The tinies filled our mantle with letters in childish printing and smudgy footprint butterflies or handprint bouquets in bright poster paint on construction paper.  You gave me a gift and a beautiful card. We kissed in our pajamas on the couch but we were late for church, and I missed breakfast and a cup of coffee, there was whining, and I yelled at everybody. So much for that Mother Halo on Mother’s Day.

Between me and a couple of the tinies, I’m pretty sure an entire six row radius at church joined with me in wishing we had just stayed home. After several incidents, one tiny tried to make a break for it, probably to evade my repeated hissing to sit still, and I reached out, quick as a flash, and snatched the back of a t-shirt and frog-marched a kid straight out of church for a time-out. I felt my lips narrow to a line about to break. I was sweaty and embarrassed and frustrated. Then I stood around, feeling sorry for myself, feeling like a terrible mother because the tinies usually love church and today, of all days, of course, well, this.

We taught Sunday School together. You’re so much better at that stuff than I am. So I just read books aloud, and pass out crayons, and I pray.  I remember names and I hope that counts for something. We came home for a few more time-outs, and melt-downs, and once everyone was fed their lunch and settled for naps, I snatched up my purse and ran out of the house for my own little time-out. Really, all I wanted, even more than any gift or party is for just one day to pass without anyone needing anything from me. I wanted everyone to pick up their things without being asked and stop bickering, happy mother’s day to me. I curled up in the corner of a crowded restaurant on Mother’s Day, alone, and I read an Oprah Magazine and ate carbs until I felt like a person again.

This season of our life is so full, too full, and I’m not always steady. I know this about myself. I know how hard it is for someone like me – someone who loves order and a slower pace, quiet and beauty – to be the matriarch to a busy houseful of loud confident little people with places to go and thoughts to articulate and so many needs.

I confessed to you that sometimes I get so mad at the Inklings. (Bless you, you didn’t even blink at my craziness.) I feel resentful because C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and all these other writers, real writers, had luxuries like housekeepers and pubs and colleagues, they had creature comforts and every time the Muse arrived, they didn’t have to shush her, plead with her to come back later because, right now, Muse, can’t you see? preschool, supper, diapers, bath times, and everything wonderful in my life needs my attention. I cried in self-pity and I said, “Hell, anyone could have written the Narnia books if they had a housekeeper and sustained silence. I could construct Middle Earth if my greatest concern was my own schedule and interests.”

I felt misplaced today.

I was not proud of myself. I was spoiled and a bit rotten, petulant and thankful for the sanctuary of thoughts and the discipline of silence. Thankful even more for you. Always you. You pull me out of my head, and you help me see with my real eyes, instead of my selfish eyes. Thank you, darling, for always leading me to grace with laughter.

The tinies threw me a homemade party when I came home an hour later. They turned on music, and even though I was tired and hot, I danced in the kitchen to pop songs, and I felt like barking with laughter-crying because all three of them were dancing with me, and their faces were upturned to me, they were having so much fun, and I thought, Oh, my God, I’m it, aren’t I? This is it. I was spinning in our tiny pink kitchen, with a baby on my hip, and this is still my favourite thing in the world to be their mother. It’s different for everyone but motherhood is how God has marked me, this is my thin place between the heaven and earth. I’ve parted ways with the lie of Balance and the illusion of Doing It All. Maybe I wasn’t a great mother this morning, but right now, I’m twirling little girls and breakdancing with a little boy to Katy Perry’s Firework, and I’m singing all the words out loud, and I’m pretty sure I’m the best mother in the world for them.

It’s also our twelfth wedding anniversary today, darling.

I never wanted to get married young, I had other plans. But, then, you. And as the oracle Nora Ephron wrote, when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. We were babies, we know that now, but we have loved growing up together. We’ve changed well into ourselves, we’ll probably keep it up, I imagine, all this changing, refining, falling in love with each other’s new incarnations.

We decided to clear the air, start over, with a fun family drive. We took our passports and headed for the United States. At the border station, the guard said “What is the purpose of your trip?” and I laughed when you said, straight-faced, “We need to have Sonic for supper.” We drove straight to the Sonic and we splurged by ordering fruit slushes for everyone. Evelynn nearly died of delight. We toasted our anniversary with tater tots and then we went to Wal-Mart. And I had more fun in three hours in the car, with you and our babies, than I think I’ve had in months. The tinies are old enough now to get our jokes, and that one when Anne saw a guy wearing a racoon hat and you pulled the car over and hollered about how you couldn’t wait to see a racoon in a hat made me nearly cry with laughter.  Because they were laughing, and it felt like, okay, so we’re okay. We’re it, you and me, Brian. Those babies in wedding clothes from twelve years ago have built this life, and this family, we’re the Mother and the Father, this is their childhood which feels like a lot of pressure sometimes, I’m unequal to the task. But I can do tonight, and I can drive anywhere with you. We’re still laughing, and we’re still yearning for each other, and there is nothing else for us but this, it’s beautiful and it’s tiring but we keep showing up.

