Probiotics are our GO-TO during cold and flu season. We cling to the stuff to make sure that our immune system is strong, and our family is protected when that bad bacteria is circulating so rampantly.
I’m a kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and kefir fan, but never in a million years did I think I could
get my probiotics through my lifeblood: coffee.
Here’s the thing… When I first heard about vitamin-infused coffee, I was totally skeptical. I mean, VITAMINS? In COFFEE? I just knew that as soon as I sipped that first brewed cup, I would be greeted with the bitter, horrible taste you get when you leave a vitamin in your mouth too long and it starts to dissolve.
I’m happy to say that I was SO wrong with that assumption.
I applied for a collaboration with VitaCup a few months ago, tasted their Energy Blend in a French Roast, and fell in love. I HAD to get my hands on their Probiotic Blend, because probiotics are huge in our home, so I reached out to them to collaborate a second time. I must say that the French Roast is still my favorite, but I love their Probiotic Blend, especially with the hints of vanilla I catch every time I take a sip.
So, aside from me genuinely loving the taste, why do I choose to consume probiotics through their coffee?
This post is sponsored by VitaCup, but the opinions are completely my own, and all the research was done by me. I will never promote a company I don’t wholeheartedly love and believe in, and I actually reached out to VitaCup myself in order to collaborate, because I adore their product so much.
Here are 5 reasons that I choose to drink my probiotics through VitaCup coffee:
1. Not all bacteria is bad
Maintaining a balance of good bacteria in your gut is so important for SO many reasons. Seriously, Google it. Immune system, digestion, weight loss/maintaining healthy weight, brain function… you name it, there is likely evidence that probiotics directly or indirectly support it working properly.
Bacteria lives naturally in your gut, even the nastiest and scariest of bacterias. It’s just a fact of life, they are there! Adding good microorganisms, in partnership with getting good sleep, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and maintaining healthy stress levels can boost your immune system so that you never fall victim to those scary, gross germs that are naturally residing within your gut.
And I mean, who likes gas, diarrhea, or bloating just in general?! Not me, that’s for sure.
Whether you have chronic gastrointestinal issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or just face regular everyday digestion issues, probiotics and prebiotics can be one of the greatest things you can put in your body to keep these nasty conditions away.
2. I don’t forget to drink my coffee, so I don’t forget my probiotics
VitaCup knows what they’re talking about when they say that everyone forgets their vitamins, but no one forgets their coffee. I mean, what parent does forget their morning coffee?
When my eyes open in the morning to Henry’s fingers poking my face saying, “wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up,” I can tell you the first thing on my mind isn’t about my probiotics or vitamins. Rather, my first thought is “GET ME SOME DANG COFFEE.”
By consuming your probiotics and antioxidants in your coffee, you can almost guarantee you won’t forget to fill your gut with the good stuff.
3. The probiotic blend used is heat resistant, and thrives in the heat
I mean, duh.
You need microorganisms that can withstand the heat of brewing in order to live and thrive in your gut.
Most probiotic strains are not heat resistant, and several actually even have to be stored in the refrigerator- one of the reasons I never imagined being able to drink my probiotics in my coffee. VitaCup has picked the perfect strain; allowing for the probiotics to thrive in the hot coffee.
The Mr.Coffee website claims that the best tasting cup of coffee, no matter what brewer or coffee you use, is consumed between 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit. As stated in a US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health article, the particular strain of microorganisms used in VitaCup’s Probiotic Blend have been shown to activate and grow in up to 149 degrees Fahrenheit. So not only will your cup of coffee be the perfect temperature to drink after a few minutes, but the probiotics will be absolutely thriving in the heat of it, too.
4. Prebiotics matter too
Honestly, I have known about probiotics for years, but I had no idea what “prebiotics” were, or why they were important at all. Prebiotics are almost as essential as probiotics, in the fact that probiotics do not thrive without them. Prebiotics are a form of non-digestible fiber that probiotics feed on, meaning that both probiotics and prebiotics are necessary for a healthy and balanced gut. You can find prebiotics in many forms, mostly through leafy greens.
