Softness in the Slog: Mother’s Day in the Season of Early Motherhood

Well, happy Mother’s Day to you! We haven’t had the smoothest build-up to the day, so I thought rather than posting anything overly sappy about my mom/me as a mom/motherhood in general, I’d keep it real.

Here’s what the past couple of days have looked like for me:

Friday. Rise early to yet another sore throat/ear ache combo. Wake the sick five-year-old so I can get both of us off to our doctors’ appointments. The poor kid has a high fever; he’s so upset about feeling sick and thirsty that he throws up all over the kitchen floor. Miraculously, he doesn’t get any of it on his clothes, so I hand him a bowl and hurry him into the car while my husband tackles the clean-up. I drive him and the baby first to my appointment (sinus infection), then to his (virus that could possibly be triggering his fifth ear infection of 2016).

My doctor sympathizes with my son, admires my baby, and tells me what a good mother I am.

The pediatrician engages my son before she does me. He accurately describes all his symptoms to her, answers all her questions, reads a sign off the wall (“You’re growing like a weed”) and tells her that he is indeed growing like a weed. She is delighted with him. I am delighted too.

We stop at the grocery store on the way home. I nurse the baby in the car; we pick up my prescription and a few groceries. We arrive home to find my mom watching the other two boys. The kitchen bears the marks of general neglect, husband having made pancakes, and an ant infestation in the cereal cabinet.

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Mom bottle-feeds the baby while I start to deal with the groceries/counters/ants/lunches/diapers/sick child/screaming children mess. After she leaves, I continue to deal with it. For hours. When there finally seems to be enough of a lull for me to nurse the baby again, I steal her away upstairs so the boys can’t find us. A few minutes later my little sickie yells for me from the bathroom. I reluctantly get up, fearing the viral worst. But no, it’s just “Mommy! There’s a string hanging off my sock!”

His fever reaches 104.7; my throat and ears hurt so badly I talk as if I’ve had my jaw numbed in a dental procedure. We. are. pathetic. Brennan arrives home from work; he takes care of most of the bedtime routine so I can be more thoroughly pathetic. He has brought me Mother’s Day flowers.

I fall asleep nursing the baby. A short while later, I (barely) wake to hear Brennan cleaning up one of the boys, who has vomited all over his bed. I wake again to find him lifting the baby out of my arms. He gives her a bottle so I can go to bed.

Saturday. I wake early to the tell-tale sounds of more vomit clean up. This time it’s the other boy. I go in to help but end up messing everything up by getting the toddler up and ready for the day. Brennan says it’s too early to get up. He puts the boys back to bed and I head back to our room to nurse the crying baby. Hours later I wake again. She and I have slept gloriously late; Brennan is making French toast downstairs.

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My throat and ears are feeling much better. My son’s fever is 103.9 but another round of Ibuprofen works its magic. The boys develop an elaborate scheme for attacking their father with Hot Wheels, toy airplanes, and a model aircraft carrier. The toddler naps while the bigger boys play outside and Brennan pulls weeds. I tackle the never-ending dishes and counter mess. My baby smiles at me. She coos. Sun shines in through the window, onto my flowers.

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One of my sons sings a little song to himself, “I wuv my own Mama! My Mama, my Mama! I wuv my Mama!”

Later our older boy throws up again. Brennan bathes him, then the other two. Shortly after they’ve been put to bed, the toddler’s diaper situation requires yet another bath. I do more dishes. Always, more dishes.

Is that tedious enough for you?

I don’t mean to bore you to tears, I only mean to show you how perfectly appropriate these couple of days leading up to Mother’s Day have actually been.

When I first became a mother, I hoped for Mother’s Days full of gifts or brunch or flower arrangements or time at the spa. (Or at the very least diapers, dinner, and dishes, done by someone other than myself.) In other words, I hoped for one day’s worth of a life that was not my own.

Maybe in the future, when my mothering responsibilities are less constant than they are now, I’ll have Mother’s Days more like those I originally envisioned. But for now, my Mother’s Days (and the days that lead up to them) are much like my everyday life as a mother: a constant slog of hard work, exhaustion, frustration – punctuated by the most beautiful moments of softness.

A compliment, a kind word, a game, a song, a smile, a flower. Hugs and kisses. Bad moods that can be dispensed with tickles and raspberries. The weight of a small child cuddled on my lap.

I did not wake this morning to breakfast in bed, or even choruses of “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!” I woke to find my four-year-old playing peek-a-boo with the baby. Soon he was singing and dancing for her from the top of the bed.

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Today, I’m sure, we’ll continue the slog. I’ll go to church with whichever of my children seem unlikely to infect the masses. Brennan will stay home with the sickies. We’ll get through, and we’ll keep collecting those sweet, soft moments. They’ll help me remember – like nothing else could – how lucky I am to be a mother.

A beautiful Mother’s Day to you and yours.

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Hometown Lovebirds

Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary. Just look at them – aren’t they cute?

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My mom and dad were high school sweethearts, married at the ages of 18 and 20. I think they first met when Dad shot spitballs at Mom from across the school auditorium, or something like that.

They became engaged on the night of Mom’s high school homecoming, when she was (cliché, I know) homecoming queen. Dad was home on leave from the Airforce. He’d been a volunteer firefighter before he left, so when an alarm went up that night, he reported to the scene. Mom stayed at the firehouse making pancakes for everybody. (It’s quite possible that I’m conflating two stories here. The pancakes-at-the-firehouse night might not have been the same as engaged-at-homecoming night.)

Regardless, Mom arrived home too late to announce the news to her parents and didn’t want to spring it on them on their way out to door to Mass the next morning, so (you can see this coming, can’t you?) Grandmom and Granddad learned of their 17-year-old daughter’s engagement from acquaintances at church. Amazingly, they somehow still grew to be okay with it.

When Mom and Dad married a year later, they held their reception in my grandparents’ yard. Their bridal party was huge because between them they had eight sisters and three brothers. Mom’s cousin was her maid of honor; Dad’s friends filled out his side. All the dresses were homemade, including my mom’s, which her aunt (and Godmother) had provided the fabric for. Mom finished sewing her dress the night before the wedding. Various family members provided hams and roasts, etc. for the reception and my great-grandfather hired some women to serve it. Mom’s three-year-old sister was her flower girl. I believe my aunt spent part of the wedding tugging on the priest’s robes.

