Bits of Life

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

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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Hello 2017 by Kate Brightbill

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My dad has been telling people I've retired from blogging. Don't believe him... I haven't! 

It's time that I either give this blog a bit of my time, or truly retire it. In 2017, I've decided I'll give a little heart and attention to this space of mine and see if I can get into a rhythm. I truly started both of the last two years thinking this would be the case, but when real life gets crazy, I just cannot pretend this space is more important than taking care of what's directly in front of me. I'm here and ready now! Hi!

First of all-- a look back. For everyone who has been talking about how terrible 2016 was: be encouraged! Statistically, it actually WASN'T quite so terrible as it felt at times. Perhaps for you, personally, it was, so I will not devalue that, but it is definitely a lot of the media influencing perspectives (and politics. politics were bad this year, but no need to address that here).

Our little (/not that little) family had a really good year, honestly. We were able to travel for the first time in awhile so we took advantage of every single opportunity. We learned to balance three children (it takes a LOT of energy), and our general health was on the upswing for most of the year. We had a couple trips to Urgent Care/ ER because, well... it seems we wouldn't be "us" if we didn't. Our children are not inclined to live those safe, sheltered lives, for better or worse. Adventure and risk seems to run in their blood (like, literally I don't take my girls to playgrounds much anymore because they climb on TOP of structures and outside all the boundaries and cause stress and anxiety for all parents watching).

We had a setback in November with a couple horrid weeks where Maggie's general health was in question-- I've had so many questions about it, so I'll summarize: She is completely cleared for now. She had a bad fever lasting about five days, and a lymph node on her neck that grew to 6cm in diameter, and became infected, so she couldn't move her head, and was in massive pain. She narrowly avoided surgery, and antibiotics and prayers managed to shrink the node to the point where she was totally mobile mid-December, and the swell in her nodes are basically nonexistent at this point. We are so thankful.

We ended our year with a trip to Tahoe, which was PERFECT. Sophie spent a day learning to snowboard, and both girls did some sledding. Tahoe waited until we got home before getting a TON of new fresh snow, but hey- just an excuse to get back over there now that we have all the snow gear in the right sizes!

I'm super excited about this new year. I know it's going to have a ton of ups and downs like any other year, but I'm choosing to be optimistic. I've also already started the most massive spring clean this week, and I'm hopeful that by the end of the year, there will be no more mystery boxes at the top back corners of our closets to clean out. ;) 

'Til next time (soon!),

xx

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Minted + Modern Kids = All I want for Christmas Cards by Kate Brightbill

Ahhh, the story of a Christmas Card, 2016:

One hot hot day in September, Maggie's soccer game in Golden Gate Park went long. Lunch went long too because- well, three kids aren't necessarily motivated eaters. We had signed up for a 15 minute photo session at Oh Happy Day's studio pop-up with Sarah from Modern Kids. I texted her and asked if we could come an hour late, and she kindly said yes. I discussed with Brian whether we should go at all, and after a minute of deliberating back and forth: we decided to do it. 

The plan was to get photographs of the children. The children this particular day were out of sorts. San Francisco kids often don't fare well in heat, and it was 90 degrees. They were literally sweating. The cozy holiday outfits I packed in a bag would just NOT do in this heat, but we had a onesie for Jack, and a couple lighter options for the girls in case we had this situation. Not quite what I had envisioned for a Christmas card photo, but more often than I can say, parenthood = improvising.

No, the kids did not cooperate at the pop-up. They were thrilled to get unicorn stickers from Jordan's Oh Happy Day Party Shop, and were also excited to peruse the goodies at Bitte and Sunday in Color, but they were not particularly inclined to smile for any camera or pose for Sarah this time.  

Ahhh, I was glad that I had booked the session for September because "there will need to be another session after that fiasco," I thought as we left.

Right before we left the session, Sarah told Brian and me to go stand by the wall with the kids-- in FRONT of the camera. "Oh definitely not this time, Sarah- just look at us!"

I was wearing a tee that is not only old, it's a tee that I also sometimes wear to bed. My shorts were cutoffs, and I had scuffed sandals. Brian had a hole in his tee, was wearing shorts faded by the summer, and he definitely hadn't shaved his face in a few days, so he wasn't too much better!

