Mother to Mother: A Letter From my Older Self

Dear Current Jessica,

Hi, it’s me. A wiser, wrinklier version of yourself who is—as Holly Flax would say in her best Terminator voice—“from da future.” I’ve been watching you with amusement lately. Not in a mean-spirited or vindictive way, but simply because I remember the depths of the emotions you’re wrestling with. I remember how it felt to sweat and struggle and wonder if you’re failing in all your roles—especially as a mother. I’m sorry to say you’ll never fully shake this feeling of inadequacy, but you will learn to diminish its power.

It isn’t easy. Days with little kids can be monotonous, like you’re living in a veritable Groundhog Day of laundry piles, sibling bickering, and vacuuming crumbs from the kitchen floor. I know you sometimes feel lost and invisible amidst the tasks and to-dos, but those things are like pebbles at the water’s edge. They’re real, yes, but they will be washed away. Release your grip; you’re giving too much weight to things not worth holding on to. Try not to worry so much.

I don’t mean to sound dismissive. I know saying “Try not to worry” is akin to asking you to fly or not reload the dishwasher after someone else does it. It’s like that day when your husband asked, baffled, why you were cutting red peppers for school lunches at 10 pm and you spat out, “Because I care!” Oh, my sweet, well-intentioned psychopath, you really do. I remember how consequential it all felt back then, like your kids’ ingestion of healthy veggies was directly correlated to their college acceptance. You care deeply—about everything from artificial sweeteners to the patriarchy. That’s your superpower. But it’s also the reason you grind your teeth at night. It’s a lot of pressure, trying to fix the world.

You have this habit of looking at deficits. This motivates you, but it also keeps you from seeing the glimmering miracles at your fingertips everyday. Notice them. Notice the way your heart leaps when you run your fingers through your son’s tousled bedhead. Notice the taste of strong coffee and the smell of lavender shampoo in the baby’s hair. Notice the sound of knock-knock jokes and whispered prayers and shrieks of childish glee from under a pile of blankets. Yours will be a life of window-rattling noise and vibrant color. It will always be too much and never enough. Accept this. Savor this. When you get overstimulated and overwhelmed: breathe. Let the small miracles buoy you.

I also need to tell you something you easily forget: You are a good mom. Before you start listing all the reasons to the contrary, hear me out. You track shoe sizes and dentist appointments and read parenting books in the school pick-up line. You clothe your kids’ bodies and feed their bellies. You fly kites and kiss bruises and fill your Amazon cart with craft supplies to fuel their creativity. Sure, you also spend a lot of time obsessing over small things, but you obsess because you care (now there’s a t-shirt slogan). You’re not going to do everything right, but that’s ok. Your family doesn’t want perfection, they just want you.

Dear one, give yourself grace. Be gentle with your discomfort and uncertainty. I know you often feel like an imposter. Like you’ve been handed your roles—mother, farm wife, functioning adult—but don’t have the basic skills to do any of them well. But God didn’t give you this beautiful life to watch you fail. No one gets it all right. I know those words may feel empty, but I have the benefit of hindsight and decades of perspective (as evidenced by all these forehead lines). It may feel like you’re in the trenches now, but frankly, these aren’t the trenches. This is just life. This is what it’s about. Pain and joy. Boredom and delight. Uncertainty and promise. There is abundance bursting all around you—just open your hands.

So, how to end? Shall I offer some vague platitudes? Motivational cliches? Tips from the future? I wish I had all the answers. But, even now, I rest in the liminal space. In lieu of certainty—which we know is a fallacy—let me offer permission. This messy, miraculous business of living isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it. Care for the people around you. Care for yourself. Center your heart on the only One who really matters. Be in the moments that count.

(Also, take more walks and start using retinol, but that’s another conversation for another time.)


Future Jessica


My dear friends Kim Knowle-Zeller and Erin Strybis wrote a book called The Beauty of Motherhood that releases in a little over a week. Kim and Erin are exceptional, gentle writers with a heart for mothers and ability to see the magic in ordinary life. I know this book will provide so much hope and solidarity to women like me, particularly those holding the beautiful tensions found in motherhood.