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Or at least, this is the story I grew up with – the background to my fantasies and the model for my own expectations. In my book, it was the ideal – probably because my parents were.

I have always known that I was lucky to be born of my parents and their marriage. They, and it, are not perfect, of course. They have their squabbles and their struggles. But in the 36 years I have known them, and it, their love for each other has always been hugely obvious. Like, neon-sign obvious. Mom and Dad are loving and flirty. They’re considerate and (sometimes underneath a few grumbles) patient. They support each other and they were always a united front in raising my brother and me.

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I guess I always expected to follow a path similar to theirs. But mine took a different route. No homecoming crown, no high school sweetheart for me. No teenage marriage. Not even one in my twenties. No, unlike my parents, I went off to college. I traveled. I saw six foreign countries and countless American cities before I turned 25. I spent my twenties not changing diapers and chasing small children, but working late hours, reading stacks of books in my tiny apartment, and taking my little cousins out for ice cream when I got lonely. I met my husband via the internet, not a spitball.

It was good – just a different kind of good from my childhood fantasies.

My marriage is different from my parents’ too. Brennan and I are less flirty, our love is not so neon obvious. But it is good. It is solid. And like my parents, my husband and I try to be considerate and patient. We are supportive of each other and we are a united front in raising our boys.

I think we have my parents much to thank for this. They’ve provided me with a lifetime’s worth of examples of a good marriage, and they’ve been eight years of wonderful to Brennan.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for all you’ve done and for all you continue to be to us. Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished together. Enjoy your beautiful (and hopefully delicious) day.

We love you so much.

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Here’s to Another Fifty-Four

Today is my sixth wedding anniversary and I’m not at all prepared: I have no card, no gift, and haven’t given any thought to how we might celebrate, except for some vague idea that we’ll go out to dinner once my morning sickness is over.

Rather than focusing on our own marriage this evening, Brennan and I will be celebrating the marriage of my cousin Zachary to his bride Susan and my cousin Jenny to her groom Colin. At pretty much the same time. (Yes – we’ll be running from one wedding to the other. We’ll hit the first wedding, then the second, than back to the reception of the first.)

Tomorrow, we’ll again gather together with much of our family to celebrate my grandparents’ sixtieth wedding anniversary.

It’s a marriage kind of weekend.

So I’m thinking about us – me and Brennan – and where we are today. I’m thinking about where we were on our own wedding day and how far we’ve come. I’m wondering where the coming years will take us.

And I’m just so grateful.

Our wedding day passed in a swirl of images and activity: skirts hiked high over brick sidewalks, our flower girl walking barefoot up the aisle, him waiting at the end of it for me, sailboats on the water, a broad dance floor under a white tent, the cake we never got to eat, hugs and good wishes, and just us – finally alone.

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Photo credit: Gordon Eisner

Our lives were so open and uncertain. Exciting, but uncertain.

Part of me wishes that we’d done the newlywed thing a little longer – gone on a few more trips, had a few more romantic dinners, enjoyed the (relative) freedom of being childless. But we were eager to have children. And thank goodness, children came easily: We welcomed our first a few weeks before our first anniversary. Our second came along 15 months later, and our third 30 months after that. Six years into our marriage, we’re now expecting our fourth.

I wouldn’t trade it – them, these years of worry and work – for the world. And I know Brennan feels the same.

Today we’re tired, we’re worn thin, we have to step over random objects (yesterday it was an empty milk jug on the family room floor) to get from point A to point B, but what an abundance of life we have in our home.

We get to watch our boys run and climb and jump and work together to catch “crocagators” and “pteranodonosauruses.” We get to hear them roar and shriek and tell long, long stories. I get to watch Brennan hold the big boys captive in his arms and my baby snuggle on his daddy’s chest. I get to see the way he teaches them, guides them, loves them. I get to hear him reading to them before bed and saying Grace with them before meals.

Our boys are getting older, more competent and independent. We’re entering the years in which we’ll teach them about the world and slowly back off as they learn to navigate it. Ten years from now, we might remember these small-child years as if through a fog. Thirty, forty years from now, our roles as parents will be altogether different.

Fifty-four years from now, when (God willing) we’ll celebrate our own sixtieth wedding anniversary, where will we be? What will we have gone through? How will we have weathered the challenges of our life together?

All I know is that despite the hard work and sleepless nights of caring for three small children and gestating a fourth, my life with Brennan is happier and fuller now than it was when we were newlyweds. That despite the fun we might have had on a few more childless trips and dates, nothing has built up our marriage like working alongside each other, making those difficult decisions together, and exchanging smiling glances as we watch our delightful, unruly brood roll around on the floor.

I can only hope that another 54 years of shared work, sacrifice, and small joys will add up to more love than I can imagine.

Grandmom and Granddad, congratulations on all you’ve accomplished together. Thank you for being such terrific parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Thank you especially for showing all of us such a beautiful example of marriage.

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Zachary and Susan, Jenny and Colin, congratulations on entering into your own marriages! I pray that six years from today, you look at each other with more love and commitment than you do this evening. I hope you’ll recognize the gift of having to work for and with each other and that someday you’ll receive the immeasurable blessing and joy of children.

Brennan, thank you for all you have been and done in the past six years. I love you and I’m so glad that you’re the one I get to walk (and stumble, and run) through life with. Here’s to another 54!

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Kirby Delauter vs. The Liberal Media (Updated)

Have you heard of Kirby Delauter?

Until Tuesday, the only place I’d seen his name was on political posters stuck in people’s yards. (I don’t live in Frederick County, Maryland, so I’ve had neither the opportunity to vote for/against the guy, nor the obligation to learn anything about him. I just drive through the county every so often.)

Now, however, I’ve seen the Frederick Councilman’s name (Kirby Delauter) on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the Washington Post, BBC News, NPR, and of course, The Frederick News-Post. It (the name “Kirby Delauter”) is lots of other places too. In its now-famous editorial titled “Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter,” the Frederick News-Post sums up the situation:

Knowing Councilman Kirby Delauter as we do, we weren’t surprised that he threatened The Frederick News-Post with a lawsuit because we had, he says — and we’re not making this up — been putting Kirby Delauter’s name in the paper without Kirby Delauter’s authorization. Attorneys would be called, Kirby Delauter said.

