworks show to send things off with a literal bang.

My dad had always purchased the fireworks down in South Carolina, over the border from where his parents used to live. Each summer we took a vacation not only to visit the grandparents, but to pick up a stash of fireworks for the yearly tradition. We all had fun visiting the megastore and watching TV videos that displayed the look and sound of each firework sold. We also relished browsing the names of the fireworks, many of which were very redneck and/or super patriotic. Off the top of my head I recall: Blonde Joke, Here Come Da Judge, Uncle Sam’s Revenge, and Red, White and Boom.

Anyway, every year, as we hiked up to the cliffs with our lawn chairs and blankets, we discussed the possibility of one of the fireworks making its way into the crowd of onlookers instead of the sky, where it’s meant to explode. Although the risk and threat was always very real, we kind of laughed it off as an impossibility. The shows had always been very safe. Well, I think there may have been a year where there was a near miss, but everyone came out unscathed.

Last night, however, two of my family members suffered serious injuries as a result of a firework that had in its mind to fire directly into the crowd instead of up in the sky. Let me say they are both OK. It could have been much worse.

My oldest gal was laying on a blanket with my sister and her kids. The firework in question came up in between my sister and Nora. At the time I couldn’t tell what had happened. Instinctively, I turned away from the flash. I was standing behind everyone holding the baby in a carrier. Liam—who was holding our middle girl—later told me he jumped out of the chair he was sitting in, and ran down the hill shielding both him and her.

The next thing I remember, after the popping and flashing subsided, was hearing Nora screaming hysterically and seeing five or six people rush up to her, all the while yelling, “Take off her clothes! Take off her clothes!” Like I said, terrifying.

I was on the outside of the circle of people trying to care for her during the chaos and confusion, and—frustratingly—I couldn’t get to her. I remember feeling so relieved, though, when someone finally pulled her shirt over her head and I could see her perfect, uninjured little face through her tears. Liam finally picked her up, got her pants off, and, with the help of cell phone flash lights and head lamps, found the source of her pain—three burn marks on her outer thigh, one of which seemed pretty bad.

Someone decided we should call an ambulance and did. He or she later called to cancel it. Gratefully, a medic was part of the crowd of spectators and ran back to his car to get his burn kit. A few strangers let us use their nearby RV so Nora could be treated in a more comfortable, well lit area. It was there that I found out my sister had gotten burned too. Slightly worse than Nora. According to her, she jumped on top of Nora when the flash came and the firework went off in between them. The medic was able to treat her too, saving us all from a late-night trip to the ER.

Nora calmed down after the initial scare and was exceedingly brave. She sat naked on Liam’s lap in that RV eating chips and drinking juice that was offered to her, all the while cracking jokes with Mike the medic. She was amazing. She is amazing.

On the drive home, I was a mother hen chock full of adrenaline and cortisol, driving significantly below the speed limit in an attempt to keep my little chicks safe from further threat of danger.

Later, when we all got home and into bed, I kept agonizingly reliving the mini-explosion over and over again in my head. I kept seeing the bright flashes, hearing the pops and the screams, watching frantic hands undress my baby and then seeing her face, her injuries.

My heart broke all over again this morning when I found Nora’s clothing in the car. Her pants and shirt had burn holes in them and smelled of sulphur and fire. Ugh. Into the trash.

For now, though, Nora seems little bothered by her injuries (except for when it’s time to change the bandages). The adults close to her—my dad and brother especially, the show igniters 😉—were much more affected.

I’m busy trying not to dwell on the what-could-have-beens, and feeling grateful that Nora and my sister are OK. I’m trying to follow Nora’s brave lead and act as though what happened was no worse than a scrape on the knee from falling off a bike. I think she will have a bad scar, but hoping she won’t have much more of a memory of this time than that.

Unlike her mother, she seems pretty unfazed. Other than the fact she has vowed to never, ever, EVER, EVER again go see a fireworks show. Ever again. Ever. Like, ever, mama.

Like I said, amazing.

Farewell to Candace…but not really. Because we just can’t bear to say goodbye. And because she’ll be back again to visit in a week, and then again monthly, we hope.

