Faith by Kate Brightbill

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*Updated to say, all tests are clear. Incredibly thankful today*

This morning I went to set my yeti down on our fireplace mantle while Jack and I were going to do his firetruck puzzle, but I missed. The yeti went down and the coffee projected itself across the hardwood floors in both the dining and living room, along the walls, and splashed slightly on the carpet.

It’s kind of a Monday thing to do. It’s beaming sunshine outside though, so I’m unaffected and take the excuse to run to get coffee up the street instead. Iced, this time.

My phone rang while in the coffee shop and I panicked and set down my things as quickly as possible to answer…. ohhh, just Brian.

Listen, Brian is a dream and my ultimate #1, but let me tell you about the phone call I really want. The one I’ve had before but I need again. It’s the phone call from the doctors to tell me everything is clear. Everything is benign.

I had two biopsies earlier this summer. If there are things I could say I hate most in life, I would start with health problems. It’s been almost 25 years since my uncle picked us up from school and on the way to the hospital told us that my brother got diagnosed with cancer after his biopsy. I’ve had 25 years to learn to think the best and have all the hope and become a grown-up in this area… yet my glaring doubt and heart issues come to the surface as soon as there is a health scare. And based on the 10+ visits to the ER with my kids (glue, staples, staples, staples, glue glue, broken wrist, fever, staples…), the high risk pregnancy, the miscarriages, the biopsies, and now the surgery to remove lumps from my breast, you’d think I’d have my bearings and trust up that this, too, shall pass. That this, too, will turn out okay. Even my biopsies earlier this summer were clear, and I only have one extra small lump that is still up in the air. The lump “looks benign.” My eventual good news to bad news ratios are high… one unthinkable scenario, and dozens of stories of good outcomes.

But health is the thing that keeps me awake at night regardless. Not the staples, not the cast. But lumps and lymph nodes and my high risk pregnancy health scares. The heart that wants to expect the best, but tried that in 1994-97 and feels raw and vulnerable because that best turned into the worst. But even then God is still gracious and He still provided all the peace and the rainbow and the sun shone in our brokenness. I trust this to be true, but I my heart becomes so delicate at these moments. And I know God can heal but I’m not certain whether or not He wants to, but all I want is for Him to want to.

Usually I steer clear of the computer when I’m truly feeling. The first time I quit writing on my blog was when Maggie had six months of testing for unrelenting swollen lymph nodes. I recount the feeling of my blog of sunshine and bright kids fashion feeling silly, even though people were actually reading it at the time. I just up and quit it all. Quit the internet in favor of real life. “This isn’t important,” I said.

I write about things when they’re all better. When I can come back and share my story of victory. I’m not yet there this week, but I plan to be in a couple days.

The reason I’m here before the results are known is the knowledge I’ve had since I opened up about my miscarriages a couple years ago— people behind the scenes- behind their screens- are going through it… and when they’re going through it, sometimes a voice on the other side of the computer screen is the only one that can relate to that same doubt and uncertainty and all those feelings I’m clumsily attempting to articulate here. The collective “we” generally don’t want to talk about it. We want to stay upbeat, and if we get attention we want it for the good, not the sympathetic or bad. “We” want to have it all together, under control. Or maybe it’s just me?

I’m feeling like we’re going through it. It being those days that you eventually look back and say MAN, that was hard. I’m so thankful for God’s grace and the prayers of friends and the refinement of my faith that resulted from those huge unknowns.

And this time I don’t want to say, oh hey, I have it all together now. I got all the words I want from the doctors. I want to actually tell you that I don’t know the answers and I don’t know what results will come from my surgery, and I do want to keep writing about birthday parties and cute outfits for travel and about trips, but I’m also going to share my heart in this really hard moment. Because travel is fun and photo shoots are cool and cute kids are amazing, but it’s what’s in between that’s building the character, building the faith, and showing us God’s faithfulness through it all.

xoxo

Maggie's 7th Birthday by Kate Brightbill

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Ahh, birthday season kickoff has arrived! Maggie starts the birthday train in August and I feel like I have a little more energy to give to her parties than everyone else's. This year was a tiny party- just four girls- which I love best. It allows us to pay a little more attention to details and do things a little nicer for fewer kiddos. 