In fact, we spent quite some time laughing about it. Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?

The editorial goes on in the most hilarious fashion for a couple of paragraphs. (The 13 paragraphs in the piece, by the way, are each started with a letter that, together, spell out the forbidden name: “Kirby Delauter.”) They include great stuff like:

Maybe we should just put his initials, “KD,” with an asterisk to a footnote (KD*), or refer to him as GLAT, the acronym for his campaign: “Govern Like A Taxpayer.” We could even make it sound a little hip-hop with a well-placed hyphen: G-Lat. Speaking of, could we get away with “K-Del”?


We found a great automatic online anagrammer that generated all kinds of alternatives and could make it a challenge for our readers to decode each time we have to reference the councilman: “Rebuked artily.” That was a good one. “Bakery diluter” is just silly but does have a ring about it. “Keyed rural bit” was another that caught our eye as somewhat telling, because Kirby Delauter’s pretty keyed up. We’re sure there’s a joke in “Brutelike Yard” somewhere.

The whole situation is just delightfully absurd. I giggled my way through the first half of the editorial. (Note: Kirby Delauter has now apologized.)

The second half, however, is where things get serious. It’s where the Frederick News Post counters the motivation behind Kirby Delauter’s idiotic attempt to prevent the paper from using his name:

Discernibly, though, Kirby Delauter’s ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives’ beliefs: That the media are all-liberal stooges hell bent on pursuing some fictional leftwing agenda. Generally this “fact” is bleated when the facts on the ground differ from conservative talking points.

This, of course, is where I stopped giggling. Because I’m a conservative. As delightfully absurd as fools like Kirby Delauter can seem at first glance, it’s really not much fun when my side is represented by people like him.

Moreover, I think liberal bias in the media is a very real thing.

I’m no conspiracy theorist; I don’t think there’s some formal leftwing agenda that’s imposed on every news outlet in the country except for Fox News. I think the vast majority of reporters and editors share a similar worldview. And – surprise, surprise – I think that worldview is reflected in how they cover the news.

When I was in high school, I was involved in a competition (I’ll reveal my dorkiness by admitting it was for academic teams) that my school won. I lived in a socially divided county, however, where the poorer, blacker schools (including my own) were looked down upon by the wealthier, whiter schools. So when my team (Aberdeen) won this competition, our county newspaper reported the story not as “Aberdeen wins academic team competition,” but as “Bel Air earns second place in academic team competition.” The paper’s story was factual, but it was biased.

(You can be both, “facts on the ground” Frederick News Post – factual and biased.)

I think of that situation all the time as I listen to my beloved NPR and I read my Washington Post. There are many ways to tell a story, but I find, again and again, that most of the news outlets I follow do so in a way that reflects their liberal worldview.

What, to me, makes up “the liberal worldview?”

It’s the assumption that women are all of one mind when it comes to abortion and contraception, that women have a sacred right to those goods/services, and that those “reproductive rights” are as fundamental as the freedoms of speech or religion. (How long did it take for the media to finally, begrudgingly, begin to report on the Kermit Gosnell situation?)

It’s the disdain for those who uphold the value of traditional marriage, the intolerance of insisting that only conservatives need be tolerant of opposing views on the subject. (Seriously, take a look at the Washington Post’s coverage of gay marriage over the past few years – it’s as if it was indeed operating out of some coordinated playbook.)

It’s the characterization of conservative politicians as obstructionist troublemakers. Most in the media choose to operate from the (liberal) assumption that government is supposed to do more, while many conservatives start from the assumption that it should do less. The two sides just about speak a different language regarding what they want from government, but I tend to only hear the one language represented in the media. (I’ll note here that I actually disagree with many conservatives – certainly the tea party variety – on many such issues, but they have my sympathy for how they’re treated in the media. I can do that: I can disagree with people and still recognize that they’re portrayed unfairly.)

It’s the implication that conservatives are, as a rule, somehow less thoughtful than liberals. (Did you catch the disdain demonstrated by the Frederick News Post in that last paragraph I quoted?)

There are more issues to “the liberal worldview” than these, but I’ve opened quite enough cans of worms in this post already.

To be clear, I don’t yearn for a media that tells me exactly what I want to think. I don’t want a conservative media bias to replace the liberal one.

I want reporters to acknowledge that everyone looks at the world from a unique perspective, and that their own personal worldview can’t help but impact their reporting. I want editors to make themselves look at controversial subjects from opposing points of view, so as to bring more balance to their stories. I want reporters and editors to try to get to know those with whom they disagree. It’s hard to be impartial when you’re surrounded by people who think (and vote) the same way you do.

I would rather a media outlet be forthright about its political leanings than to pretend they don’t exist.


I pay attention to the news. (For the most part, I stick to staid news outlets like NPR/PBS/BBC/WaPo/NYT, because I’d rather roll my eyes and harrumph once in a while at their liberal bias than to suffer blood pressure spikes from sensational newsmongers like Fox News.) So I witness the liberal media bias all the time. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I’ve shouted a re-phrased version of a biased statement back at the radio/television/computer. And I can’t begin to describe my frustration that the conventional formula of a NPR talk radio program seems to be conservative guest + liberal guest + liberal reporter + liberal radio host, which is somehow supposed to equal the balanced presentation of an issue.

(Part of me wishes that I regularly wrote down such examples, to present to you now in some sort of lengthy indictment. But honestly, my SAHM hands are far too busy changing diapers and washing dishes to be engaged in that sort of thing.)


When I worked as a lobbyist on the liberal side of things, advocating for policies and funding that helped the poor, I’d routinely strategize with colleagues from other organizations on how we could work together to, say, get X bill passed or preserve Y funding or raise Z awareness. Whenever the discussion turned to media strategies, people would start to suggest ways in which the media could help us. We’d discuss the pitches we could make to reporters, the news outlets that were most likely to run favorable stories, the editorial boards that would be most sympathetic, etc.

It never stopped shocking me.