Two years ago, around this very time, I was looking for a caregiver for the girls. I was due back to work after being home with Frances for a few months. Our sitter from the year before had gotten into small-scale farming, and wanted to be able to volunteer in her boys’ classrooms. And our sitter from the year before that—when I returned to work after having Nora—had moved away to Virginia.

I had found these two women—Nora’s first sitters—on Craigslist (sketchy, I know, but it worked out great). So, in an attempt to score yet another great, third sitter, I tried Craigslist again. However, after scanning many, many ads, I found only potential caregivers who used incorrect grammar and couldn’t be bothered to capitalize the appropriate letters in their ads. Surely these people would be getting nowhere near my children.

Next, I decided to reach out to our newly established neighborhood E-mail network. Through this, we found Candace, the woman who watched the girls for the past two years.

I can remember meeting her for the first time. She walked to our house with her daughter, Tella, and we chatted for awhile. It didn’t take long for me to approve. She mentioned early on in our conversation that she too, co-slept with her daughter (at that time the same age as Nora—two) and was still doing extended breastfeeding.

After hearing just those two tidbits of information, it took everything in me to not be like—You’re hired! When can you start? 

I kept myself in check, called all her references, and then said, “You’re hired! When can you start?!”

She spent two years with our kiddos, watching Frances from four months until this past March, and Nora from age two to four, a significant time for both girls developmentally. 

She was a fount of knowledge for me on topics such as tandem nursing, baby led weaning, the Fertility Awareness Method, and much more—namely, how to maintain one’s sanity while raising children.

Beyond all this, we shared similar notions about kiddie nutrition, limited exposure to technology, and the importance of spending time outside. She brought craftiness, music, and dancing into our home and was known to scrub out the microwave on occasion, just because. 

Also, Frances sometimes forgets that Candace is in fact, not her mom, and that I am instead.

It was such a comfort to have her looking after the girls and minding our  house while we were at work. Not to mention the convenience of having someone come to us. The kids could often just stay in their jammies and the breastmilk remain in the freezer.

This past spring, Candace’s husband got accepted into pharmacy school in Erie. They moved two weeks ago. Nora seems to be handling things OK for the moment, though she’s gotten a little wild in the afternoons now that her favorite playmate is gone. Frances is somewhat confused. She doesn’t understand that when we walk past Candace’s house (really, the house of her in-laws), Candace no longer lives there, and lives instead somewhere else we can’t see or visit. 

It’s been hardest on me, I think, losing a neighborhood friend and advisor, a trustworthy childcare provider and—perhaps most importantly—someone to whom I can bitch and moan when I need to, or rescue me by taking the girls for a few hours at a time.

Even though the time has come to move on, I know we will remain friends (more like family) forever. And hopefully still have monthly visitation, due to in-laws living right down the street from us.

So who will watch the kids now? Interestingly enough, we have come full circle in the childcare evolution. The woman who watched Nora when Nora was Rowan’s age, recently moved back to the area, and has agreed to watch all three kiddos. We are beyond relieved, and so, so grateful to once again have someone we know and love and trust be with the kids when we can’t be. Pretty wonderful how things are working out. And before they did I only had to read and dismiss a handful of really terrible Craigslist ads, with such stellar one-liners as:

we wont watch too much tv, but i will work on reading, righting, and maths with the kids.

Now we just have to get the baby taking a bottle sometime in the next week and two days. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? 

#shouldaintroduceditsooner

A season of fasting…with some exceptions.

Lent begins today. I’ve given some thought to sacrifices I can make over the next forty days that will hopefully help me to be more mindful, healthful, and devoted, both to prayer and to my family.

While I will continue to try and write on this blog daily, I’m going to give up other forms of electronic media. My cell phone and I are breaking up for a spell, taking some time apart to “see other people.”

I will likely continue to use it to text, call, check weather, etc. But, I will refrain from using Facebook, Instagram (a new, rarely used app), reading news (both celebrity gossip sites as well as more respectable outlets), and listening to podcasts. Not sure if I can give up Amazon Prime. We are bound to need things that just can’t be bought in the store with as much ease and convenience.