Maggie actually plans her parties, and I try to make them happen. This year was a pony party theme, but the retro My Little Ponies had a last minute backorder and wouldn't arrive. They were the main pony factor, so it unfortunately went out the window there. It's okay. She really just wanted to hang with her friends and have pancakes and berries and play dress-up. Grown-ups mess with the simplicity, and then sometimes have a freakout when the balloon order is wrong (specifically requested months ahead by the birthday girl who lovvvvves the giant mylar balloons), the printout won't work for the game, the birthday cake topper is broken in pieces by an unnamed little brother, and things are just not feeling like they're going smoothly.... but then there's a call placed to get the correct balloon (free this time), the printer magically starts working again, and hot glue fixes that cake topper right up, and the freshly turned-7 year old is lighting up in excitement that her friends are arriving, and all is right again.

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I love fresh flowers and that they brighten up a day or a party. Even just a few simple stems that are inexpensive have big impact. :)

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The poster isn't just decor- it's a game that I thought of a few days before the party. Maggie loves the "pin the ___ on the ___" game, but since it wasn't going to be a pony party anymore, I was like, do I bother sketching a pony for the kids to pin the tail on it? I did that with the kitty party a couple years ago, and the kitty wasn't quite as cute as I hoped in that scale, and it took me a lot longer than I care to admit, considering its quality. 

So then I was like, WAIT. I can get those huge printouts at kinkos or wherever for like $5. One picture of Maggie and a few felt bows with some tape later, we had ourselves a party game that was way cuter than the pony I would have sketched. Pin the bow on the Maggie. The kids loved it and it simplified things (except that part when the large scale printer wasn't working- so just don't procrastinate like me and you'd be good). 

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Maggie loves dressing up more than anything. She actually has her own really good style and calls the shots on her wardrobe. This morning we couldn't find a bobby pin and so I tried a flower clip, and she said to me, ummm I really don't think this works. It's like, cute, but way too fancy for my outfit today. And honestly- she was spot on. It cracks me up. She plays a lot of dress-up, and on her birthday, she played all the dress-up with her friends that she could want! 

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Pancakes are her favorite breakfast and the absolute easiest menu. I try to be healthier when I'm making them on a normal day and do mashed bananas, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla, but for the party in bulk, I just went with good ol' Krusteaz. I just didn't feel like mashing that many bananas. No regret. 

SO in case you're looking for anything in the pictures, here are the links:

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On Bad Movies by Kate Brightbill

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The other day, my parents watched our kids overnight while we attended a benefit for UCSF children's hospital. Sounds very fancy, right? So grown-up and 35 of us. And it was all that, but we're not all that... but I love UCSF hospitals, and I love that we got to be a part of benefitting them, so there IS that. Also, this post is mostly about bad movies, but I put a good picture up because we watched a bad movie on the same day that I wore my new favorite skirt on earth, and I'd rather have that in my memory bank than said bad movie. Makes sense, I know.

{spoiler alert for The Avengers movie coming. don't read any more if you want to watch it.}

Anyway, the benefit ended at 5 and we ate right after, and we had all this time on our hands, so we went to see the new Avengers. Listen, I'm up for a good superhero movie anytime! Mostly I go for the popcorn, but I also go because I can feel awesome at the end. Like I'm the superhero and we're all winning. We got there early, got good seats, said no to popcorn because this horrid detox I'm doing doesn't say "yes" to fun, even when all the circumstances do...* sidenote: I had a piece of cheese and nuts at the benefit. Literally. It was so sad. Then on Cinco de Mayo dinner, I had tortilla soup without tortilla chips. It's enough to shake your head at me in disgust, and I just want to let you know, I get it. I'm shaking my head in disgust too. But I'm also super healthy right now, and in two weeks, I will most certainly be eating tacos again.*

So this movie is absolutely the opposite of anything awesome. I'm sorry to all you Marvel people. I'm no comic book guru, and I only go to movies when we have an overnight sitter situation (rare!) and if there happens to be one out in theaters during that window of opportunity. I know I'm probably offending the die-hard, but oh man, avoid this movie at all cost.

The bad guy KEEPS WINNING. Til the end! He wins the universe!

And then - as if the loss of power to the bad guy itself isn't sufficient- half the good guys turn into dust. Yes, dust. I'm sure there's some great meaning behind all this and theories about what the next movie will bring (all the superheroes back to life, SURELY and some kind of victory), but while all the true fans were on their phones googling the obscure Avengers meaning to this miserable flick, I was googling "is the new Avengers movie the stupidest movie ever made?" I meant it quite literally and expected google to return with commiserated opinion by the hundreds, but it didn't.

SO. All these movies say you have to watch through the credits for the bonus scenes! Ahh, that must be why there isn't consensus on how awful this was! The bonus scene will surely reveal victory. 