This post is a part of the blog tour for The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (read two more perspectives from my friends Fay and Melissa). With scripture, stories, prayers, and practices, The Beauty of Motherhood provides mothers with refreshment and the reminder that they are not alone as they mother. Order your copy at AmazonTarget or Bookshop. The Beauty of Motherhood releases March 21!  


pc: Allison Christians Photography

Why is this house such a mess?


Why is this house such a mess?

Because I need to return those shoes. Because I’ve needed to return those shoes for a month. Because—by some strange alchemy—those shoes in their cardboard box have been in our bedroom for so long they’ve turned into a piece of furniture we drape blankets on.

Because I’m a little tired. Because I’m a little lost. Because I was completely out of effs to give by the moment bedtime devolved into a “marker fight.”

Because these children shed socks and hoodies like molting birds. Because these children eat syrupy pancakes with their hands. Because these children believe it is a vicious affront to be asked to “eat over your plate” when they would rather bounce on one leg by the kitchen slider and peel the frosting off a chocolate-covered pretzel.

Because we (’re supposed to) value creativity. Because we (’re supposed to) value play. Because yesterday they overflowed the bathroom sink while running a “super stuffie bath shop” and all I could think to say was, “Please use Panda to mop that up.”

Because real people live here. Because we sometimes wear “busy” like a badge of honor. Because a therapist once told me that my connections with actual humans are more important than keeping the books in rainbow order.

Because we believe boredom fuels inspiration. Because on Saturday they used a three hole punch to make confetti for a unicorn’s birthday. Because they see beauty in the way light refracts through magnetic tiles.

Because we like lots of hummus on our peppers, salt on our chips, and couch pillows in our snuggle forts. Because after we rolled in a pile of crunchy, flamed-colored leaves, we carried the evidence back into the house on our clothes, shoes, and hair. Because today—when I could have been folding towels—I cranked Ella Fitzgerald on the speakers and slow danced with the baby under the living room lights.


(inspired by a prompt from exhale creativity)

More of This


“A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.”
–C.S. Lewis

Four months into a pandemic and subsequent state shutdown, I sat on the deck behind our house.

The mid afternoon sun was still high in the sky. A warm breeze rippled across the pages of the book in my lap and the sound of my children’s laughter danced across the driveway. I looked up to see all three kids gathered around a clump of dirt and grass.

“Mom! We found a toad!” My daughter Ellis’s eyes were bright as she pointed to the knobby brown creature at their feet. I smiled and watched my kids gently poke the toad with blades of grass before hopping after him—completely caught up in childlike wonder and delight. For the first time in what felt like weeks, I took a deep, grateful, breath.

“I want more of this.” The thought, unbidden and surprising, floated across my brain. Our days lately had been chaotic and stressful. The world was on fire. I was tightly wound, trying to do a full-time job remotely while juggling three kids and the busyness of farm life. Everything felt impossible. Every day felt like failure.

But as I gazed around the backyard, taking in the brilliant blue of the summer sky and the flash of small feet in the grass, I felt something new. Peace.

Our days were hard, but they were beautiful. For the first time since becoming a working mom seven years before, I had space to simply be. I wrote every morning. I read every night. We took walks to visit the cows. We picked handfuls of dandelions in the field. We ate picnics on the lawn and visited Kyle in the tractor. Everything felt smaller, slower, gentler. And I wanted more.

Looking back now, I think this was the start of the shift inside me.

I would not come back unchanged.

In his book “Life is in the Transitions,” Bruce Feiler says the average person can expect to experience three dozen “disruptors” in their adult life—about one every twelve to eighteen months. He defines a disruptor as any deviation from normal life, from the birth of a child to a devastating diagnosis to a worldwide pandemic. It doesn’t matter if the life transition is positive or negative (or a mixture of both), once we go through it, we  cannot stay the same. Change is inevitable.

It all comes down to our expectations.

If we expect life to be neat and linear (as an Enneagram One like me is prone to do), we’re in for a world of hurt. If, however, we view transitions as a fundamental part what it means to be human, we start to see possibility.

Today marks one such moment of possibility for me.

I’m taking a career pause to focus more on my family.

(Talk about burying the lede.)

Today I will say goodbye to a job I’ve held and loved for over ten years to make space for something new. I will release who I am now to find what I longed for all those months ago: more of this.

More play, less rigidity.
More calm, less frenzy.
More grace, less productivity.
More connection, less achievement.