Thanks for buying me tater tots tonight, and for kissing me in the minivan.

Now we’re home. I opened the windows and everyone is sleeping. The rain is falling, and I’m probably going to stay up too late because this is my only quiet, my only stillness. This is the season of Writing After: after supper, after bath times, after stories, after kitchen dance parties, after bills are paid, after groceries are put away, after laundry is folded, after madcap craving runs for fast food in another country.  I’ll write after those things. I write after it all, because this life is what I’m writing about.

I remember when we were dating in Tulsa. We would walk across the old Mabee Centre parking lot to get to Nordaggio’s Coffeehouse or Walmart. The parking lot was beat up and old, cracked and pebbling. And we’d end up sitting on a curb in the parking lot by the light of a street lamp, listening to night cicadas or cars going by, and we would talk about how no one had ever, could ever, have been in love like we were in love, and we would kiss until we were dizzy before walking back to the dorms, just in time for curfew. I remember once how you said that our walks to Wal-mart were the best dates anyone could ever have.

Twelve years later, you were right. You were right.



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  • Awww! Happy Mother’s Day and happy anniversary!

    And, stopping by my grandpa’s house tomorrow…. Your post has reminded me that he lives conveniently near a Sonic! Mmm, tater tots.

  • Susan

    Good morning from a reader in Zurich – just had my 2nd cup of coffee.

    This is great stuff. I have a Mother’s Day memory of me having a mini-melt down and taking myself out for some bad Mexican food (but the Margarita was good). Later, after roaming the mall I had a Starbucks and wrote in my journal about how tough being the parent of 3 teenagers was. Looking back, I realize that I was so normal (even though I felt rotten for fleeing the scene). Some Mother’s Days are like that.

    I’m thankful for grace, for daily strength – and like you, for a husband who has always been a rock.

    I say find your own pub and go hang out there some time and write – wouldn’t that be fun? Except it might be too chatty. 🙂 God bless and thanks for blogging.

    • That does sound wonderful, Susan. Glad I’m not alone.

  • Beth cole

    Perfect. Happy anniversary, friend.

    My kid got sent out of the kids’ class at church and had to walk the “walk of shame” down the aisle back to me while his daddy was preaching.

  • Oh, you beautiful person. What else is left to say after you’ve said it all so perfectly?

    I confess I felt a bit guilty this Mother’s Day because I treated myself out to an afternoon at a craft show, just me all on my own (well, me and the monkey baby, but really that’s as alone as it gets right now), and shouldn’t I be spending Mother’s Day with the kids who made me a mother? But it was wonderful and so blessedly quiet, so whatever, guilt, just go away.

    I so understand this season of Write After (or, too often for me, Write Almost-Never, because I’m too tired After), but what you said about how you write after it all because this life is what you’re writing about…you made it all better, right there. Thank you for that reminder, lovely lady.

    • Yep, one baby after a bunch feels like a break, I get that!

  • Sharon O

    sweet…memories and stories and oh the remembering.

  • Anonymous

    Oh my gosh. This is so raw and beautiful. I have to write a final paper tonight and this just made my night much better 🙂

  • Heaving a huge sigh of relief over here that I’m not the only one who felt terrible this Mother’s Day.

    Happy Anniversary, friend.
    And keep on writing.

  • All this. The insane mothers day and the walks to walmart and the fast food in another country. Happy mothers day and anniversary and writing after.

  • mizmelly

    Thank you for this. It’s not mother’s day here in Ireland – we had ours before Easter – but this spoke to me in volumes. “I curled up in the corner of a crowded restaurant on
    Mother’s Day, alone, and I read an Oprah Magazine and ate carbs until I
    felt like a person again.” Amen to that!

  • mizmelly

    Also you’re just 4months ahead of me and my man. We’re twelve years married in Sept. I reckon the first ten are the toughest. Wishing you many more happy, happy years. xx

  • muddyoh .

    This was so wonderful to read. I’m glad you redeemed your day and had an anniversary to remember. 🙂

  • Amazing.

    Just – amazing, beautiful, writing, and a love-letter to love.

    Thank you, too, for the comment on my blog today. I needed that. Thanks, girl. Xx

    • No problem, Tanya. You’re a wonderful writer.