Having come from a conservative background, it simply never occurred to me that one would go to reporters with policy proposals and ask for their help in advancing them. And I knew that the colleagues back in my own office, the ones working on pro-life or marriage issues, would not have that option. I wondered whether my liberal colleagues and their liberal media contacts ever stopped to think about how uneven the playing field was.


None of this (except the disdain thing) is meant to be a slight on the Frederick News Post. I’ve seen very little from it, so I have no opinion on the quality or fairness of its political coverage. (And I’m glad to know that it engages in political coverage at all – too few local papers do much of that these days.)

It’s just that I’m so tired of the media bleating on that there’s no such thing as bias in their work. If the media were truly balanced, truly unbiased, and I were to poll a hundred people (50 liberals and 50 conservatives), asking them whether the media is biased, what should I expect to find? I’d expect to find either (1) 100 people who think the media is unbiased or (2) 50 liberals who think the media has a conservative bias and 50 conservatives who think the media has a liberal bias.

But we all know that that’s not how it falls out in real life.

As far as I’m concerned, the very fact that so many conservatives find the media to be biased (and that liberals, largely, don’t) is proof that it is. One side is being represented at the expense of the other.

Again and again, the media tends to answer the bias allegation with a dismissive, “We’re not biased; we’re reporting the facts.” To which I can’t help but respond, “You can do both. You can report the facts and still demonstrate a bias.”

But what’s the use, really? Because by “We’re not biased; we’re reporting the facts,” what they really seem to mean is, “If you don’t see the world the way we do, you’re wrong.”



This morning as I moved around the kitchen getting my boys ready for their day, I found myself fighting tears because of what I was hearing on the radio. Again. For three mornings in a row, my empathetic soul has been focused on France and on the people who suffer in relation to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

All of a sudden, I panicked at the thought that some could construe this morning’s post as a snub on the profession of journalism in general. Or at the very least, as insensitive given the fact that liberal journalists were so brutally targeted in France. After all, in the same paragraph of the Frederick News Post’s editorial that contains the “facts on the ground” statement that raised my hackles, the paper responds to the implication that journalists are cowards:

Cowards? Tell that to the families of the 60 journalists killed in 2014, or the 70 in 2013, or the 74 who died in 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. All in pursuit of the truth, or the most reliable version of it at hand in the most dangerous regions of the world.

I in no way think journalists are cowards. I think they do a challenging, sometimes dangerous job, and that most of them do so in the best way they know how. I think journalism is essential to democracy – to civilization, even. I would be proud (if somewhat concerned for their ability to make ends meet) for any of my boys to choose journalism as a profession.

But I think journalists (like all of us, really) should always strive to improve their work – to be fairer, more thorough, and more thoughtful. I can mourn those who died at Charlie Hebdo and disagree with the “liberal media” (and even the dead themselves) on certain points. I can do both.

What To Do With An Annoying Husband

I went to my cousin’s bridal shower on Saturday. (Congratulations, Jaime!)

In my typical fashion, I did that thing where I get all excited about making something fancy for a special party, so I overestimate my abilities and I underestimate the time needed to pull it off. Accordingly, I spent a flustered Saturday running around like a madwoman, trying to fit in all the normal stuff, plus grocery shopping, making myself presentable for the party, and constructing 48 beautiful little tartlets filled with feta/spinach/pine nuts and tapenade/artichoke/pancetta/parmesan/arugula. (Yum.)

No time for an artfully-arranged photo before serving the tartlets: these babies are leftovers.

No time for an artfully-arranged photo before serving the tartlets: these babies are leftovers.

The boys were bouncing off the walls, my husband was managing them, and both he and my mother-in-law were enlisted to help me with the food. I was scurrying around, so consumed with the tasks at hand that I hardly made eye contact with anybody. (Because who has time for eye contact when you have stuff! to! get! done!?) I’m sure I was a peach.

Somehow, I got everything mostly put together and (thunderstorm notwithstanding) arrived at the shower a mere 20 minutes late.

But that’s beside the point. (And I promise I have one.)

At the shower, there were these notecards on which guests were asked to write messages to the bride. You might be familiar with the idea: on the envelope, the guest writes an event in the bride’s future and on the card, she writes a message for the bride to read when the event comes to pass. (Incidentally, when they did the same activity at my bridal shower, a bunch of the envelopes read “When you have your first daughter.”)



Anyway, on to my point.

On my envelope, I wrote, “When you get annoyed with your husband.”

Now, I certainly don’t think I’m the ideal person to be giving marriage advice. Brennan and I have only been married for five years. And ours is probably not the marriage most starry-eyed engaged couples are dreaming of: We’re not all that romantic. We’re probably pretty boring, even.

But we work. We’re content. We’re happy. And we’re getting better at our marriage every year.

A significant reason for this, I think, is that seemingly small thing: how we deal with being annoyed with one another.

When we were first married, all of my husband’s little idiosyncrasies drove me nuts. The dirty dishes on the counter, the socks on the floor, the cabinet doors left wide open, his absolute conviction that he is always right. And I could tell that he was annoyed with me too: my OCD tendencies, my procrastination, my perfectionism, that little sticking noise I make in my throat when I breathe.

So for the first several months of our marriage, there was this cloud of gloom hanging over many of our interactions. I was annoyed. He was annoyed. Sometimes it was all I could think about. Why did he spread those things across the kitchen counter? Doesn’t he realize I just spent an hour cleaning it off? He’s so inconsiderate! He doesn’t even notice that this bothers me! He wouldn’t care anyway! He must not love me! Waaaahhh!

(In my defense, I was pregnant at the time.)

Ultimately, the gloom built to the point where I couldn’t take it any longer. Our annoyances had left us each feeling self-righteous. And my annoyance with his annoyance with me (got that?) left me feeling hurt. So I prayed about it. And we talked it through. We realized that we needed to stop letting ourselves become so annoyed. After all, when we’re annoyed by something another person does, the other person isn’t the only one responsible for the situation. We’re responsible too. We have a say in what we let get to us.

Over time, we have decided to choose our relationship over our individual selves. We’ve decided to remind ourselves that annoyance can build on itself, growing into something darker and more damaging. And we’ve decided to recognize that words said in annoyance, frustration, and anger can act as chisels, chipping away at a marriage, bit by (seemingly insignificant) bit.