I’ll admit that I’m afraid. I’m not sure who I am if not a director of communications. So much of my identity is tied up in my job and being a working mother.

But when I close my eyes, I see that woman on the deck clearly. Her feet are bare and freckles speckle her nose. Her shoulders are relaxed and her face is soft. The sound of her children’s gleeful laughter fills the air and, for the first time in her adult life, she considers what it would feel like to slow down.

Years later, I’m ready to find out.

Gratitude and Grief


Gratitude is a funny thing.

I feel it in two ways. Sometimes gratitude buzzes gently in my fingertips. My body flushes with warmth. I fold into my husband’s arms. My children giggle together in the sand. What joy. What a miraculous life.

Other times, gratitude is an electric shock searing my innards. Breath leaves my lungs. Our car narrowly avoids a collision. Children are gunned down in their schools. I consider how much I have, and—just as quickly—how much I have to lose.

It’s paralyzing sometimes. All this joy and fragility.

But I hold it all. I have to.

Because gratitude and grief aren’t mutually exclusive. They flow from the same source. They feel the same in my body.

Both pump like blood in my ears.
Both make my heart ache.

Both remind me what it means to be alive in this beautiful, broken place.

You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be Good


One of my children’s wails filled the air. I turned my head from the sink full of post-dinner dishes to see Anders dart into the kitchen with a guilty look on his face.

“What happened?” I asked, trying to keep my voice level and resist the urge to say what I was really thinking: What did you do this time?

“Nothing,” Anders’ face flashed an impish grin, but it faltered under my gaze. “Ellis fell.”

“No,” corrected my husband Kyle, entering the room with Anders’ sobbing sister in his arms. “He pulled the blanket out from under her and she hit her head on the floor.”

“Anders! Why did you do that?” As the words left my mouth, I knew they were pointless. My oldest—a child of rash impulses and wild energy—rarely knows why he does things. Yet sometimes I can’t stop myself from asking.

“I dunno,” he said, the return of his grin infuriating me.

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. Anders had been relentless in his provocations all day—pushing his younger siblings, defying my instructions, and generally wreaking havoc on our day and my sanity. I could feel 12 hours’ worth of tension pulsing through my forehead like a heartbeat, but instead of shouting “Go to the stairs!” for the 164th time since breakfast, I hissed, “Go outside. Now.”

Anders’ eyes blinked in surprise, but he didn’t stop to ask questions. “Ok!” He raced to the back door.

“Wha—?,” Kyle started. His confusion was understandable—I’m rarely a mom (or person) who deviates from the plan. Going outside after dinner was definitely not our normal routine.

“We didn’t get outside at all today,” I said, massaging my temples with my fingertips. “I had a bunch of meetings, and he has way too much pent-up energy. I’m going to run him before bed.”

Kyle slowly nodded, “Ok. Probably a good idea.”

The warm summer air ruffled my hair as Anders and I stepped onto the deck. He ventured a glance back at me, still not sure if he was in trouble. I put my hands on his narrow shoulders and bent down to meet his eyes. “Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to run up the hill to the calf barn and I’m going to time you.”

“Ok!” Already coiled like a spring, he leapt into action before the words left my mouth. I pulled out my phone to start the timer.

As Anders sprinted up the grassy hill, his shirt flapped up and I saw the outline of bones on his small back. A wiry six-year-old, he barely tipped the scale over 40 pounds. Yet he was strong enough to carry two gallons of milk up from the basement by himself, veins bulging in his arms and neck. Every inch of him was bone and muscle. My heart tightened as I realized—not for the first time—that my first baby was growing into a boy.

Anders slammed into my waist after another circuit from barn to back door, his skin flushed red. “Was that faster than last time?” he gasped.

I glanced at my phone. “You cut five seconds off your time,” I pushed his sweaty blonde hair off his forehead. “Good job, bud.”

He breathed heavily and I couldn’t help but notice all the malice was gone from his jawline. His face was soft and open—the same face I had adored since he was born. I squeezed his shoulder.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I said, surprising us both for the second time that night. I gestured to the berm between two of our alfalfa fields.

“Really? At bedtime?” He looked up at me with cautious hope, arms still around my waist.

“Sure. Why not?” I said with a grin.