  • Such a beautifully written post about the reality of motherhood, celebrating mother’s day and the ups and downs of marriage and family life. In amongst the chaos, struggles and feelings of wanting to be selfish you describe, there is a rhythm of tender love which is audible throughout this truthful, humble post. Blessings to you.

  • I’m crying because I felt every word of this. I yelled at the kids on Mother’s Day morning, stomped my feet and whined about unfair it was that nobody would listen to me. The best gift, as you described, yes. Oh yes. Please just pick up your things and pretend I don’t exist for a few minutes. And what you write about marriage and the years that have passed, so right there with where I’m at. We will celebrate 6 years in two weeks. Thank you for finding the words that my soul wants to speak.

  • Yes, yes and yes! The grumpiness, the carbs and the writing. You nailed it!

    Thank God we are given grace. Plus, there’s always next year 🙂

  • Sylvia Phillips

    Happy anniversary and Happy Mother’s Day! Looks like we share an anniversary! We got married on 5/12/84! This year Mother’s Day and our 29th fell on our daughter’s 20th birthday! 20 years ago my husband single handedly without any help from anyone helped me give birth to our very first daughter (after 5 boys) in our very own cozy bedroom!

  • Sara Thompson

    So, so awesome. It makes me feel so much better that I’m not the only Mom that wants to run for the hills sometimes. xoxo

  • Janae Maslowski

    Sarah, my heart is overflowing. You share with such honesty. Thank you.
    Always, so beautiful. xo

  • Sarah Caldwell

    This post is so beautiful, and JUST the kind of beautiful writing I needed to read this morning. I am in Missouri, sitting vigil with my family as my stepfather is dying of liver failure. It was unexpected- he was just admitted to a hospital a week ago today. Yesterday, as Mother’s Day passed so quickly, I sat by him trying not to cry, to be strong for my brother, as I thought of my Mom’s passing 10 years ago this month. I only say all that to say I am numb and aching and walking around in a daze, and your beautiful post is the first thing that has made me really smile wide in 3 days. Thank you so much – your words are life-giving Sarah 🙂

    • Oh, Sarah, so sorry for the road you’re on and walking now. Praying for you and your stepfather and family this morning.

      • Sarah Caldwell

        Thanks so much Sarah.

  • Thank you for your beautiful bare honest heart…

  • You shouldn’t make me cry on Monday morning. I love you two crazies and your tinies. Happy anniversary, Besseys.

  • The “writing after” phrase really hit me. We don’t neglect writing if it is our calling, but we can’t always do it first. Sometimes I can manage to squeeze in some writing while our son is awake. However, the bulk of my writing happens in those before or after times. Before he wakes up in the morning or before he wakes from his nap or after he goes to bed. Then there are those blessed mornings like today where he’s babbling happily after his nap and I can read a blog post AND leave a comment!

  • Beautiful. Happy Anniversary.

    I feel like Mother’s Day morning things are bound to go wrong. After my 6YO son poured out his gifts for me (handmade necklace, notes, pictures, legos, rocks) and was so sweet, he turned into a huge stinker. I had to correct him so many times that I finally made him sit in his room for a while. When I finally went in to talk with him, I asked him what was the matter. Are you sad? Mad? What’s going on? His answer? “Well, I get sad when you yell at me.” Gulp. Happy Mother’s Day.

  • Jada

    Oh, so real and honest! And so love E’s reaction to fruit slushes! 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day to you and Happy Anniversary to you both!

  • Had a terrible Mother’s Day…. so glad to start my morning after with something so lovely.

  • Jen Hatmaker

    “Hell, anyone could have written the Narnia books if they had a
    housekeeper and sustained silence. I could construct Middle Earth if my
    greatest concern was my own schedule and interests.” GAWD, I just love you. Happy Mother’s Day, sweet friend. You’re one of the good ones. (Walmart, Sonic, just EVERYTHING. Dying with laughter and familiarity.)

  • Mar

    Tears …. Then goosebumps … Then just gratitude for brutal honesty.

  • Thanks for this, Sarah. I had a miscarriage three weeks ago with a baby we had been trying for for over a year. Needless to say I was not my best self on Mother’s Day for my three year old.
    There is a scraggly bush in our backyard that has not leafed in the three years we’ve lived there. We buried our tiny babe under that tree three weeks ago, thanking Him that one day that little babe will be restored to us. On Sunday morning, I went out for my morning coffee on the deck, and our scraggly bush had blossomed over night with hundreds of blush pink flowers. There’s grace in all of it, isn’t there?