Yes, there's a bonus scene.... no it did not feel like a bonus. There are two more superheroes who weren't in this particular edition, so the bonus scene obliterated THEM to dust too. Because our collective hearts weren't quite crushed enough.

Thanks Marvel. 

Are there even movies made for the "me's" of this world anymore? I'm so over You've Got Mail and The Holiday, and even Notting Hill! The me's of this world have loved those movies a bit too long and we're completely over solo night at home including repeats that we've essentially memorized. I miss the "chick-flick" genre- the kind where the girl ends up with the one she loves and adores and charms all through the movie, and there's nothing truly realistic about any of it. These movies are no longer created! I'm thinking I might need to calm my hype over Oceans 8 coming this summer because given the obnoxious realistic movie trends, this particular Oceans might result in all the characters being shipped to isolation in prison, never to be seen again... in the name of realistic fiction. 

Anyway, clearly it's not the me's that make the box office get to a billion in record time (insert the completely ill emoji here- because this atrocious movie set that record), so the trends might continue...

It's time for me to face facts. Fact is, I'm 35! I'm officially not the target demographic anymore (answering surveys in the 35-50 makes me kind of not want to answer surveys anymore. There's no space to write that I'm actually that very bottom 35 number of the demographic, just barely out of the target market, and SUPER young in real life). 

I don't really have anywhere to go with this blog post. I just felt like I needed to put my feelings about the Avengers into the universe on my obscure blog on the internet, and now I feel better. Closing a blog post when I'm this rusty on the writing is virtually impossible, plus, I only have about 30 minutes till pickup for the kids, and about 55 minutes worth of work to get done around here. Byeeeee. See you next time.

xx.

Raising Girls by Kate Brightbill

Hi! Long time since I've written, even though I have had so much to say! It seems that parenting three children leaves little extra time on the day to day to circle around to the computer for a typing session! 

I've come out of blog retirement today, and I hope to stay online here. Blogs aren't really read these days the way they once were, and that is perfectly fine. It's the circle of life... something takes its place (social media) and takes less time and less clicking and truly is sufficient for most online experience. I personally take the time to read sites only once per week- actually more like monthly, so I get it.

I've come to the blog to share these videos and articles, which I really just want on more than just my instagram. Our Sophie girl was asked to join a panel of 7-10 year old girls on this tiny show called Good Morning America (!!!) to talk about what it means to be a girl today. We said ummm YES, and saved that date! 

We arrived and the girls sat immediately. They were set up in a row of chairs under glares of lights and cameras and people bustling around signing papers and connecting sound systems. There wasn't a warm up or someone sprucing them up- they simple came as themselves and answered questions as they were asked. As soon as papers were set, they started rolling cameras.

The group of girls blew their parents away with their ability to focus and answer far more eloquently than I would have at that age. They spoke about standing up for friends who aren't being kind, they talked about how they do not feel stereotyped or put into a box of lower expectation, even if they do like girly things, and they chatted about role models. They were poised and attentive and all that we could hope for them to be.

Some thoughts on the subject: my girls ARE stereotypical girls- they love their dolls and their shades of pinks and purples and twirling... but we want them to understand that they are just as capable as boys to do great things. They can be inventors or CEOs or musicians or stay-at-home-moms. God created us with different passions and talents, and we believe they can pursue them. We teach them that girls don't HAVE to like princesses, but princesses are often not only wear beautiful dresses, but teach lessons on being brave and strong and courageous too ("have courage and be kind," are words repeated around here often, and are a lesson from Cinderella).

So many of these and more concepts were addressed during the 45 minutes the girls spent on camera, but obviously this was a short segment from that time, so not everything could be shared. 

ANYWAY, this motherly pride has to land somewhere, and this blog has been sitting and waiting for something to appear on it... so here is our girl on Good Morning America!

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Hey Hey Cabo {Travel With Kids} by Kate Brightbill

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Our children got their first passport stamp! 

Mexico was a dream to visit with the kids. We visited Cabo, which is the bottom of the Baja peninsula of Mexico. This is the perfect trip for the first dose of international travel for kids. It's very friendly to the US visitors, and English is everywhere. The flight from San Francisco is only about three hours, and our time change is one hour, so it's not a huge commitment. The line for customs in Mexico looked excessively long, but only took about 40 minutes when it was all said and done. No biggie! Just be sure the kids are all fed before the plane and that they have a snack right before landing, because it's not like they'll be eating right when they arrive.