“Yes!” he said. We broke apart and walked side-by-side up the same hill he had been running. The sun was obscured by a bank of clouds, but it was still warm enough to be comfortable in our t-shirts. After the murky humidity of the afternoon, the breeze was cleansing.

I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days.

In the golden evening light, Anders’ steady stream of chatter was a blessing instead of a barrage. When was the last time I did something with just him? I wondered with a twinge of guilt as he dashed under the old dead tree. Before his siblings were born, we used to walk on the farm together every weekend. Now, years later, it was rare for him to have my complete attention.

“Run, Mom!” Anders’ voice startled me out of my reprieve. “You don’t want a branch to fall on you!” I laughed and obeyed. As he dashed ahead, I wondered if four months of quarantine had crushed his spirit as fully as it had my own. The walls of our house seemed to be closing in most days as I unsuccessfully juggled three kids and a full-time job that had gone fully remote.

We drew closer to the edge of the alfalfa field and Anders reached out. “Mom, I’m gonna have to hold your hand when we get to the road,” he said, twining his fingers through mine and pulling me forward. I smiled and rubbed my thumb along his hand, noting the lack of baby fat.

“Are you tired of being at home?” I asked as our feet hit the dirt road and we headed east.

“No,” he said after a pause, clicking his tongue and exhaling quickly—a habit whenever he’s thinking hard. “I like being with my family.”

I winced slightly at the sweet honesty. “I’m so glad, bud.” My fingers tightened around his as I asked the question weighing heavily on my heart.

“Is there anything I can do to make things easier? To be a better mom?”

Anders brow furrowed. “I guess you could try not to yell so much,” he said distractedly, watching a brown toad hop across the road. “Like, you could say, ‘Please don’t do that’ instead of yelling. Because sometimes your voice is kinda mean and I get a little scared.”

“That’s fair,” I murmured as my heart twisted. Clearly my stress was visible to everyone around me. I remembered a few nights before when I told Kyle I thought Anders’ bad behavior—the hitting, pushing, his short fuse—might be my fault. After months of 24/7 family togetherness without a break, I was struggling to cope too. Most days I felt like a pot on the verge of boiling over. My temper flared easily, and I lacked patience and grace. Kyle listened and empathized, but he also pointed out that I was doing a lot of good things too. “You take walks. You do crafts. You’re giving these kids a great life,” he said. “You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom.”

Kyle’s words danced in my head as Anders and I cut through a field of tall grass on our way back to the house. Surely that’s what I wanted my impetuous, strong-willed firstborn to know too: You don’t have to be perfect to be good.

“We’ll work on it, together, ok?” I said, squeezing Anders’ hand. “I’m sorry for getting angry sometimes. Just remember I love you no matter what.”

“I love you too, Mom,” he said.

He released my hand and raced ahead, whooping and waving his arms. I couldn’t help but think that I always wanted to remember him like this: bright eyes and windswept hair, a spring in his step and a gentle face. Pure energy and joy.

When I started running after him, I felt my own face soften too.


Posted today in celebration of Anders’ eighth birthday.

The Folkema Family // January 2022

These are the days

The Folkema Family // January 2022

001 /
These are the days
of sweatpants and scrunchies
of diligent tracking and incessant googling
of eyes that burn with fatigue by dinnertime
of numbers on the scale that aren’t going down as quickly as I’d hoped
of spontaneous flashes of rage, despair, or crushing gratitude
of success being measured in naps, nursing sessions, and baskets of clean laundry
of feeling like I’m never doing enough
of feeling like I’m never enough

002 /
These are the days
of ships in the night
of zone coverage parenting
of marital miscommunications and bags under our eyes
of saying “I miss you” even though we live under the same roof
of his hand squeezing mine before I crawl out of bed to feed the baby
of foot rubs, conspiratorial grins, and lunch dates in the kitchen
of knowing it won’t always be this way
of a steady kind of love

003 /
These are the days
of newborn smiles and overlapping chatter
of stuffie battles and balloon scavenger hunts
of stepping on Legos and small dinosaurs on the rug
of midnight wakings for nightmares, empty water bottles, or a baby’s hungry cry
of asking “Where are your socks?”
of Saturday morning pancakes with syrup (so much syrup)
of rowdy wrestling and whispered apologies
of sticky kisses that linger on my cheek

These are our days,
long and short
heavy and light
ordinary and magic

gutting and full of grace

On Joy

“Your baby’s head is definitely down,” the doctor says, pressing her hands firmly on my lower belly. “That’s probably why you’re feeling more pressure. He’s getting into place.”

