well it’s all right if you live the life you please.

lemme tell you something about The Idiots. (you remember that’s our family name, right? move over, brangelina. here come The Idiots.) you ever see parks and rec? we are april and andy, fully, wholly, unapologetically. we have a running list of normal things we don’t keep in the house. it just, like, doesn’t cross our mind. batteries? batteries are for fancy people. when you run out of batteries, you rob Peter to pay Paul and you remember which remote has the batteries you stole when it’s time to return them. fancy houses keep batteries on hand. they probably also have a wheel barrow and bandaids. (i had bandaids but Toddy used them all as stickers for a project he was working on because he’s a child genius okay like let him breathe)

buying batteries? game. changer. we feel fluuuuuuush with cash. we can make it rain batteries and give ourselves small cylindrical bruises. we are SO fancy and make a loud parade of replacing batteries to objects we’ve been palm-slapping back to life for weeks/months. it is a really, really exciting splurge day when we buy batteries.

thumb tacks! my mom had to bring some from her house because we don’t keep office supplies in our home. like, hardly at all. i could not possibly tell you where our hammer currently is. the last time i truly remember seeing it was in the bed we share with our 3-year-old. it didn’t even phase me when i saw it. i asked zero questions. sometimes, on a really good day, you might find a roll of scotch tape…that I probably stole from someone. but things like staples and printer paper and thumbtacks and post-it’s. nah, man. in our defense, we’re two no-nonsense nurses, so we probably have the stuff to remove staples from your body, but nothing to staple the papers together when we send you home with our bill.

my dad legitimately bought me a Sam’s roll of tinfoil as a gift because I never seemed to have it in my kitchen. it also never crossed our mind that our fancy pepper grinder was low on batteries (there’s that word again) because we just adjusted our peppering time to be the necessary 2-3 minutes per food item. it made mashed potatoes difficult to make, but, honestly, how could i prioritize a pepper grinder battery over the roku remote? that’s just vanity, and i reserve my vanity for things like naming new life theories and being really good at using a pogo stick.

when charlie was born, it did not cross our mind to get him a coming home outfit. why? to this day, i have no idea. it wasn’t even a thought. so we brought him home in the smallest onesie we could find in our closet. it had snoopy on it and said “free hugs” and honestly it’s the most perfect thing for The Idiots New Kid. it sums up so much of our parenting choices. heeeeeavy emphasis on affection and comfort. not exaaaaactly a ton of thought put into the look of it all. but all the free hugs you need, my friend.

the other night we drove around to decide on dinner out then ultimately drove home frustrated and made 1 noodle bowl, 1 box of macaroni and cheese, and cold pasta leftovers. yeah, we like the carbs and the money saving and the non-decision making. we spent the dinner yelling at each other in different accents. this was a fairly normal night for us. our son didn’t bat an extra long eyelash.

i don’t know why i wrote this except that just, really, who cares, amiright? i regularly come to the conclusion that so much of our lack of normalcy is perfectly normal. if you can’t find a post-it, use a regular piece of paper and borrow a band aid from your son’s bathroom counter mural. (just remember where you stole it from so you can replace it when you’re fancy again.) keep a note in your phone of all the places you took batteries in your home. did you eat something yesterday? did you live to talk about it? then good. and so what if your kid came home from the hospital in a free hugs snoopy onesie. at least he feels hugged, yeah? as long as you remembered to actually bring him home from the hospital, you’re more than okay in the eyes of The Idiots.

Alexa play end of the line by traveling wilburys.

keep with me forward all through the night.

as some of you may know, we have coslept for our charlie boy’s 3+ years of life. it is a decision that has been deeply right for us, sacrificed throat kicks and toddler sleeping positions and all. (and hear me when i say a deep, deep no judgement where parenting decisions are concerned. fed is best. slept is best. this is what has worked for me and mine.) when we get ready for bed, i watch my boy transition from playing happily or melting down to feeling loved and safe and sleepy and sleeping. it is a gift that i didn’t prepare for as a mama, and it has helped begin to heal some sleep anxiety i’ve carried my entire life.