Now every time Brennan does something that gets to me — every time I feel that hot, prickly annoyance welling up in my chest — I ask myself which is more important to me: my relationship with my husband or my own feeling of being wronged. I no longer find it acceptable to dwell on the situation; I’ve got to either deal with it head-on or walk away. I can find a kind and constructive way to ask that Brennan do something differently, or I can stop letting that something bother me.

And it goes the other way too. There was a time when a day like Saturday — a day in which I’m running around like crazy, trying to do too much — would have really bothered my husband. Maybe it bothered him yet; I’m sure I was indeed pretty annoying to be around. But there was no palpable tension over it: he was so kind. There was simply him, stepping back or stepping in as needed and me, quietly pushing to get it all done.

I now try, and I think Brennan does too, to react, to act, to think, in ways that will build up my marriage. What a difference this has made. For all the talk of honeymoon periods, my husband and I are far more happy and relaxed in our marriage now than we were back then. I hope that Jaime and Dustin — and other engaged couples — will be able to say the same.

So, what to do with an annoying husband? Love him. Be kind to him. You’ll never regret those responses. And hopefully your love and kindness will encourage your husband to respond just as charitably to his annoying wife.


P.S. I know, I know, I know I made a little pledge to post every other day for the next two weeks. But I’m making a small adjustment to the thing. Rather than every other day precisely, I’m doing seven posts in fourteen days. Given my propensity to fall asleep at the computer, I’ve got to be somewhat flexible with deadlines. (And though I missed posting on Sunday, I’ve already written three posts in the first four days. So that’s not bad!)

All Because We Said Yes

This morning a little blonde-headed boy appeared at the foot of our bed, asking for his daddy. “Downstairs,” I mumbled, half-asleep. A while later – no idea how much – a little brown-headed boy woke me with a “Jude’s hurt. He’s pwobabwy bweeding.” “Is he actually bleeding?” I asked. “Nope. He’s just pwobabwy bweeding.” Silence. No screams. It can’t be that bad.

The boy climbed onto the bed and crawled over to his baby brother, who was jerking his arms around, chirping at the ceiling fan. He cooed over the baby, smiled sweetly, and said good morning.


All because, five years ago today, we said yes.

I brushed my hair and tried to look less morning-ish, but didn’t get far before the blonde one was back (unhurt), needing a diaper change and a nice, long hug. The diaper was taken care of, clothes were unearthed from the pile of clean laundry, and the boys were dressed.

I wandered back into our bathroom and looked around blearily. I should get myself ready. But the baby was hungry for his bottle, so I turned toward him. I saw you, instead. You looked happy and alert, fresh from your morning work-out. You picked up the fussy baby and we kissed good morning.

Breakfast and more diaper changes and teeth brushing and make-up were gotten through. We gave you hugs and kisses and then some more, and we told you to have a good day.

We dropped off a meal to a friend, picked up her little boy, visited my family’s animals. The boys held chickens and petted goats and cats and turkeys and cows and they pointed at the pigs. We went to another friend’s house for lunch and I nursed the baby while we chatted. The boys rode scooters and ate popsicles and shouted “Watch this!” as they jumped off the sofa.



All because, five years ago today, we said yes.


Five years ago this morning, my stomach was in my throat. My mind raced over all the details I no longer had control over. My good sense fought my mind, telling it to relax and to absorb as much as I could.

Then I saw you down that aisle and you looked so handsome and you smiled. And everything changed. I was still nervous; I was in the middle of the biggest day of my life, transitioning from one phase of life to another. But I was doing so with you.


We were made one that day. We became partners; we undertook the same path.


Today we rush from one task to the next. We wipe mouths and we pick up forks that have been dropped on the floor. We step over dinosaurs and airplanes. Sometimes we admonish a “ROAR!!!” and sometimes we join in. We work hard. We sleep little. We go through phases when we don’t fit in more “us” time than the moments it takes to kiss good morning or goodbye or goodnight.


But we’re better partners now than we were on the day we married. Each year, each struggle, each big decision has taught us how to better work together, how to be more patient, how to be more respectful, how to better support each other.

And look at what we’ve done: three gorgeous boys, a beautiful old home, friends who are becoming our community. We have much to be proud of and more to be thankful for.

Especially when it comes to each other. Today I want you to know how thankful I am to have you in my life. I want you to know that I appreciate you even when I don’t say so. I want you to know that my favorite time of day is when you walk in that door. And I intend to be more deliberate about showing you that.

I intend to smile your “hello” and hug you more warmly and sit next to you on the sofa. I intend to act like I love you as much as I do, even when the baby’s screaming and the boys are fighting.


All because, five years ago today, we said yes.


And because that “yes” is the best thing I’ve ever done.

P.S. Remember all those things I told you I loved about you last year? I love them even more today.

Single Lady Gets A Family

A few nights before the baby was born, as I placed a stack of clean, folded laundry outside my boys’ room, I decided to peek in on them while they slept. I crept in and saw each sprawled out on his new big-boy bed, looking so small surrounded by all that space and all those covers. I listened to their quiet breathing and watched them rustle and twitch, snuggling ever deeper into sleep.

I stood there in the quiet and I felt it wash over me: a profound sense of gratitude. The feeling was nearly physical: gratitude washed over my head like a wave, down my body, dropping my arms to their sides and stilling every movement save my head, looking from one boy to the other.

I have children. I have a husband. I have a family of my own.

Seven years ago this month, I could hardly have thought that possible. Seven years ago, I was well entrenched in my life as a single (single) young professional. I lived alone, I worked a lot, I hung out with friends sometimes, and I dated not at all. So it had been for years.

It was a good life, overall. I loved my work. It was interesting and fulfilling and on precious rare occasions, got me into a swanky black-tie dinner or two. I lived in a beautiful town full of brick-paved sidewalks and comfortably brooding cafes, where I could set out in any direction from my cute basement apartment and end up at the water. Many evenings, I’d close a stroll through town with a few quiet minutes sitting on a pier, listening to the dull knock, knock, knocking of sailboats bumping against their docks.