I wince and nod as she helps me back into a seated position. A small movement ripples through my abdomen and my hand unconsciously goes to the spot.

She turns back to the computer. “Other than pelvic pain, how are you feeling?”

“Oh, you know,” I laugh. “Fine. Nothing you wouldn’t expect near the end of pregnancy.” We share a rueful smile, knowing that life-altering growth almost always comes with pain.

I look out the window at a house down the block spangled with red and green Christmas lights. “Well,” she says, following my gaze, “try to enjoy this season as much as you can.”

It occurs to me on the snowy drive home that I rarely live my life this way.

I’m not a savorer.

I’m a rusher. A doer. A pusher. I try to live three steps ahead and plan for the future. It’s rare for me to sit in stillness, to be present, to rest. Yet there’s something about carrying new life that always forces me to lessen my speed.

My body, like this broken world, aches and groans. Uncertainty reigns. Some days can feel dark. It’s easy to lose sight of the wonder of simply being alive.

But joy is laced through everything.

I see it in flashes. Sharp kicks in my ribs. The smell of cinnamon. The glow of Christmas lights. Sunlight sparkling on fresh snow. The generosity of a friend. Tiny white onesies. Childish voices praying before bed. Holiday jazz. The way my oldest lifts my shirt because the only way he can “talk to the baby” is with his cheek pressed against my bare skin.

I cringed the first time he did this—fighting against a lifetime of body insecurity and motherhood-induced touch aversion. But as I felt the warmth of his innocent breath on my belly, discomfort succumbed to joy.

Because joy itself requires surrender. Vulnerability. The relinquishing of control. It comes, as poet Mary Oliver says, suddenly and unexpectedly, “the instant love begins.”

And in this season—of belly ripples and holy anticipation—I want to give in without hesitation.

A day in the life

As part of the #onedayhh challenge with Laura Tremaine on November 9, 2021, I documented moments throughout my day.

Sometimes this life feels like a mix of frenetic flurry and rote sameness. I rush through on autopilot and can disregard the joy of imperfect, normal days. But on this day, I wanted to pay attention. To be awake. To fill my camera roll with proof of ordinary beauty and, hopefully, remember it all.

5:30 am // good morning
Since going back to the physical office and having to do things like 1) wear hard pants and 2) actually do my hair, I started waking up 15 minutes earlier to allow myself time to get ready for work and also time to sit in a quiet kitchen. Usually I write, sometimes I read or do a 10 minute meditation. There’s always coffee and a candle. The important thing is that I start my day alone, in stillness, before—as Anne Lamott says—the world gets its mitts on me.

6:45 am // switching gears
At 6:30, the computer snaps closed. Time for productivity. I empty the dishwasher, let out the dog, fill water bottles, put clothes in the dryer, prepare daycare snacks, and make breakfast. The Lazy Genius told me to “decide once” whenever possible, so Mon/Wed/Fri breakfast is oatmeal with raisins and Tues/Thurs is eggs, bacon, and toast. Sometimes I do all the things in continued silence and sometimes I pop in my earbuds for 15 minutes of Jim Dale and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Both are delightful.

7:00 // release the hounds
Breakfast time. During the busy seasons on the farm, Kyle often doesn’t make it in for dinner, but we can always count on him for breakfast. Our true family meal. I butter toast, fill milk cups, and pick forks up off the floor. The kids argue about who would win in a fight between a unicorn dragon and a regular dragon. Kyle fields texts from dairy employees and fights for his share of the bacon. It’s loud and chaotic and one of my favorite times of day.

8:15 am // let’s hit the road
Kyle and I currently split the morning drop-offs. Anders has to be to school 45 minutes earlier than the little kids, so Car 1 with Kyle leaves at 7:40 and Car 2 with me leaves at 8:15. There are (seemingly) millions of bags to pack, papers to find, and shouted reminders to “brush your teeth now or we’re going to be late!” This morning Ellis caught the early transport with K and A and I’m feeling the luxury of only having to load *one* squirming kid into the car. (So why do I still feel sweaty, dehydrated, and like I’m forgetting at least ten things?)