some nights i make it to bed after he’s already asleep. (aka i’m hiding out because I NEED A MINUTE NO ONE TALK TO ME I LOVE YOU GO SOMEWHERE ELSE YES THANKS FOR THE HUG OH YES AND THE KISS WAIT DONT LICK MY FOREHEAD SON) some nights we stay up talking about what we’d like to bake next (read: overbake next. mama is not a baker.) or reaffirming that my favorite color is still purple. i’m about 50/50 on when i like to crawl into bed the most. but, oh, there’s a sweetness in both. when he’s already out, 9 times out of 10, i can wait for the moment he realizes i am there. i honestly don’t know if it’s a scent or a movement or a sound, but his whole body shifts to be near me. he reaches his growing arms to hold mine and inches his way over. he twists his body to be closer. he nuzzles his chin until he’s found my shoulder. and he will do it over and over again as he needs to. (even on the nights where i just so do not want to be touched or looked at or kicked or bulldog snored at. if we’re keeping it real, i just absolutely have to geeeeeeently press him towards his dad eventually.)

we will randomly have a very long night and late morning, and those are a gift and trial all of their own accord. but some nights are gloriously filled with hours of consecutive sleep i forgot existed the first 2.5 years. our sleeping night almost always revolve around the blind trust that he’s with his people, he’s safe, he’s loved, and he can ask for what he needs and receive it. he can demand to be loved with that sweet tipped up nuzzling chin.

johnboy and i have a joke where we’ll say, (in our best preacher voice, o’course.) “now isn’t that just like God?”

but, really, isn’t it?

i want my relationship with my Heavenly Father to resemble what my boy needs in me while he sleeps. i want to reach with my eyes closed towards Him because He’s home and He’s good and He’s here and He’s MINE. i know Him. i don’t have to wonder for one minute if it’s really Him because i know His arms and Hands and the feeling when He’s close. i know what it feels like to be safely held and loved while i receive what i need to face another day. i want to trust Him the way my sleeping boy trusts me.

i know what i feel when i am relying on Christ to supply my needs. i know that dependence and mercy and ever-flowing grace in my daily life. that is Charlie during the day. but when life is good and everything is going according to my plan, (and all my control panels are working in overdrive) that’s when i lose that sweet time of connection with my Father. that’s when i want to deeply rest and recharge like my baby can.

charlie doesn’t sleep with one eye open or question my intention when i get in bed. he knows the safest place he could be is close to the ones that know him the best. he doesn’t have to ask or wonder if he’s worthy of it. heck, he doesn’t even open his eyes to make sure of anything. he knows it’s us, and we know it’s him. and all is right in our world.

i want that, too.

extraordinary magic follows you around.

i guess sometimes i struggle to write things that i KNOW i’ve read before. i worry about being a mommy blogger. (pretty sure i was a mommy blogger before i was a mom.) i worry i’ll sound basic or pretentious or exploitive or any of the other negative words that might cross my mind. i worry i’ll write about my boy, and it will hurt someone waiting for a baby. i worry i’ll offend someone because laaaaaaaands i say the wrong thing like it’s my job. i worry that i’ll say something WAY too heavy because that’s what comes natural for me. (hey-o 4w5!) i just worry. and i don’t write. and i feel itchy because words are the closest thing i have to singing on a stage at the top of my lungs. (and i have a very deep need to sing on a stage at the top of my lungs.) (you really don’t understand.)

(it’s the one thing i sometimes think God got wrong in the world, me not having a good singing voice.)

