Love in the Subtleties
The baby is wailing from the backseat, the intensity of which leads me to believe he is near combustion. The situation can only be resolved one way, so I move quickly, twisting into a human pretzel to reach the backward-facing baby in hysterics. I’m contorting my arm behind the driver’s seat where my husband is calmly driving us home, despite the chaotic scene unfolding in the car.
With my arm stretched like Mrs. Incredible’s, my husband notices the gap between us is much more narrow than when safely seated (and buckled). I’m practically breathing down his neck when I catch a glimpse of his expression.
He turns his head slightly - eyes still on the road - and puckers his lips. I can see the dimple in his cheek clear as day - oh how I love those dimples. Undoubtedly he’s using our proximity as an opportunity for a subtle smooch in passing. While working my way back to my seat, I oblige and plant a quick one.
“Ew! Why did you just kiss??” shouts the oldest from the third row.
“Because we love each other,” my husband responds casually.
A standard answer, but one that gives me pause. I go silent as I think through all the car rides with just the two of us. The holiday he drove through a snowstorm to retrieve me from family drama. The road trips we’ve taken across state lines, fueled by corn nuts and twizzlers. The countless drives we took, me leaning over the center console, head on his shoulder, and his arm wrapped around my waist (I was much more flexible then).
A wave of grief washes over me when I reflect on who we used to be, when it was just us. With seemingly endless resources, dates were easy to plan and execute, meals were hot, and relaxation was the normal state of mind. Being a pair allowed for more freedom and deeper connection.
But the wave crashes and recedes back when I remember that love is malleable. Not stagnant, but ever evolving with us through each season of life. Love changes from long, hot dinners to cold, store-bought pizza. From playing hookey for a matinee movie to a single episode of a show at home once kids are in bed. From evening summer strolls through a local park to speeding through Target before we both start yawning.
Love after kids is subtle. A glass of ice water on the nightstand before bed, because he knows your routine. It’s the text that says, “Need anything before I head home?” because there’s always something I forgot. Or a shared embrace in the kitchen at the end of a long day that says, “This is hard, but we’re in it together.”
But for today, in this moment, it’s a quick kiss in the car while I hand off a nuk to the baby. It’s subtle, but somebody noticed.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Love After Babies".
Every summer, my best friend’s mom hosts a small gathering of people on the evening of the summer solstice. Guests can expect homemade guacamole, juicy burgers and fruity sangria.
Conversations linger long into the evening, behind which, soft music plays as sophisticated unfamiliar voices like John Denver and James Taylor, which grow on me more and more each year. The sun continues to emit an orange and yellow glow, as it takes its time going down over the horizon. The warm summer evening is absorbed slowly, not to be rushed.
To conclude, we indulge in a dessert of warm biscuits, topped with lush summer strawberries and fluffy whipped cream. It’s a tradition I’m envious I didn’t think of, and one that I hope to replicate in my own way someday.
But lest we forget, there are two solstices each year. Of course, winter solstice is less popularized, because why would we celebrate the cold and dark, anyway? What regard does winter truly deserve?
While most of us look to retreat and hibernate in order to survive the doom and gloom of winter (at least in the tundra of Minnesota), I wonder how we add the same value to the solstice that marks the changing of the season. The winter solstice falls on Dec. 21 this year (today). It will be the shortest day of the year, the darkest. It marks the moment where each day going forward will be lighter, brighter, better. Bit by bit.
By now, almost everyone has heard the term “hygge,” but if you haven’t, it’s a Danish term defined as, “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things.” Seems pretty straight forward, no? For example, the Danes might consider a freshly brewed cup of coffee or cashmere socks to be “hygge.” Danish doctors even recommend “tea and hygge,” as a cure for the common cold. They’re pretty serious about getting cozy.
When I reflect on what hygge means to me, I think of words like comfort, calm, kind, and warm. Is my house naturally any of those things with three small children and two somewhat large dogs? Absolutely not. Am I a natural steward of comfort, calm, kindness and warmth? Also no.
Creating space for hygge, both mentally and physically, takes effort - it has to be carefully curated.
Maybe it’s taking time to enjoy a ‘slow’ hobby (painting, puzzling, reading, baking) while a candle burns in the background. Maybe it’s saying no to separately scrolling screens, and instead watching a feel-good movie with good company, under a soft blanket. Maybe it’s inviting a few friends over for Glühwein and board games.
Maybe it’s a mental shift from being “stuck” inside and having cabin fever, to gratitude for this place of warmth and safety to rest. Maybe it’s motivating yourself to take a long walk through the snowy landscape and take in the beauty winter has to offer.
Winter solstice is the start to a slow trek back to spring. There is plenty of cold, dark and wet to endure until then, but if we can embrace this solstice as much as its summer sister, we’ll not only get through these wintery days, but actually relish them. Simply by finding the things most soothing and gentle in our lives and clinging to those while we cozy down.
Photos by Flo Dahm and Stella Rose on Unsplash
Writing Prompt: Write about an item you have that isn't expensive but means a lot to you.
I ponder the treasures that fill our home and weigh the importance of each one. Maybe my most prized possession is my childhood favorite, now raggedy stuffed polar bear, appropriately named ‘Polie’ (so creative, I know). Or perhaps I’d choose the postcards from my dad to each of our kids, detailing his cross-country adventures and piquing their curiosity for travel. Certainly it could be the glass Christmas ornament filled with dried flowers from my wedding bouquet.
But I settle on a small box filled with recipes that have been handled and referenced dozens, if not hundreds, of times. This simple little box is delicately detailed with birdhouses and flowers, a few of the things my old soul is quite fond of. However, the value of the box lies not in its exterior packaging, original price tag or value to the world, but rather what’s inside - the words, the history, the memories.