9:30 am // where I spent most of my hours
In the office. When I’m not momming or farm wifeing, you’ll find me here: shoes off, cross-legged in a desk chair, and rocking some massive blue light blockers. The life of a director of communications looks different from day to day, but this November Tuesday will involve attending meetings, editing newsletter stories, peeing constantly (because #30weekspregnant), and talking about life-altering things like kerning and serial commas.

12:00 pm // working lunch
“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” —Orson Welles. In this case, lunch is chicken, rice, and Parisian carrots from Freshly eaten at my desk. Don’t let the American workaholic vibes fool you—I’m a firm believer in things like boundaries, mental space, and breaks from fluorescent lighting. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays I blaze through the noontime hour with a fork in one hand and a computer mouse in the other so I can leave early to pick up Anders from school Lego League. I don’t love all the juggling that this #workingmom life requires, but I DO love blasting AC/DC in a nearly empty office building while I do it.

4:05 pm // pick up kids
“Mommy!” Two small bodies slam into my legs. “Hey guys!” I say, smoothing Ellis’s hair out of her face and picking Henning up for a hug. “How was your day?” “Great!” says Ellis as she squirms out of my grasp and runs down the stairs to look at a bug smashed in the grill of my car. Henning wraps his arms around my head and plants a slobbery kiss on my forehead. “I played choo-choo trains!” he declares. “That’s awesome!” I say, squeezing him back. I chat for a minute with the teacher at the door. Parents haven’t been allowed inside our daycare since November 2020 due to COVID precautions. Though it’s convenient to have my kids and bags handed out like a childcare curbside pickup, I miss seeing their classrooms, talking to all their teachers, and meeting their little friends. The disconnect between my day and theirs feels even bigger in a pandemic world.

We load and drive the three blocks to Anders’ school to pick him up. I can go in this building, but the ever-present hand sanitizer on the teacher’s desk and a masked parent reminds me of all we’ve lost. The drive home is bedlam—all three kids talking and singing at once. I try to ask questions, to glean nuggets about who they are and what they do when they’re away from me, but eventually give up. “Hey Mom!” Anders shouts through the noise. “Can we jump on the trampoline when we get home?” I bite my lip, thinking how much easier it would be to prep dinner if they were in the house, but smile and say, “Sure” to a chorus of “YAY!”s.

We park in the driveway and I unbuckle seat belts. “C’mon, Henning!” Ellis says, taking her younger brother’s hand and dragging him after Anders. Squeals of joy fill the air as they bounce into a pile of dry leaves on the trampoline. After a day apart, these three don’t skip a beat. I turn my face towards the waning golden sun and breathe deeply. I’m reminded—not for the first time—that it’s not really about the deficit. The time away from each other. It’s about how moments like this feel—warm and wild and together. Suddenly I’m in no rush to go inside.

5:15 pm // all the flurried things
Drop bags by the back door. Shoes off. Wash hands. Kids in front of PBS Kids. Deconstruct work wardrobe. Sweatpants. Slippers. Scrunchie. Harry Potter on my earbuds. Unload bags. Wash bentos and snack containers. Feed the dog. Swat a fly. Light a candle because the sun is gone. Text “Will you be home for dinner?” to the farmer. Heat up dinner.

6:05 pm // dinnertime
We do have a proper table, but it’s far away in the dining room and usually covered in kraft paper and markers. Thus, 99.9% of our meals happen here at the kitchen counter. Not mad about it. Tonight we dined on salmon (kids) and chicken (adults because the kids claim to be sick of chicken) and did a Thanksgiving prompt card from Little Great Design Co. No one spilled their milk and Kyle came in halfway through. Great success.
(PS: A fun fact. The twinkly lights you see have been hanging in our kitchen since Christmas 2019. We hadn’t gotten around to taking them down when the pandemic hit and then I decided they sparked joy. If anyone wants to study the lifespan of Christmas lights left on basically 24 hours a day for two years, I have the data.)

7:15 // bedtime
Books are read and teeth are brushed. 3/3 kids want to hug my belly before bed and each one giggles when they feel their baby brother’s sharp kicks. Henning and Ellis are asleep within minutes after their door is closed and Anders plays Legos in his room until it’s lights out at 8:30. As for the adults? Kyle gave me a hug and headed back outside to the fields. I’ll spend the next hour making lunches, tidying up, and folding laundry. Oh. And eating a cookie.