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We stayed at Cabo Azul, about a 20 minute drive from the airport in San Jose del Cabo. We got an amazing deal on a two bedroom hotel room (In our experience, there is more value and space and amenities in hotels in Mexico than in the US). Cabo is a peninsula, with San Jose on the east side, San Lucas west of it, and what's called the "Corridor" between. The Corridor is where Brian and I have stayed on our other two visits, and we had only stayed on hotel grounds, then ventured to Cabo San Lucas on those trips. 

Cabo Azul is in San Jose del Cabo. It's only about a five-seven minute taxi to their small downtown, which has cute shops and restaurants. None of the resorts that we've stayed in Cabo have been all-inclusive (a frequent questions from friends when they hear we were in Mexico), but we prefer it that way because it allows us to explore fun restaurants in town. 

We've stayed in three spots in Cabo-- two on the Corridor, closer to Cabo San Lucas (the west side, more busy and full), and this spot, and we would be most likely to return to Cabo Azul. The two-bedroom was perfect for families-- I wouldn't recommend going and packing multiple families in though. Though spacious, there's only one large bed per room, and one room is perfectly dark and ideal for children who have naps and need cozy quarters. 

Photos are better than words sometimes, especially when I'm short on time ;) so here you have it! 

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#mexicowithkids #travelwithkids
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Also, a throwback to 2012 for you when Brian and I went on a couples trip to a wedding in Cabo... ahhhh, I see I could use more sleep in my 2017 life, haha.

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Perspective by Kate Brightbill

 photo via Disney

photo via Disney

Last night we let the girls watch The Queen of Katwe. Have you seen it? It's a beautiful story about a girl in Uganda who lives a life of poverty in a slum, but is given hope in her future through her masterful ability to play the game of chess. 

We are living an average middle class American life in one of the most affluent cities in the world. Our children use phrases like "should we Uber or Lyft?" (probably Lyft, given Uber's current PR snafu), and "daddy, make sure you get the brown eggs that are 'organic farm fresh'" (anyone else see the specials on standard eggs and make the same switch??), and "Mommy, I have a tummy ache, can we get some chia seed juice?" Bottom line: we live in a bubble of beautiful views, weird tech lingo and attempts at nutritious lifestyle, while also shamefully paying $5 for a scoop of (incredible) insta-hyped ice cream in a cone. Welcome to San Francisco, friends. 

We are raising children who live in this bubble, children who have not yet seen the world, and it's something I wish I could show them firsthand, but it's not yet the right time.

Before having children, I felt in my heart that someday I would be bringing my five-year-old to African villages and teaching them about life and struggle and hope through people who lived it and are living it. I would definitely be cultivating a desire and passion in my future children by physically taking them on trips to do what we can help all people. Twelve years later, I have not even returned to Africa or Haiti on my own, let alone with our entire family.

Good intentions only go so far, so we show them the Queen of Katwe to give a glimpse into a child's life that is so different from their own.

The struggle for Brian and me, as I'm certain can be relatable for many middle-class-American families is: how do we create a childhood for our children that is full of beautiful moments and memories, giving them everything we can to become set for success and smiles... while simultaneously teaching them to CARE for the world as much as they care for themselves. To care for people, care about stories of others- whether good or bad- to care that there are motherless children and with a monthly allowance, we actually have the privilege of helping those children? To teach them that the world does not actually revolve around them-- and that them complaining of wanting Indian takeout rather than the Thai takeout is the epitome of ungratefulness?

Well. 

After watching the Queen of Katwe with our children to teach them perspective, it is me who learned the lesson... AGAIN. The lessons I so badly want to teach my children begin with me. I wake more mornings than I'd like to admit, groaning about peeling my sleepy self out of my soft covers when my beautiful healthy toddler yells "mama up?, daddy up? mama? mama?" Bleary eyed, I walk to his room and pick him up. My dear son has all his needs filled and his health intact. He knows his next meal will come at the right time and that he has clean water or milk at his disposal. If I think beyond my sleepiness, I am beyond grateful to God for all of these things we have been given. 

Should this not be sufficient in giving me a heart full of overflowing thankfulness and wanting to give back to others? How then do I find myself becoming a bear when I realize that I have run out of coffee filters and need to walk three blocks with three children to the coffee shop to purchase a cup without blinking at the price until I can replace said filters? 

There you have it. An attitude of ungratefulness in me is something that is passed down without ever noticing. A chat about how thankful I am for coffee at all is the better option, and it was my reality today, after my dose of perspective last night.

Tomorrow I will undoubtedly forget again... and the tomorrows after that, I will forget again. My children will notice and do the same.

But some days I will remember to cultivate hearts of thankfulness and teach our children to care for others right in front of us, and around the world. And some days I will teach the right things at the right times. 

And I pray that's what sticks.

xx