    • I’m so sorry, Nikki. We’ve lost babies ourselves, and those are hard and long days afterwards. Praying for you this morning. And thankful for beautiful pink flowers in the midst of grief.

  • Tamara Rice

    Loved this, Sarah. I often wondered how you get so much writing done with little ones. After, after, after, I see now. And we must be on the same wavelength. I just wrote a future post mentioning the Inklings this week. Didn’t even blink at that line. I totally get it. Thanks for this today, Sarah. Your (love looks like) posts are always my favorites, because (I think) it really is the ability to enjoy the little moments that makes a marriage.

  • Oh goodness I love this so much I can hardly stand it. And THIS: “This is the season of Writing After: after supper,
    after bath times, after stories, after kitchen dance parties, after
    bills are paid, after groceries are put away, after laundry is folded,
    after madcap craving runs for fast food in another country. I’ll write after those things. I write after it all, because this life is what I’m writing about.”


  • Happy Anniversary. Hold on to it… not many people get to love as well as you do. Don’t ever let it go.

  • Anita

    Congratulations on your anniversary! I read this post as I am on my honeymoon and am just beginning the married life. It’s scary and exciting. Happy After-Writing!

  • Jamie

    “Muse, can’t you see? preschool, supper, diapers, bath times, and everything wonderful in my life needs my attention.” This is a lot like my life right now. That, and eating carbs until I feel like a person again. 😉 I’m so with you in this same season.
    Happy anniversary!

  • Sarah, I love your writing and i love your family. You write so beautifully and poetically, with such authenticity and authority. Thank you for being so brutal and yet so beautiful in your writing. And thank you for letting us see a glimpse of your beautiful marriage too. Truly hope I am blessed enough to find a marriage like yours.

  • perfect. wonderful–and real. Happy Anniversary, and Happy Mothers day, my friend.

  • Oh gosh, Sarah, I was a bit spoiled and rotten yesterday, too. It doesn’t help that I was hurting and had not had much rest, but still, that is most days. I’m not the mother I think I should be most of the time, which is why I wrote what I did yesterday to all moms. But wow, you say things here that a lot of us don’t even know how to say. Thank you for writing this. *Clapping and cheering*.

  • My heart is full to bursting. So grateful for these glimpses of your life, because it makes me see through your eyes for a few minutes, which trains my eyes to make that same shift. To the long, not the short. XO

  • I have been in awe of the way you write. And of the heart you have for people. I’ve commented to you occasionally on Twitter. The most recent one being that someone said there is a lot of negativity on the internet regarding Mother’s Day. I had not seen that so I was confused. (still don’t know what it was about 🙂 ) But I hope this sounds like a compliment: THIS POST put you in such a down to earth light. Despite your utterly amazing intelligence and gift for writing…you are just a normal mother..and woman like the rest of us. (well, maybe we don’t all have the talents you do) This is so, so , so sweeetttt!!!! Your husband and children are blessed indeed. You are a great wife and mom. I’m old enough to be your mom, and my mother’s day pouting came in the form of sitting closer to the screen than I wanted to in the theater when we went to see Iron Man 3 yesterday. My eyes adjusted (we weren’t on the front row…that’s awful) and I got over my attitude quickly. Happy Anniversary!! Glad you had a wonderful day!

  • pastordt

    Oh, glory, Sarah. This brought tears – of recognition, of gratitude, of grace. We’re at the other end of this long cycle of parenting and STILL, I write after. After everything is taken care of, after it’s quiet (which is seldom), after we get back from vacation (which is where I am at this exact moment – on the river Elbe, in a cruise vessel – only 107 passengers), after my husband’s and my mom’s and my kids’ needs are met. But you know what? It’s okay. Not always, and I have my own version of melt-downs at this end of the calendar, but love looks like faithfulness through all that hard, daily stuff. Never had a date at Walmart, but we’ve done tons of talking over burgers in our 47 years together and when I reach the end of me, Richard is there to tell me who I am again. Sigh. Thank you for it all. And Happy Anniversary.

  • JoniG.

    You captured it for me. I remember and smile. Thank you! More than I can say!

  • Happy mother’s day and anniversary from the Insanity of our home. Where I’ve sat down to write and the kids have decided to become completely obsessed with the placement of the play table which is in the room I’m in.

  • Jen Norton

    Sarah, did you attend that University in which the Mabee Center parking lot was associated with? I did… but somehow missed that tidbit of info about you in the months of reading your blogs. It was a wonderful experience for me and hope it was for you as well. Blessings from an American transplant to Langley.