8:39 pm // I am who I am
Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Well. I’m old, tired, and completely ok with it. When Kyle works late, I abandon all pretense to the contrary and happily crawl into bed before 9 pm. My face is washed, the dishwasher is running, and I’ll be asleep within the hour.

The Colors of a Life


If our family was a box of Crayola markers, we’d be neon. Possibly scented. All cherry reds and fluorescent oranges and other shades that burn your retinas.

My three kids are precocious, strong-willed, and have a standard volume that’s at least 10 decibels above an ideal “indoor voice.” I’m impatient, hard-nosed, and have a temper that can blaze as quickly as sparks on a pile of dry leaves. Kyle’s not far off that. Within our five, there isn’t a docile one in the bunch. Our home is a place of vivid colors, loud noises, and a general lack of calm. We have been affectionately described as a family that is “active,” “busy,” and “full of life.”

We are not delicate roses—painted in muted shades of dusty maroon and pink. Nay. We are fall leaves—sharp edges and vibrant hues of scarlet and yellow. A riot of colors. We flame from within.

It’s a lot sometimes. On days when I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, and over-everythinged, I long for a life with blander hues. Pastel blue. Taupe. Maybe a nice earthy beige when I’m solo parenting again at dinnertime. I dream of days with less intensity, noise, and near-constant touching.

But that’s not what I want. Not really.

Deep down, my soul exults in all the color.

I’m stopped in my tracks by the way the warm breeze flickers through my son’s blonde curls. The sound of three kids giggling in a pile on the trampoline. The acrid smell of leaves burning down the road. The feel of small kicks from my growing belly. The flash of warmth when Kyle’s fingers brush across my neck.

Our frenetic days—a rainbow of colors and cacophony—look different in the light of gratitude.

And I want it all.

I want boisterous singing in the car and sticky kisses on my cheek. I want golden afternoons in the grass and small bodies twined around my legs. I want to embrace joy that assaults my senses and sends shivers of recognition down my spine.

Instead of a tumult, I want to see our life like a fall tree—

unapologetic and bright
steadfast through changing seasons
breathtaking in its beauty.

Things I say on a Tuesday


Good morning. How did you sleep? What did you dream? Get dressed. Go potty. There’s nothing wrong with these pants. They are not tight. They do not itch. They are not the worst in the whole entire universe. We don’t say hate.

Here’s your milk. Here’s your oatmeal. You can’t switch to the pink bowl. Stay on your stool. Jersey doesn’t need any more treats. Here’s a paper towel. Stop kicking your brother. I don’t know if orcas eat sharks. Maybe. Who will you play with today? Who is your best friend? What do you do when you’re away from me?

You’re going to be late. Where are your socks? Where is your library bag? Did you finish your homework? Get your boots on. Can someone let the dog out? Do I smell a poopy diaper? Pick a mask. Here’s your backpack—go with Dad. I love you. The rest of you: three minutes. Finish your picture. Find your socks. Let’s change that diaper. Have fun today. I love you too.

What time is my video meeting? Where is my laptop charger? I need to change into a nice shirt. The joggers stay. Why is the internet not working? Where are my AirPods? Why am I hungry? Bob, you’re on mute. What’s the deliverable? What’s your target drop date? Who needs to be looped in? I’ll have to circle back with you on that.

Out of the car. Just one episode. Time for dinner. It’s chicken. You don’t know if you like it until you try it. Here’s your milk. Dad will be late. No, you can’t do fieldwork. Because it’s a school night. Because sleep helps you grow. Hands to yourself. Use nice words. Cake isn’t on the menu. What did you do today? What was the best part? Did you have fun?

Brush your teeth. Go potty. Where are your pajamas? Why are you naked? We have time for three books. Stay on the couch. Don’t climb on my face. Did you lick me? Thanks for the kisses. Now I lay me down to sleep. One more sip. One more hug. I remember—it was fun. We’ll do it again. Sweet dreams. I love you the most.

(Epilogue: You’re home early. Ted Lasso? With ice cream and a cookie? Yes. Obviously. You have the best ideas. You are my favorite.)