Hopefully, this electronic abandonment will allow for more book and magazine reading, perhaps some letter writing, and in general, less distraction from and more attention to the kids, husband, gratefulness and grace.

In addition, I’ve gotten the husband to agree to give up sugar along with me. This will help us to be more healthy and conscious of the foods we put into our bodies. Also, I know for me, that once I get past the craving stage, my stress, anxiety and tiredness will lessen. And, if the baby should happen to not gain an extra pound or two these next seven weeks, then we will all be better for it (and by “we” I of course mean me and my lady bits).

It should be noted, however, that we ARE making some exceptions. Since Lent coincides with Birthday Season (Liam, the girls, and I all have March and April birthdays), and potentially the birth of our newest family member, we will be breaking the rules from time to time.

I know, I know…not a true sacrifice then, right? At this point though, I’ll take the best we can do. And if that means eating cake or ice cream or cookies or cupcakes (or a combination of up to and including all four), on the days during which all of us celebrate our birthdays, well, then I’m OK with that.

And, you’d better believe that I’ll be taking full advantage of my “free” meals at the hospital when the baby comes, and ordering some chocolate peanut butter pie. That pie alone may be reason enough to consider having a fourth child. Hmmmm…considering done. No deal.

Despicable me.

I was in a dark place this morning when I left for work.

After we got off to a rough start yesterday morning with the iPhone debacle, and didn’t end up getting the girls to bed until nine last night, after the car battery fiasco, I was resolved to make it out the door on time today. I woke up feeling groggy, probably because it’s been about four nights in a row now that Frances has had some difficulty sleeping. Her top two fangs are making their way down, and she’s got two bottom teeth that are just about to erupt.

So, I busied myself making coffee and lunches and packing school bags and a diaper bag. Nora and Liam slept in a tiny bit, while Frances got right to work pushing her baby dolls around the house in their stroller, while wearing her older sister’s sparkly, purple, polka dot, two-sizes-too-big, shoes. This girl and her morning energy. I always wake up feeling somewhat irritated with her after nights like last night, during which she caused such sleep disturbances. But, watching her move and play about with such happiness just pleases me too much to stay angry. I found myself laughing out loud at her presence.

As the morning minutes wore on, however, and we got closer to the time we needed to depart to our respective destinations, my smiles faded and were soon replaced by barking orders and increased levels of stress. The wretched Mother-dragon had awoken, and was firing about on all cylinders.

Dragon Mother: Nora, five more minutes of breakfast and then get dressed, please.

Older Child: (resigned) OK. (fidgets in seat with caterpillar game pieces, makes no move to eat)

Dragon Mother: (mildly annoyed) Do you need me to set a timer or just remind you?

Older Child: Just remind me. (continues to not eat)

Dragon Mother: (very annoyed) Nora! Eat!

Older Child: Maybe you should set a timer (takes ONE bite of cereal, resumes fidgetiness and talking to herself)

Dragon Mother: (sets a timer; timer goes off, shouts in loud voice) Time to get dressed!

Older Child: (scurries down from the table, disappears into her room)

Dragon Mother: (Begins to try and eat breakfast. After wolfing down a few bites of eggs and drinking a couple of cold sips of coffee, ventures into child’s bedroom and sees child running around, playing with younger sister) Nora! Please, we need to leave in five minutes if mommy’s going to get to work on time. You still need to get dressed and brush teeth.

Older Child: (beside herself with exasperation) Okay, okay. Ugh!

Younger Child: (sees mom with food, comes running, even though she has already eaten breakfast) Eat! Eat! Hold me! Up!

Dragon Mother: Not now, Frances. Go see what your sister is doing.

Younger Child: (whines) No. Up! Eat!

Dragon Mother: (holds her distressed ground) Mommy is not holding you now. I need to brush my teeth and get ready to go to school.

Husband: (comes out of shower, heads to bedroom)

Older Child: (sprints out of bedroom, still in pajamas, and makes her way to the living room)

Dragon Mother: (totally pissed off now) NORA! GET DRESSED!

Older Child: (whines and protests) I want YOU to get me dressed.

