My Words

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.

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

On School and Change by Kate Brightbill

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WHAT. 

School is about to start. In three days. My four-soon-to-be-five-year-old is going to kindergarten.

I cried on-and-off all evening yesterday.

My mama heart is feeling a deep desire to keep my baby Maggie tiny. To reverse to the days that school was nowhere in sight and our daily walks were aimless, but so full & meaningful.

Maggie has been by my side for the past five years. She's been my yellow-haired sunshine girl who radiates joy and squeals in laughter the way I've only read about in stories. She has been a delight to my heart during hard moments with her unabashed smile. We have sat beside each other, morning after morning, becoming builders, artists, creators, and princesses with crowns.

She is growing upward and onward, and she is excited about kindergarten. I am excited FOR her, if I'm honest... but I'm still apprehensive about change. I felt this same ache in my heart when I sent Sophie to school for her first day. 

I'm well aware that new challenges- and even adversity- are recipes for growth and character, but it doesn't mean that my mama bear heart doesn't feel every bit of it deeply. I know first hand that little girls are not always kind. I know what it's like when a child is told she isn't wanted as a friend anymore, or that she is not good enough. I want to be there to give her a hug in the moment that she needs it most... when her feelings are hurt or when she falls down. I want to be there to boost her confidence when she is feeling incapable. 

BUT.

My older daughter has shown me that those challenges and painful moments can be met with endless grace. Grace toward peers being unkind, grace to give second-third-fourth and fifth chances, boosted confidence and assertiveness to say something in the moments that they are needed, the ability to brush off a scrape and recover from hurt. The more challenges, the more opportunity to rise to the challenges and learn from them.

I've also learned that even a delayed hug after school can be sufficient. A stop for a milkshake date and a heart-to-heart can boost sad days. Children are resilient-- they are stronger than I realize and far more capable.

My selfish heart is so sad that my girl is growing up. There's no mincing the truth. I'm already nostalgic for tulle princess dresses and bed-head and tea parties and lego building moments that have not yet passed. Historically speaking, there's a good chance I will cry many more times before Monday, and then again most days next week. The ache is real. 

This summer was full. The year before that and the one before that also full. Full of activity, of life, of beauty, of learning. 

We are grasping our moments, all the good and the bad with it. Though I've had more than a few days of rushing my children toward bedtime, I know through and through that I have savored the moments. And that's a good thing.

So now, onward. Through my tears of nostalgia, I also have pride and confidence. My second-born was created to beam her little sunshine everywhere. 

Here we go. 

xoxo

Change by Kate Brightbill

I'm a bit out of sorts. 

It's nearly the end of the summer and I had a meltdown late last week about all of the to-do's on my list left undone. I scrambled to paint the girls' room this weekend with Brian, in a great effort to appease my own critique of my summertime under-achievements. I've been cleaning my heart out to recover from our vacation and my painting efforts. 

I'm fumbling a bit these days. I've been calm, cool, collected and comfortable for awhile, so it's about time that I go a bit out of my comfort zone, yes? I've had my children, learned the ropes of motherhood, and have been on coast for a bit. Now we're about to embark on a whole new era of motherhood- the era of pencils and papers and unfamiliar faces and teachers and friends... and I'm a bottle of self-doubt and nerves. Somehow having a clean home and having the girls' room a fresh white rather than the terrible green we inherited seemed the potion to settle me back into confidence about the pending newness, but it hasn't. 

In truth, when I sit to consider all things, I am confident in my five-year-old. I know she loves people, she is sweet, she is social, she is smart, she is capable. She will thrive in a classroom, being taught by a teacher with the patience I lack, gaining skills and knowledge I wouldn't even remember to share with her. It's time and we all know it. 

I just thought it'd be easier to watch my girls grow up. I thought, hey, I'm not a crazy emotional person. I don't get easily rattled by circumstances. I definitely won't get teary when they go to school. Now we're nearly there, and I'm eating my words. This morning, I was sitting doing research on great lunch boxes and I was struck with a moment where my throat constricted and I swallowed so hard and my eyes were watering. I was alone but embarrassed at my silliness. It's school, for crying out loud! My girls are growing up and it's a beautiful thing!

It's just that- as I've said here a million times- I treasure the lovely preschool stages. The sweet kisses on my cheeks from adoring little girls, and the hands that want to hold mine and the feet that want mine to follow. I know this stage. I love this stage.

I don't know the next. I don't know how the inseparable friendship between my girls will develop when one is gone so much of the day. I don't know very many of the other kids, and I don't know the teacher. I just know that it's not what I have now. And I like what we have now.

I do believe that change is good. Change and growth build character, and character is the formula for building beautiful people with resolved integrity. What sort of story would we have if we just spent our days in the safety and adoring care of our mamas? Our world view would be skewed and revolve directly around ourselves.

To learn from the good and learn from the bad and learn from growing up- and be proven to become a person of deep-rooted conviction, filled with love and compassion for others--- these are the elements for raising strong girls of character.  

So I must let them grow up. I must let them be their own little people, encountering and rising to challenges that come their way. I will savor every bit of our last three weeks beforehand, and perhaps discard my lengthy to-do list entirely, in favor of more quality moments in the sunshine. 

And hopefully I will be able to order #2 pencils and a thermos without any tears. ;)

 

"So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself..." Matthew 6:34a

Maggie by Kate Brightbill

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It's been awhile since I wrote all the lovely things about these girls on their very own days every other month, and I'll try to get back in the habit of highlighting some of their "right nows" as we maneuver through the days and months the best we know how. This is my time capsule for me to share with my girls when they're grown... let's not think too hard about when they're grown though, because they're such dear littles and I am not wishing this away anytime soon.

Maggie is a great napper and terrible at going to bed at night. She would probably sleep until dinnertime every day if I didn't wake her. It's the opposite at night: she wants to chatter in her bed and sing "God is bigger than the boogyman" and "Jesus loves me" and "Little Einsteins" until 10pm every night. She's decided she wants to wear dresses every day, just like her big sister... but a couple of her tanks that are loose-fitting are considered dresses in her world. Her "favorite dress" changes daily so she can keep me guessing. She laughs hysterically if anyone in the room is laughing. She also has a scowl that is not to be messed with... she's conquered the eyebrow furrow, concerned eyes, and pout lip like none I've ever seen. She rarely yells, but is not afraid to repeat herself at loud volumes until she's heard... like a record skipping "May I please have some water," breath, "may I please have some water..." "may I please..." etc. 

She wants everything for her birthday. Her birthday is in August, but if she wants a purple scooter, she will say "mommy I'm getting a purple scooter for my birthday." Same with purple everything else. Her birthday wish list is three pages long by now and we have -mmmm- about four months to go. Cha- ching! {No, we're not actually getting anything yet}.

I love our little blonde free-spirited pixie with a shining smile. I love her little heart, her little shenanigans, her exuberance, hugs, and her chatter. They all add up to one beautiful little human. I'm so thankful I get to see her and love her and be her doting mama. 

xoxo