My life could be busy, invigorating, peaceful… but it was always lonely.

I had long wanted to be married with children, so as much as I loved that interesting job and those beautiful environs, it all felt glaringly insufficient. Night after night, sitting home by myself (enjoying a great book and a nice glass of wine, so don’t pity me too much) I’d hear the sounds of couples and families walk past my apartment. And it was clear to me: what matters more than anything else in this life is relationship.

Relationship with God, relationship with people… growing one’s relationship with God by building up loving, life-giving relationships with people. Relationship.

And I was lacking in that department.

Yes, I was blessed with a wonderful family of origin, whom I loved and whom I tried to see as much as I could. Yes, I had lovely friends, some of whom I saw regularly, others I kept up with from afar. But deep down, I felt called to marriage and motherhood. And feeling called to that vocation, all other human relationships paled in comparison.

I longed to move through life alongside people. You don’t do that with friends or with your extended family. You cross paths with them, you touch base, you might walk along with them for a while at arm’s length. But your future is not intimately tied to theirs. Your paths don’t depend on each other.

I’d had enough of independence. I wanted to be in dependence with someone.

So at the beginning of that summer seven years ago, I decided to make a big, conspicuous effort at changing my circumstances. I ditched a bit of my pride, signed up for eHarmony, and waited. It didn’t take long. Glory Be and Halleluiah – before the summer was half over, I’d met my husband.


Hiking at Antietam, September 2007

Everything changed so quickly. In June, I was beginning to come to terms with the idea that I might always be single. (Indeed, I was working hard to embrace the idea.) By August, Brennan knew that I was “the one” for him. And I knew that Brennan made me feel happier, more hopeful, and more at ease than anyone I’d ever met.

A year later, we were engaged. The next year, we were married. We welcomed sons in each of the two following years. Two months ago, we greeted another.




It all happened so quickly that sometimes I’m tempted to ask myself whether it really happened at all. At my core, I suppose I still feel like that single lady, moving through life alone. Not to be overly dramatic, but I’ve come to realize that the experience scarred me.

Which is strange to think about while sitting at the center of a writhing heap of boy. These days I’m so smothered by touch and noise and activity that I crave the very solitude I once found depressing. I find myself daydreaming about that cute little basement apartment, those boats knock, knock, knocking against their docks.

For a moment.

Then I recall the realization, one long-ago weekend, that left me feeling hollow: I had not made physical contact with another person in over a week. The last time had been an impersonal handshake at a work meeting. I had no one in my daily life to hug, to nudge, to lay a hand on my shoulder. (See “Our Starved For Touch Culture” for an interesting read that jives with my experience.)

These days, my skin crawls with the over-stimulation of nursing, of small hands grabbing, of boys climbing, of baby holding. Yesterday my two-month-old was having a rough day. I don’t know what was bothering him, but I know he was unhappy or uncomfortable and he just wanted to be held. All day. In certain moments, I found it maddening. I was responsible for so much more than just that cranky baby: I had meals to make and a house to clean and two older boys to care for. My back ached and my arm went numb from nursing him so long. I was hot and sweaty and very ready to move around independent of that heavy, wailing bundle.

But I didn’t resent the situation – not really. I’ll take it. I’ll do it again a hundred times over, because independence is overrated. Because no amount of peaceful solitude can compare to the beautiful weight of walking through life alongside other souls.


A week after standing in my boys’ room while they slept, I sat on the sofa during a rare quiet moment in our home. I stretched my newborn son out before me and examined him closely. I looked at his round cheeks and his long fingers and the way his chest caught while he breathed his little newborn breaths. And I thought of it again: Children, husband, family – at once the most simple and the most amazing of things.

I have been so blessed.

Seven years into the most important relationship of my life, five years into marriage, and four years into motherhood, I suppose I should move past feeling like that single lady. She is no longer who I am. I’m grateful for the experience of my single years – so much more grateful than I could have imagined at the time. But the tugging and calling and clamoring I experience these days has gradually helped me to realize: It’s time to own my vocation. It’s time to feel like the wife and mother I now am.


Taking A Weekend For Us: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 8

I’m taking a gamble here. Though we do have power (thank you, Lord!), the ice storm has left us without cable, phone, and internet, leaving me rather more removed from my daily doses of communication than I’m used to. So, I’m going to take the risk of drafting a blog post on my phone, spotty cell coverage and all. (I am a CRAZY risk-taker, what can I say?) I may well be found shrieking in frustration every few minutes, but we’ll give it a shot.

Anyway, I have some unusually fun stuff to share for pretty, happy, funny, real this week, so I thought I should do what I could to cobble it together. You see, my husband and I went away this weekend – as in, without our boys. (What a revelation!) For Christmas, my oh-so-generous parents gifted us with a weekend at a B&B, while they watched the boys. It was lovely. Beyond lovely.


Our visit was to Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, so of course we had to visit Longwood Gardens while we were there. We spent a couple of hours in its greenhouse on Saturday morning, and oh, my, was it ever pretty.











It was so nice for Brennan and I to have this time away together. We don’t go on regular dates (I know, shame on us), nor do we take purely recreational family vacations, so between all the child-free time on our hands and the license to do whatever-the-heck we wanted with it, we were just about giddy. Or, I was. Brennan doesn’t really do giddy.


We stayed at the Fairville Inn, where we had a lovely room with a fireplace (perfect for this winter weather!) and a balcony (umm… currently very snowy). We’d definitely recommend it to any of you considering such a trip: our room was attractive, comfortable, and clean; the breakfasts were delicious; and the innkeepers couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful. And they had great suggestions for activities and restaurants. We ate very well this weekend, let me tell you.




After our visit to Longwood, this pregnant lady was ready for a little break. (I always get contractions when I’ve been walking for any length of time. My babies like me to take it easy, I guess.) So with a few items in mind, we decided to make one quick stop at an antique store before heading to lunch. In particular, we were looking for twin beds for our boys’ new big boy room. (They’re both still in cribs. I’d been planning to get stackable twins for them so we could do the bunk bed thing in the future, but when the price made me nervous, I figured we should check out antique stores first.)