(i can even see why mosquitoes are necessary sometimes, but why wouldn’t He let me sing like Liza and Ethel or Judy or Adelle Dazeem?)

and then sometimes my child goes to sleep at 8pm and wakes up so happily at 12:30am. and we get out of bed and walk around and eat cheese and do dishes and play dinosaurs and bugs and read books and eventually i raise my voice because SWEETHEART ITS 3AM PLEASE STOP TICKLING MY ARM ON ACCIDENT OKAY I LOVE YOU IM SORRY I YELLED A LITTLE JUST NOW MAMAS JUST SUPER TICKLISH NIGHT NIGHT DONT TOUCH ME ANYMORE.

and then somewhere around 1:30am, the words start dancing around in my brain like unformed poetry.

i hope that he knows when i’m standing over our kitchen sink, it feels like i’m standing before the throne of God above. that the mountain of dirty dishes with scraped on food and liquids turned a liiiiiiittle solid represent the times we gathered together in silliness and holiness and deep hunger. i hope when he sees that abandoned laundry basket, i was probably saying yes to my nature boy. and i hope he knows every time i chose laundry over playing outside, it was the joy of my life to fold tiny pants. i hope i convey that the kingdom of God sometimes begins over our stove, simmering and melting and popping and sizzling and promising something greater. i hope he knows that when i crawl out of bed with him after midnight, barefoot, i’m somehow hoping he’ll be comfortable enough to wake me up if he’s 15 and needing it. i hope we are his very first example of trying and failing and being redeemed, fully, as we are. i really hope he sees all of our flaws and our humanity and our dirty dishes and clutter and comprehends that we are all still perfectly fine. i hope our first home begins his love of both deep solitude and rich community. i hope we are conveying there is magic in the mundane.

you might’ve read all those words once before, and i know you’ll read them again. but they were inside and now they’re out where i needed them to be. that’s all of it. i’m a mama and a wife and a sister and a daughter and a friend and a very occasional writer and a regret-filled singer and a part-time wedding reception dancer and i worry and i hope and i finally did my dishes last night.

old lunch and tiny undies and a library card and always chatting. extraordinary magic indeed.

in my life i love you more.

dear Grammy,

today you have been known on this earth for 98 years. this Christmas will make 5 years since i last held your hands and told you it was okay to go see your family and your Maker. of course i’m already crying a little.

today i took care of my own baby and a sweet friend of ours. my morning started before 5am, and now i’m feeling the kind of tired where i don’t remember much about my day. i wonder, in your 93 years, how many days you felt this way. i think it might be easier to count how many days you didn’t feel this way. i understand now how you gave until you had nothing left.

i rested while they took a nap, and i felt guilty about it. there was (and still is) so much that needed to be done. laundry and dishes and the dried yogurt on our wood floors and toys scattered everywhere. i did the math and realized that i should probably close my eyes while they, too, were still and quiet. but i’m not sure i ever fully fell asleep. i understand now why it was hard for you to rest.

i have a 3-year-old now, and he would make you laugh so hard. we would probably butt heads in the ways you would try and spoil him, if you were here with us. but i like to think that you would see your own boys in him. he has their widow’s peak when his hair is short. (it’s hardly ever short now, and i wonder how mad you would be that it gets in his eyes.) the majority of my days are spent combing his sweet hair over to the side with my fingers. i understand now why all your boys had the same haircut.

i still wear your aprons for hours on end, and i’m still happiest when i can feed the people i love. sometimes i cook when i’m lonely and need something familiar. sometimes i cook when i’m overwhelmed and need the smell of garlic and onions and butter to remind me what i know is true. sometimes i cook because i want to be closer to someone. i understand now that you made poppyseed chicken because you wanted me to come around.

i have a son in Charlie and as close to a daughter as i possibly can in Scout. sometimes i’m gripped with a sense of panic that my boy will leave one day and not look back. where will i go when i’m not a mama every day? who will i be if he stops calling? i know those answers lie somewhere in the future, but i find myself wishing for that guarantee he will always want to be my friend. i understand now the unbreakable bond you had with my mama.

i am seeing more and more how i hold people to an almost impossible standard. being someone that sees a lot and usually brings a unique perspective, my filter is blurred and often taking a personal day. i react in anger and annoyance and say the wrong thing nearly all the time. what i want to say, i say, and then i beat myself up for hurting the ones i love more than life itself. i understand now that even when you were hardheaded and fussy, you had a deep ocean of love in your heart.

the world is hard often and beautiful always. it is full of good and terrible things, and the balance of that threatens to topple us all over at any given moment. the same reasons i want to stay in bed forever make me get out of bed each morning. it’s our job as truthtellers and Good News advocates to never let that fear win. i understand now that your strength came when you had to be strong.