..but for all her sweetness, Sarah is also incredibly persistent when she wants to be. We followed her directions because- ah, who's going to see these anyway?? She snapped a few shots, and we were on our way to take naps and recover. (Please tell me we're not the only ones who need to recover from family photo sessions!! ;)

We got the shots the next day and whaaaat? The favorite shot of the day was the one she threw in with Brian and me!

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Here's what we love about it: it's completely imperfect. It's completely unexpected (even by us!). It's also a time stamp of who we are these days, and there is a story to tell about how the picture came to be (against all odds, haha!). I think in my striving toward picture perfect, sometimes I miss the rest of the story, but in this case, the photo really accomplishes both.

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As soon as we agreed that this was just right, I went directly to minted.com. Ahhh, I love Minted. I love their art, their wrapping paper, their party invitations... but the sweet spot in my heart is for their Christmas and New Year Cards (half the time, my cards get started this week of December, which means they are New Year Cards... which are TOTALLY acceptable all the way through January for procrastinators just like me!). 

Minted lets me upload my photo and it shows as the sample for every single card as I'm scrolling through. It saves so much time of me thinking, "hmm- I really like that card but would it work with my photo?" I can see directly whether or not it will work! I chose a few favorites, consulted my better half, and was ready to go. 

The cards at Minted also have options-- you can do a folded version for the longwinded writers such as myself, ha! You can have a flat card to go in an envelope with no writing necessary. You can even make your card a postcard for a short and sweet scribble to friends on the back! 

My friends' addresses are already uploaded to Minted.com, so that headache of hunting down my husband's longtime childhood friends whose addresses will take at least two months to get through the grapevine will not need to be repopulated every year. They're already in the system, ready to go! It saves so much time and hand-cramping to have those envelopes printed with addresses already! 

This year, we added a special envelope insert to the cards, and it's probably my favorite feature of our card. The leaf color coordinates almost like it was planned specifically for our specific photo, so obviously that made me seriously far happier than it really should. 

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I also added a few photos from the year to the inside of the card. Nothing fancy-- just some real life candids to show my kids' personalities a little more. 

Voila! After far less stress than EVER, Minted + Modern Kids Photography proved to equal my personal favorite Christmas card I've ever sent. 

So. All this said, PLEASE do yourself a favor and order Minted. If you have your Christmas cards out this year (already?), I commend you, but I also recommend you visit Minted to check on their art pieces-- I have about a million favorites. The shop has so many goodies.

Thanks Minted for collaborating and creating my favorite cards ever, truly! All opinions are my own, obviously. xoxo

Seven Years by Kate Brightbill

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The other day, Maggie opened some gum from Jack's birthday pinata, and took a bite. She chewed it for a moment and swallowed. 

"Maggie!," I said absently as I was cleaning the table beside her. "Gum isn't for swallowing. It's for chewing! When you swallow it, it stays in your stomach for seven years."

Then I glanced over at her. Her blue eyes were giant, and were welling up, and she was wearing that nervous pasted smile she gives me when she's afraid she's done something terribly wrong but wants to be sure everyone is still happy... "really mommy?... but... I already swallowed it." The tear rolled down her cheek.

Wait, what did I just say?

I hugged her and said, "Maggie, no worries!! I mean, I'm not sure how long it stays, but it's going to be just fine. Just try not to swallow your gum, mkay?" 

She ran off, slightly appeased, but still following up on the conversation with her wise big sister, who was actually validating my claim, but comforting her by letting her know a little won't hurt her too much. 

Meanwhile, I thought about the whole thing... Why would gum stay in a stomach for seven years anyway? Why is that what I was told all my life by anyone who knew anything? It cannot be true. So I did what any reasonable person would do and googled it. 

Nope, not true. Obviously. 

Just making my five-year-old cry for no reason at all

Next time your kid swallows their gum, my friends, there is no need to scare them to tears. PSA, you're welcome. Happy Monday to all.

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* Special thanks to Google for debunking myths for children of the 80's on the regular, so our children don't have to live for seven years in fear of the gum they accidentally swallowed that one time.