And, whadd’ya know? We found them! Up in the attic, in a corner, behind other furniture: matching antique twins, just the style I had in mind, listed for – get this – FORTY dollars, altogether. Plus we ended up getting 10% off, bringing the grand total to $36 – just $18 PER BED. I think we were both giddy at that deal. (To be fair, I have to disclose that the beds have no side rails – they’re just headboards and footboards – but my handy hubby already has it all figured out. He’ll build them, no problem. Hopefully.)


Anyway, what’s so funny about our little antiquing venture? Brennan’s ingenuity in packing our purchases for the trip home. We had the two beds, a dresser (another great deal!), and a child’s chair to fit in the back of our minivan. And we hadn’t really expected to buy anything at all, so we didn’t come prepared with packing materials. So B had to get creative about padding the goods.



Our boys also had a great weekend. In fact, when we went to my parents’ house to pick them up on Sunday, we asked them if they missed us. The younger one nodded but the older one said, “No, I didn’t miss you. I had fun!” Of course. Well, it was good to know that they were fine with Grandma and Grandpa.



Don’t forget to stop on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter to get a glimpse at others’ contentment this week.

And of course, I have to issue a huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to my parents, for their wonderfully generous and thoughtful gift. We appreciate it more than we can express.

The Glamorous Looking-Back

Last weekend I got a glimpse – just a small one – into my old life.

Now to be fair, it wasn’t so much a glimpse into my old life as a glimpse into the glimmering image of my old life that’s all-to-easy to become sentimental about. Especially when today’s version of life gets hard.

I tend to think of my adult life in two distinct phases: (1) the single, childless, responsible-for-no-one- but-myself twenties and (2) the married, mothering, responsible for very-important-little-lives thirties. If you don’t count college, I spent roughly eight years in the first phase. I’m about four years into the second.

Mine isn’t another tale of youthful, wild abandon given up for staid, respectable family life. Mine is a much tamer, perhaps more boring story of trying (and often not succeeding) to live a full and rich life, regardless of my circumstances.

Part of my single twenties was spent in Washington, DC. The corresponding glimmering images of that time involve exotic foods at cool restaurants; bars full of interesting, intelligent conversation; stimulating lectures by national and foreign leaders; formal dinners in fancy hotels; runs (I’ll just call them “runs,” even though I’ve never really managed more than a frantic-paced, arms-flailing kind of walk) on the Capitol grounds; lazy days at museums when I was – get this – free to sit and ponder and dawdle as long as I liked; and the exciting anticipation that comes from never knowing who you might meet next.

To some of you, that might sound like an enviable way to spend part of your twenties. To others (ahem, my brother), it might sound pretty dorky. To me, it’s downright dreamy. I look back on that time through a generous sort of haze – the kind that makes everything more beautiful/interesting/exciting than it could ever have been in real time. It glimmers.

And it is, of course, only part of the story. I spent the bulk of my time in Washington at work or at home or (so it felt) on the metro. I was bored and nervous and depressed. I was mugged. I was terrorized first by September 11th, then by the Beltway sniper attacks. I experienced heartache. I was the victim of a hit-and-run car accident. Most of all, I was lonely.

But last weekend, during two short trips into DC, I was ready to forget all of that. I went to a ball (thank you to my lovely friend Betsy and her husband Will for inviting us along as their guests) benefitting a very worthy charity, which was held at a gorgeous location just steps away from the White House. Black ties + beautiful dresses + live band + amazing setting = GLIMMER.


I also spent an afternoon on the historic campus of Georgetown University to witness and celebrate the baptism of my best bud’s beautiful baby boy. (Thank you to my dearest Catey and her husband Eric for inviting us to be part of the big day.) Historic buildings + good company + lovely waterfront drive + witnessing a child I love enter the Church also = GLIMMER, as far as I’m concerned.


As you might imagine, my weekend was punctuated with wistful sighs as I looked around at reminders of (the airbrushed version of) my past. While physically in the District, I permitted (indeed, I encouraged) myself to wax sentimental about the whole thing. But on the way home, I wizened up enough to take the longer view.

On the surface, my life these days seems exponentially less interesting than it was in my twenties. I get boys out of bed, I change diapers, I dress squirming bodies that act like they’re made of Jello, I prepare meal after meal after meal, I do dishes, I break up fights, I kiss boo-boo’s, I buy groceries, I wash clothes, I clean up vomit. Again and again and again.

I get to be alone once every two to three weeks for a solo trip to Target or church. Every three to four months, I have the luxury of two hours by myself at the hair salon. Gone are my heels and business suits, gone are my cute-ish going-out clothes. I now dress for basic public acceptability and the comfort that enables quick response times to boyish antics.

My life is common. It is tedious. It is not entirely my own. In looking back, I don’t think my future self will ever see this life glimmer.

But it just might see this life glow. This right-here life of mine has a few wonderful things that my glimmering, fancy-dress DC life never had: It has love, commitment, and contentment. It has three sets of arms to hug me. It has people who need me. It has the firm understanding that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

To my own heart, nothing can compare to that.

The single, in-pursuit-of-the-interesting-and-exciting, unattached life can be wonderful. I wish I’d taken better advantage of it. I wish I’d done more of the lectures and the travels and the museum lounging. I wish that, while I was in the middle of it, I’d seen that period of my life as precious, rather than an annoying wait for my “real” life to start. Viewing your current life as less real or less important than some supposed future is no way to live.

Noticing and appreciating the beauty and opportunity in your own life – whatever phase you’re in – is, I think, the way to do it. I’m glad I got a pretty little glimpse into my “old” life last weekend. I’m glad my response to it was a loving sort of wistfulness. And I’m glad that the glimpse prompted gratitude for both that season of my life and for the one I’m in now. I was blessed back then; I am blessed now. And that’s worth remembering.


Five Favorites (Vol. 2): Anniversary Edition


Linking up with Hallie for this week’s Five Favorites! Be sure to check out the rest!

(Updated to add that I’m also linking this post to Jenna’s “I Pray I Don’t Forget: What I Love About My Husband” at A Mama Collective. Check out those stories too!)

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Five Favorites to my excellent husband, Brennan. So here’s some background on our relationship, Five of my Favorite things about B, and some of my favorite photos from our wedding. (Randomly placed and more than five, because I needed to break up the looong intro in #1.)