every lesson i learn as i grow points me to the people that helped me get there. you, my tough old codger, my feisty, memorable lady, my unforgettable Grammy, will always remain one of my truest Norths. i understand it all a little more now.

happiest birthday, and i love you more.

layney

there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.

dear 2018,

greetings from one of your biggest fans and harshest critics! you were horrible! you brought devastating wildfires and displaced children and crisis and riots and picketing and loneliness and loss and more division than i’ve ever experienced in my precious country before. you personally made me and mine move 16 hours from home, and you didn’t let 2.5 different house offers go through before that. you provided more time outs, more sobbing, more homesickness disguised as toy throwing, more threats, more growing pains to my toddler cub child.

you saw people take their own lives rather than feel safe and free to confront their demons together. you couldn’t stop it. but you had to bear witness to it. we all did, utterly helpless in the aftermath. we saw lives lost both with old age and far too young age. and we couldn’t do anything more to change it. you saw a human race walk daily with freshly broken hearts.

you saw so many mass shootings and a nation divided on just about every partisan issue available. you saw 24-hour news networks anxious to be the very first to terrify us before we had wiped the sleep from our eyes.

you saw comments, millions of hateful comments, from lonely people trying to create newer, lonelier people on the internet. you also saw Twitter, which…just…ugh.

i can only say that you, dear 2018, saw us at some of our most isolated. for a world that claims to be more connected than ever, we all certainly saw the most disconnection. you almost had us all convinced that electronics are a good replacement for eye contact.

but you know what else? you saw a movement where certain unspeakable predators finally received their comeuppance. the promise of some healing and change and hope for our future might endure.

you saw some awful religious fervor represented, yes, but you also saw some of the very best. deep, peaceful kindness. people doing God’s work out of love and gratitude for this great earth and the One who created it.

you saw men and women celebrating days, weeks, months, and years of sobriety. you were there for every chip received. or maybe you just saw them finally admitting there was a problem. that might be one of the bravest things of all.

you saw so many new books written and published and purchased from actual stores. because 2018! isn’t it wonderful that bookstores and libraries still exist? and we, as a society, keep demanding more and more words to be written? isn’t that the most miraculous thing? that we love to read and feel the magical connection of stories.

and museums. 2018, we all saw something new preserved and archived and documented because we recognize the importance of remembering. maybe we framed a child’s artwork. maybe the Guggenheim recognized a bigger child’s artwork. but we all worked to preserve what we know matters.

you saw babies being born and taking their first steps and hitting their siblings and throwing their food. you saw those in the waiting and grieving and hoping and enduring. you saw rainbow babies born. you saw home studies being done and red tape finalized and paper pregnant mamas and daddies going across the world to hug their babies for the very first time.

for every mass shooting, you saw people running into the danger. you saw heroes being born of terror and more courage than they knew they had. just because their fellow man needed them.

you saw dance parties and screaming song lyrics and an absolute refusal to let hate and fear win. you saw joy at its very best defiance, and you showed up every single morning and night with a chance to pause and a chance to begin again. well, i say you did that, but i feel God really gets the full credit for the sun and the moon.

2018, you were just stupid hard. you really were. like your cousins 2017, 2016, 2015, and, well, i guess everything since The Good Ole Days in the 50’s when were we were only afraid of the Russians and smallpox outbreaks.

but you were good, too, like all of your cousins. even on the very worst of days, the good of it all prevailed. The Trenches only expanded and provided even more comfortable seating for all of us on the 24-hour shift. the solidarity was like hot coffee most days.

so thank you for being. and tell this cousin we’re all about to meet tomorrow to get ready. she’s never seen a force of love like us before. we hope she’s agreeable from the start, but we’re braced with our thicker skin, more determined resolve and fuller hearts either way.

for auld lang syne, my dear 2018.

sincerely,

layne and the rest of the world.

you know that gift card you got at Christmas? use it to buy gmorning! goodnight! by my BFF and Charlie’s godfather, Lin-Manuel Miranda.