my words

Faith by Kate Brightbill


*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.


Thoughts: 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?


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.


Thoughts: Maybe they won't need therapy? by Kate Brightbill


Last week, Brian found an old blog post that I wrote on a family blog when I used to do that sort of thing. He told the girls to listen as he read something he found that day... and when he had finished, we had two little girls beaming in pride. 

"Who wrote that???" they said, "Is that about us?"

He told them it was their mommy that wrote it, and they looked at me with wide eyes and smiles, then Sophie said "Ohh Jack, when you're a big boy, I think mommy will probably write something like that about YOU too!" Both girls hugged me tightly and kissed me and told me they loved it.

The writing was nothing phenomenal or special, and I had no idea that their hearts would be so full from something so simple. I've been writing during their naps and bedtimes since they were born-- some years more than others-- and I realize that they have had no idea, really. They have seen me with a computer occasionally typing, but I just say "girls, I have a little work to do while you play," and they don't really ask questions about it. 

I have often wondered if children of bloggers will need some special kind of therapy when they are grown. We are the first generation of parents inclined to create sites to remember the small details of our children's lives. Kids have SO much time in front of cameras, and parents like me share musings about their childhood on websites... It has made me cautious about how much I share (frankly, not much), and how many pictures I take (frankly, way too many).

I've had moments of mom-guilt while typing (and subsequently deleting) blog posts reflecting on the small and big details of days I thought were special. "These moments don't need to be typed. They were just enjoyed and let that be enough," I tell myself. Less is more, right? People must think I'm the chronic over-sharer. Ugh, I should stop writing. I should simply step away and be vague and skip the sharing-the-heart posting. Maybe "they" are right. 

But there is something inside of me that wants to keep writing. Something that tells me that maybe- just maybe- my children will be... dare I say... thankful  rather than resentful? Thankful for the reflections, thankful for the words? Maybe they will actually appreciate that I share the memories, and their mama's perspective while living those moments. Maybe when they are living similar moments in their future, they will find my words a comfort. Maybe they will understand how deeply I love them through the words typed on a screen.

So I will write. I will write for me, and I will write for them. Here or there, in the quieter spaces where no one else reads, I can write my heart.


Seven Years by Kate Brightbill


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.


* 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.

Thoughts: On School and Change by Kate Brightbill



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. 


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. 


Facts & Feelings by Kate Brightbill


Dear Friends!

I'm here... now where do I start? So, so much to catch up... about nine months, really. Prepare yourself for the longest essay ever written on this blog of mine.

How about I start here? I'M PREGNANT!! BABY #3 is coming in September!!

PHEW, I said it. Secret is out, finally! I'm 15.5 weeks, and growing faster than the other pregnancies. ;) I've had nausea, exhaustion, and total pregnancy brain (promise, it's a thing! spacey and forgetful!) for 15 weeks, and only this week has the nausea subsided. Brian was working long hours, as the beginning of the year often requires of him. I over-booked our first three months with extracurriculars for the girls, and found myself walking 4-6 miles per day, and taking buses, and basically running around our fair city to an extreme. It was a good and full (but very hard) January - March. I'm accustomed to being healthy and full of life, and I felt as though I was running every day to keep up. As of a couple weeks ago, we cleared our girls' schedule and headed last weekend for a long-anticipated vacation during Spring Break. 

NOW, let me back up a bit: I had two extremely healthy pregnancies with my girls. There was a slight chance of placenta previa with Maggie, and plenty of sickness with both, but as far as complications, there were none. 

That which has remained unsaid until now is that this current pregnancy actually follows two miscarriages.

The first would probably be called a "chemical pregnancy" because I wouldn't have known I was pregnant were I not tracking like clockwork. It was a wake-up call that hey... this getting pregnant deal is not always simple. It may not be seamless. We told almost no one that it happened and looked forward, rather than dwelling in disappointment, though disappointed I most definitely was. 

I got pregnant again last August. We had a beautiful healthy 8-week ultrasound where our wiggling baby's heart beat brightly and looking perfectly healthy on the screen. One week later, we took a tearful drive to the ER, and saw on that 9-week screen-- absolutely nothing. Where there had been a tiny baby one week earlier, there was an empty space. I'm not sure exactly what I expected to see, but it was such a stark blow to my hopefulness to see that beautiful child was no more, and I was absolutely crushed. 