— 1 —

Brennan is interested in things – so many things.

Wedding Pic 1

In passing, this may seem pretty inconsequential: “Umm, big deal, Julie. Everybody’s interested in something. Even lots of somethings.” So let me back up for a minute and give you a little background on what lead up to our relationship. It should give more meaning to this and some of the other Favorites. Or maybe I just like to provide more information than anyone could possibly care about. One of the two.

Wedding Pic 2

Anyway, I was single for what felt like a looong time before I met Brennan. And I mean single single, not dating-but-not-yet-married “single.” Other than three very brief relationships in my early twenties, I was alone and lonely, day-dreaming of my ideal man. (Does that sound a little pathetic? Sorry. It was what it was.) Toward the end of my twenties I had the blessed insight that I needed to adjust my outlook on single life and my approach to maybe/hopefully finding the man with whom I could share a future. All-in-all, it’s a longer topic for another day. But the pertinent part is that I refined the list of qualities I hoped to find in my future husband. I realized that, most of all, I wanted to find a man who was good and kind, moral, responsible, hardworking – and interested in the world around him. I knew that I could never marry a man who didn’t have those values. And I figured that if my husband had an interest in the world, a hunger to learn and do, then our life together would be an open horizon – something to be explored.

Wedding Pic 3

We walked to the church, which was super fun,
except for how worried I was about the hem of my dress.

When I met Brennan, everything fell into place very quickly. Good? Kind? Moral? Responsible? Hardworking? Check, check, check, check… and check. But the clincher was really that he was interested in so many things. He caught my eye on eHarmony (yep, that’s how we met) because he said he loved bees.

Bees? Who loves bees? My beekeeper of a hubby, that’s who. A few years before, Brennan had gotten to talking with a co-worker who kept bees as a hobby. B thought it was interesting, so he started to read up on it. He read and read and researched… and the next thing he knew, he was putting together hive boxes and picking up packages of buzzing bees from unhappy postal workers.

Wedding Pic 4

We gave out little jars of Brennan’s honey as favors.

Brennan has done the same thing with other hobbies: skiing, target shooting, cooking, home improvement, etc. On the house front, he’s taught himself how to do all sorts of useful things: woodworking, plumbing, mechanics, painting, even pest control. Brennan identifies something he wants to know how to do and he just figures it out. There doesn’t seem to be a “What if?” with Brennan – just a “How?”

Likewise, Brennan has cultivated his interests in history, architecture, and politics by reading and reading and reading… The man loves the internet. And good nonfiction. And audio books that he can soak up on his commute to and from work.

Brennan didn’t grow up doing any of the above; he wasn’t influenced by beekeeper or carpenter or plumber or historian or architect or politician parents. He just happened upon something (many things) that interested him, he had an open mind, and he decided to pursue the new activities and ideas. With gusto. I love that. I can’t wait to see what will be inspiring my husband in ten or twenty years.

— 2 —

Brennan gets stuff done.

Wedding Pic 5

Just as I love how Brennan is active in pursuing his many interests, I also love that he takes the initiative to just go ahead and do what needs to be done – even if it’s tedious or unpleasant. Me? I’m the procrastinating type. The type who avoids the things I find intimidating or disagreeable. But, big or small, Brennan does what needs to be done. Hours upon hours of schoolwork while also working full time? He does it. Paying the bills, going to the doctor, cleaning the bathroom? He does it. Doing preventative maintenance on our very old house? He does it. And not just that – he does it well, without a fuss, and with very few complaints. What a great example to set for our boys. (And, er… for me too.)

— 3 —

Brennan is a loving father and a patient teacher to our boys.

Wedding Pic 6

On one of our first dates, Brennan and I visited an arboretum. Walking through the trees, Brennan spotted an insect hovering near some leaves. Very gently, he pointed it out to me, studied it a bit, and explained what it was doing. In that moment I thought to myself, “Wow. What a wonderful father he’ll be.” And he is. Brennan had very little experience with children before our boys were born, but he jumped in with both feet – doing all kinds of tedious tasks, showering the boys with hugs and kisses, playing all their wild games, teaching them about the world around them, and showing them great patience and a powerful love.

— 4 —

Brennan is a kind and supportive husband.

Wedding Pic 7

This cake tasted so good that our guests gobbled it up before we could even get pieces ourselves!

I love staying home with my boys, but I am a social person by nature and I need to be around other adults. I need some mental stimulation and I need a bit of a break from the constant demands that come with having two very active young boys. I also need to feel like I’m giving something to my community. Brennan understands this, he supports me in my efforts to do things outside of the home, and he has never once complained about it. And it’s no small thing on his part: I serve on the board of a historic home an hour away from our house and I sing in our church’s choir. Both require my presence at times that necessitate B leaving work early. Sometimes hours early, meaning he has to make up those lost hours on another day. But Brennan says that if I really want to do something, I should do it.

— 5 —

Brennan has high standards.

Wedding Pic 8

Gotta love the tiny spectators.

Brennan has high standards about lots of things – work, behavior, food, coffee and chocolate, goods and services that we buy – but let me feel flattered for a minute that he also had high standards when it came to finding the person he wanted to marry. When he was doing the eHarmony thing, going out on first date after first date, Brennan’s buddies at work started to give him a hard time. They’d joke about how he rarely made it to a second date. “What’s wrong with her this time?” was their standard question. One friend told him “everyone settles.” But my Brennan? He answered, “Not me.” He shared my conviction that it was better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

Perhaps this last Favorite sounds a bit self-gratifying. Certainly I’m glad that my husband didn’t “settle” for me. But more than that, I admire a person who will hold out and work hard for what he or she really wants. Too often these days, people expect instant gratification – in relationships, in their homes and careers, in their spare time. But Brennan couldn’t be farther from that. To achieve the kind of life he wants, Brennan works hard, he makes smart decisions, he sacrifices, and he is patient. He sets high standards for himself and he keeps to them.

I am so thankful that this man came into my life. I am grateful for all his hard work and careful planning. I am glad to have his love and his good company. I feel blessed to be building a life with him. Happy anniversary, Brennan. I love you.

Wedding Pic 9

All photos are credited to Gordon Eisner.