  • Thank you for this post. I read it this morning and was brought to laughter and tears. I can’t tell you how comforting it is to know that the mamas I look up to online also struggle with kids’ tantrums and yelling and grumpyness. My husband and I have very little support where we are, and I so often feel stretched too thin… so when you said “Really, all I wanted, even more than any gift or party is for just one day to pass without anyone needing anything from me,” oh I totally get it.

  • Mmm. I love, love, love this.

  • stevewiens

    So beautiful.

  • Awww, love you Besseys. I could relate. I fall in love with Ryan again and again on my bad days, and they end redeemed because of his steadiness.

  • Susan Dominikovich

    Sarah your blog is inspiring me…to fully live, to be grateful for the moments, and most of all, to write. Thank you so much for your blessed honesty and your beautiful craft.

  • Brittany Bowron

    So beautiful. Thank you! Just stumbled upon your blog and I’m hooked. Especially relate to the difficulty of being an introvert and needing quiet but having the daily presence of 3 chilrens’ needs and noise. Glad you got some quiet and a dance party (and tater tots).

  • KimberlyCoyle

    Oh my word. The bickering, the whispered threats, the crazy mama. We are living parallel lives. And absolutely yes to the housekeeper. We’d all be freaking literary geniuses.

  • Shelly Wildman

    Oh Sarah, this tugs, hard, because I’m remembering a few Mother’s Days during which I fled. Not just one, a few. A couple of times I went to the movies with other mom-friends, and once I golfed with my own mother. Fun days, to be sure. But this year my girls are older, about to fly the nest, and all I wanted was to lie on the couch with my family all around me–and that’s exactly what I did. Here’s what I believe: Mother’s Day should be just that–mother’s day.

  • Your writing is so penetrating, you made me cry. You’ve really took the words out of my head and said it much more eloquently than I could have! That’s where I am now too “This is the season of Writing After: after supper, after bath times, after stories, after kitchen dance parties, after bills are paid, after groceries are put away, after laundry is folded, after madcap craving runs for fast food in another country. I’ll write after those things.” Yes yes, I crave silence and I bask in those hours after the kids are in bed, then pity myself in the morning when I didn’t get enough sleep – all the while realizing how much I love this motherhood gig.

  • Fay

    I gave myself a time out on Mother’s Day, too. Cappucino and banana bread (with chocholate) I was being a bad Nana. It never ends. But it is still worth it. Still lovely.

  • This was such a precious thing to read. I am not a mommy yet but these beautiful words just made me so excited for motherhood… Thank you for sharing. xo

  • Aimee @ Simple Bites

    Happy Anniversary. You’re such a sweet family. Gosh is this relateable. From the Sunday morning squabbles to the writing after EVERYthing else is done. Yeah, I’m so in that stage of life.

  • I am crying. You are such a moving writer, Sarah. And you are right about the “writing after” because it is this life you are writing about. If you sat in a pub with the Lewises and Tolkiens, your writing would be missing all this power of life and love and the little beautiful and hard things.
    Happy Anniversary to you guys and Happy Mother’s Day to you!

  • the season of writing after. amen and amen.

    it is true that those family in the car drives here or there – are gold. (usually) – all of us captured in this moment of being a family, young and on an adventure.

    happy anniversary! and i really, really like your wedding picture.

    ~ zena

  • Lindsay Privette

    We live ten minutes from the nearest “Sonics” as our three year old calls it. We have retreated there so many times, with and without the little one. Definitely worth driving all the way to a “foreign” country for that kind of therapy. Happy Anniversary!

  • Thank you for your consistently beautiful writing … Makes me laugh and cry

  • Rebecca Henrich

    This is so beautiful. I’m not a mama yet, and sometimes I long for that day, but other times I fret and worry about the fact that I can barely handle myself, nevermind little ones. Thanks for the reminder that being a mama is what you make of it.

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  • Jamie

    I wrote about this same aspect of mothering/writing just yesterday — You were much more eloquent 😉 I have had similar thoughts about the Inklings…

  • Kreine

    My Mother’s Day was sort of a fail, too. :-/ I have learned to give myself grace (I’ve been a mama for nearly 11 years now, so I have learned a few things); after all, they need so much from us at this time in their lives.

    They will always need us, but the intensity lessens as they grow up. And it’s bittersweet, their growing independence and shrinking reliance on mom. I’ve often caught between pride and sorrow of the self-achievement with my olders and between joy and despair over the neediness of my littles.

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  • Great post! I had to comment because I LOVE Nordaggios. I even have some “coffee art” hanging on the wall in my house. (-: You are so richly blessed – those tinies are precious. Thanks for being courageous and vulnerable on the blogosphere.