I find in life that I want to be the upbeat one. I want to be the one who keeps her chin high, regardless of what's brimming underneath. If I want to cry, I will do so in the privacy of my cozy bed, with my face smushed in my pillow. I do not cry for sympathy, I do not cry to be noticed. It's a hard burden to carry tears below the surface. The roller coaster of hormones, paired with fears now realized, gave me two months of total fogged sadness. I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't want to feel like the one bringing everyone down by being so bummed, but I was so thoroughly bummed. It was this realization that no matter how I try to keep everything in life tidy and under control, the control does not belong to me. Even typing this now, almost six months later, it feels melodramatic and trivial compared to the realities of so many others. SO many couples lose babies. SO many people have the hard stuff staring them in their face daily. Who am I to feel this loss so deeply?

I came to a place early January where I finally recognized that I cannot orchestrate that which happens. I truly cannot. God is sovereign, He loves me, and He understands even when I do not. I was discouraged by the futile efforts put forth for this third child, and came to a place where I was absolutely certain I was not pregnant- yet another month... and in that moment, I let go. My heart finally came to grips with the reality that God knows best, and I am finished battling and allowing sorrow to steal my joy. I have two beautiful girls directly in front of me, a husband looking after our every need, and doting on me in my lingering sadness, and I will choose joy in this life, regardless of the shades of my 32nd year looking much different than I had expected. 2015 would be new and bright, and hopeful- perhaps new creative endeavors or new passions, but probably not that baby I had so desired. 

Later that VERY week, I found out that- contrary to my maternal instincts, or lack thereof- I am pregnant. 

I truly believe sometimes we simply need to come to an understanding that we are created by a loving Creator who wants us to learn to trust Him. He wants to take our sadness and bring beauty from ashes. Sometimes it takes heavy rain to appreciate sunshine. This was cautious sunshine. I wasn't ready to shout from the rooftops that I was expecting. We didn't tell a single person (even family!) that we were pregnant until that 9th week had come and gone. Sophie and Maggie kept the secret from any and everyone with us (impressive!). We kept our mouths tightly sealed until that beautiful, sickly, but HEALTHY first trimester had passed. Then, we told all our friends and family.

Last weekend, at 15 weeks and totally in-the-clear, we headed down south to the land where palm trees sway. Ahhh southern California. Such a beautiful place. Two sunny beach days, followed by time with my family at Disneyland and the next day at California Adventure... Ohhh, but that day, Brian and I spent mostly at the ER. 


The ER. The ER is really a terrible place. I've been to my own plush OB ER, specifically for expectant mothers, and was seen immediately, felt cared for and sorted through the issues immediately. Then there's the ER that you find in a foreign city, in the nearest hospital to where you are, and that ER is a terrible place. No further details necessary. ;) 

Hours later, we had our news: baby is alive and kicking and healthy!! Contrary to ALL thoughts my mind had in that waiting room, our child is alive and kicking

My body, however, has a SubChorionic Hemorrhage, size x- large, behind the placenta. 

What does this even mean? Ahh... how to explain? I'm not a doctor, but here's my attempt: It's a blood clot that develops during pregnancy, and it CAN cause complications, and it CAN cause a lot of things that are bad... OR it can simply resolve itself in short periods of time through some bleeding and some of the body just absorbing it, and all is well and lovely the remainder of the pregnancy. 

Bottom line? Bed rest.

Yes, bed rest.

Until further notice. Whaaaat? 

It's rather comical to me as I lay here in my room, day three. I think about my life and the way I used my time thus far in 2015- the way our first three months were scheduled and packed with lovely play dates and extracurriculars, with volunteering, with hosting, with social events, with any and everything we could imagine. It was too much and the four of us FELT it was too much. We talked about how as soon as spring break comes to a close, we are pulling all of the extras off our plates. We are simplifying and saying no.

SO. Here we are, closing out our spring break... Saying no- quite literally- to everything!  (except Easter! I'll be lying on my parents' bed for Easter celebrations, and being as much a part of celebrating our risen Christ as I possibly can!)

I've been handed a wealth of time in bed to rest. It doesn't feel particularly like a gift, but I'm sure going to try to see it as such. Our sweet baby is not yet out of the woods, but we are encouraged- by stats, by doctors, and most of all by prayers of our friends for peaceful hearts. We are thankful that that beautiful heart of this dear baby of ours is still beating strong, and we are hopeful. 

Also, THANK YOU, friends. Thank you for coming and reading my little blog- even during my months of half-hearted posting and radio silence. I really do love blogging, and I've missed it, but real life has had to come first.