Each card inside contains a recipe, most of which came from family – the one I was born into, the one I married into, friends I consider family, even distant relatives. They’re fan favorites to whip up for a Superbowl party or a baby shower for a friend. They’re comforting casseroles, simples salads, decadent desserts.
Some of the recipes are messy, requiring countless kitchen utensils. Some are laborious, taking time and patience (both of which I typically lack). Some are simple to memorize, while others take up two cards front and back (Grandma's peach pie). Bent corners and rough-cut edges make our favorites easiest to grab. Small stains often coat my dessert recipes, a drop of vanilla or almond extract that dribbled on its way to the mixing bowl.
But above all else, what I treasure most about this little box is the handwriting on each card. Recipes from my mother – a love note of sorts – to ensure I am well versed in the names of herbs and spices, knowledgeable on how to blanch vegetables, and keen on cutting butter into flour. There are cards with both my grandmother's handwriting, their cursive swirling and elegantly outlining each step. And the handwriting of my mother-in-law, imparting on me the recipes which delighted her children, and hoping they will someday delight mine.
We have a sign in our kitchen that says, “If you feed them, they will come.” A slightly humorous décor piece, given we have three boys that are sure to someday eat us out of house and home, but truthful nonetheless.
It’s not expensive taste that impresses new friends. Price tags don’t comfort those in times of trial or loss. Not wealth or fortune convinces family to gather around a table each night. It’s food. GOOD food. Recipes passed down through generations because they’re that good. Mouth-watering meals and deliciously sinful desserts. Even snacks that make children squeal and come running.
Try a new recipe, or an old one for that matter, and see if I’m right. The proof is in the pudding, after all. Maybe even literally.
Evidence of Motherhood
Inspired by Jennifer Floyd’s creative exercise, “Still Motherhood.”
“These inanimate objects, exactly where they are, tell the story (of an age-old cliché we all roll our eyes at) that we really will miss this someday. The little corners of our home and treasures under the couch tell the story of a life filled with very loved children—where they create, learn, love, and rest. Take a moment to stop and capture these little moments of still motherhood – and remember the beautiful life you live and love.” – Jennifer Floyd
There’s no mistaking the fact that kids live in our home.
Our windows are speckled with hard water spots from the most recent water gun fight. Flowers fall victim to little feet in a furious game of tag. Grasshoppers and frogs find solace in the sand box turned mud pit, greeted every evening by the 6-yr old. And at any given moment, our backyard is littered with snack wrappers and socks left outside the trampoline – a true rager by any kid's standards.
Inside the house, clutter gathers on the counter which acts as a beacon to any artwork, AA battery or lost item without a “home.” Special treasures are found intentionally placed on benches and stair cases by the 4-yr old. He pleas, “Save my toys for later,” as if they’d go anywhere while he’s away.
There’s a constant internal battle between keeping the house clean and keeping the peace. Is it worth stopping the kids when they drag the Christmas tree out of storage on the last day in July and adorn it with every ornament we own? Or is the mess later worth the hour of quiet now? Will the memory of “making Christmas” on that blistering hot July day be one they treasure and look back on and smile?
I have been stopped in my tracks before, by the collision of the daily grid meeting the innocence of childhood. I’ve snapped photos of plastic scorpions on the bathroom floor and superhero figurines dangling from the tree branch out back. The evidence of their lives is sprinkled throughout, despite my best efforts to keep life neatly tucked away and organized. But maybe on occasion it’s ok to let things linger where they land and simply admire their existence.
The Extraordinariness of Dirt
“I need a shower. I’m covered in dirt,” I say to my husband as I slide open the patio door, a subtle warning that he’s on kid-duty while I step away to rinse off. The freshly-weeded flower bed looks back at me happily.
I, on the other hand, need a hose-down immediately.
The garden in our backyard came about somewhat spontaneously, born from my inability to say no to plants (especially free ones). If I catch the scent of a curb alert or neighbor splitting perennials, I’m over with a shovel faster than you can say, “crazy-plant-lady.”
“Where are you going to put those?” my husband nags. I bat my eyes at him, “I don’t know yet, but a garden would look really nice right there…” I’m keenly aware that this is an easier task with his muscle. Our agreement historically has been – he digs; I plant/care/water/weed. Win-win (win/win/win).
As I step out of the shower with no dirt in sight, I feel refreshed. But it’s more than just a post-shower squeaky clean refreshed. My soul feels new. At peace.
I ponder the source of this feeling and decide I have to give credit to the gardening.
But dirt is just…dirt. How can something so ordinary create such a sensation?
Generally speaking, dirt is a major nuisance.
Pesky grains of sand in the heel of every shoe we own.
Muddy dog paws waiting to be wiped after an April rain.
Under kids’ fingernails and on the knees of their pants.
So much MESS.
But despite the headache…in that moment I’ve decided,
there’s extraordinariness in dirt.
Dirt is forgiving, adapting to what we ask of it.
It accepts what we plant, providing solace and safety.
It sustains life, promoting growth from below.
Dirt is a leader, of adventure and fun.
To bubble baths after mud has engulfed entire children whole.
And to car washes, with giggles emerging as the rainbow soap sprays.
Dirt is a treasure map for little hands to explore.
Finding worms from the garden for fishing with dad.
Sifting in strainers for buried shells at the beach.
Dirt symbolizes transitions, stages of life.
We build homes full of memories and families on top.
Say goodbye to loved ones, furry friends down below.
For me, it's dirt that renews my spirit.
It’s cathartic to start fresh, plant new, and pull weeds.
The messy hands and sundrenched skin are soothing.
There’s extraordinariness in dirt. So dig in.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series "Ordinary Inspiration".