Dragon Mother: (screams as though at wit’s end) Aaahhhh!!!!! (proceeds to eat one more bite of eggs, then goes to child’s bedroom to help child get dressed)

Husband: (senses wife’s boiling point reached, takes care of younger child and attempts to begin teeth-brushing routine)

Dragon Mother: (finishes dressing child, takes bags out to the car, then returns). Nora! Boots and jacket on please! Hurry!

Older child: (sits on bench, stares out the window, sings Frozen songs to herself)

Dragon Mother: NNOOORRRAAA!

Older child: OooooKaaaaaay! (puts boots on; struggles with jacket; spins around and around like a dog chasing her tail while she aims to get one arm inside the coat sleeve)

Dragon Mother/Wretched Wife: (can no longer witness this tomfoolery, heads to the kitchen, nearly bumps into husband) She’s a total nightmare! She can’t do one thing right this morning! (referring to older child)

Husband: (looks as though wife has just said something completely certifiable, but attempts to remain neutral, not wanting to offend wife further; remains speechless)

Dragon Mother/Wretched Wife: (takes in husband’s look, bursts into tears, makes admission) I’M the nightmare. Why am I yelling at her like this? No child should begin her day under such stress. She’s behaving totally fine. I am not. I hate that lack of sleep, job dissatisfaction, physical discomfort, pregnancy hormones, stress, lack of time, and who knows what else make me feel and behave this way.

Husband: (gives hug) You’ll be fine. Take a deep breath. Oh, and don’t forget your coffee.

Dragon Mother/Wretched Wife: (returns hug, kisses younger child goodbye, grabs coffee and tissues, dabs at cheeks and eyes, ushers older child out the door, five minutes late)

Older Child: (walks down driveway to car) Mommy, why are you sad?

Dragon Mother: (terribly ashamed) Because I’m feeling very grouchy this morning and I don’t like how I feel when we have to hurry and I get frustrated and yell.

Older child: (proceeds to tightly tie the pom-pom ear flaps of her winter hat together, over her face instead of under her chin, resulting in ear flaps covering her entire mouth; turns to mother with a scrunched up face and muffled voice, due to ear flaps in the way) Mommy, look at me. Will this make you happy? (begins to crack-up at herself)

Dragon Mother: (turns, surprised to see what daughter has done to contort the image of her face; erupts into hilarious laughter at the sight, and then tears up again because she is so touched that after the god-awful past half-hour, it is her child who has acted in such an intentional way as to soothe the beast within her mother and restore her mother’s spirit once again)

We drove the rest of the way to Nora’s school in peaceful silence. I don’t know what she was thinking about. I was busy breathing in and out, relishing the past moment of grace and humor, and feeling grateful for the special gift that is my oldest girl. Even when she makes me totally crazy, she is capable, at the same time, of making me feel such love and overwhelming affection.

I’m hoping to be more mindful and generally appreciative when I wake up tomorrow morning. It will help that it’s Liam’s turn to do the pre-school drop-off. And also that it’s Friday and there is a three-day weekend coming up. I’m very much looking forward to the break and the opportunity to recharge my soul and put out the fires burning within. Rest in peace, Dragon Mother.

A day filled with simple pleasures.

I got to sleep in this morning until seven o’clock. Someone else made the morning coffee. My parents and my niece came over to the house after Liam had gone to work to hang out with the girls for a couple of hours so I could run normal Saturday grocery errands without having to worry about holding hands and toddlers in addition to heavy bags.

I got to visit with my sister for a bit, a nice surprise. And even though Nora didn’t nap, I closed my eyes and rested on the couch for an hour while she tried on outfit after outfit that my sister had just donated to us—hand-me-down clothes her daughter can no longer wear.

After Frances woke up from her nap, the girls and I drove to Strasburg and I purchased a beautiful refinished dresser, in my favorite shade of blue, for the baby’s clothes (pictures will follow once we get things set up properly).

Liam put both girls to bed after he got home from work. I took an extra-long bath and finished a book I’d been reading. The girls have been sleeping soundly for hours, and I get to go to sleep in a minute, looking forward to spending the whole day with my family tomorrow, in what’s supposed to be fifty-degree weather. A trip to the park might be in order, although muddy, due to melting snow.

Life is pretty good.