VitaCup’s probiotic blend includes Aloe Vera and B vitamins, which act as “prebiotics,” feeding the good bacteria to keep them growing.
5. VitaCup actually cares
I love that VitaCup is conscious about the environment; and I know this is one of the main concerns that so many have regarding single-serve brewers and pods. After all, those things add up if you are like me and drink several cups of coffee every single day. Their pods are 100% recyclable, and totally BPA free.
And, to top it all off, VitaCup gives back. A portion of their sales goes to Vitamin Angels in order to help provide vitamins to battle deficiencies across the globe. So as you drink your coffee, you are not only helping to provide for your own body, you are simultaneously helping the health of another individual across the globe.
So, it’s pretty clear that I absolutely adore the VitaCup family, and all that they are currently working on. Their company has things pretty figured out, in my opinion. Not only do they have amazing blends, but their customer service is fantastic, they are beginning to expand to major retailers, and their coffee seriously tastes GOOD. (It’s the only coffee I will drink black!)
I’ve linked my two favorite blends below, as mentioned above, but a comprehensive list of all of their blends can be found here.
I mean it, if you are skeptical, give them a try. I didn’t expect a vitamin coffee to replace my list of favorite coffees, but they did just that. Why not do double-duty for your body while drinking your favorite coffee? Win-win in my book!
The above statements should not be taken as medical advice, as I am not a medical doctor, and any above promoted products should not be used to attempt to treat a medical condition. You should always ask your doctor before beginning a regimen of any vitamins or supplements.
If you know me, you know that there are so many things I love about Japan. Just the other day, I was telling Drew that I am beginning to ache for the place, and we still have a little over a year left in the country. I could go on and on about the kindness of the Japanese, the beautiful rural countryside, and all of the customary Japanese things that I love here. One of the things that I love most about the Japanese people, is that they are very conscious about cleanliness.
I’m telling you, I am going to cry when I return to American gas station bathrooms. There’s nothing like walking into a FamilyMart and using an absolutely spotless bathroom ANYWHERE that you stop on a road trip.
Being in Japan, there are several roles on our base that are filled by the Japanese nationals vs the US military. In particular, most of our housing maintenance department is managed by the Japanese people. This means, when your toilet breaks, they are the kind ones to come fix it.
And because toddlers seem to have a life goal of flushing things that shouldn’t be flushed during the fifteen seconds that you decide to look away to load the dishwasher… in a nutshell, we see maintenance a lot in our home.
One of the things that I was most startled by when welcoming the Japanese into our home for the first time, was the fact that they carried two sets of shoes with them. Without asking, they removed the shoes that they were wearing outside our front door, and they immediately stepped into house shoes to wear within our home.
As we have integrated into life in Japan, we have quickly realized that this practice is not just isolated to homes.
You go to the doctor, you will put on slippers. You go to the hospital for a procedure, you will put on slippers. You stay at a hotel, you will put on slippers. You go to the onsen, you will put on slippers.
You go out to eat, you will put on slippers. Even if you go to the bathroom, sometimes, you will put on slippers.
At first, I just didn’t really get it. To be honest, when we came to Japan, we were not big on the “no shoes in the house” rule. After the first week of culture shock from constantly taking off my shoes and replacing them with house shoes everywhere, I finally decided to do some reading on WHY I was constantly swapping shoes as I entered these various buildings. I was disgusted with my own ignorance, because the reasons are numerous, and they are pretty monumental.
This post is sponsored by Dearfoams, but the content was researched and written 100% by me, and all opinions are 100% my own. I agreed to work with Dearfoams because I genuinely love their company, and I will never speak highly about a brand that I don’t sincerely love.
4 Reasons You Should Remove Your Shoes at the Door | Why Everyone Needs House Shoes
1. Outside shoes are GROSS
Did you know that almost ALL shoes that are worn outside of the home for at least one month carry fecal matter on them? Yep. Your outside, everyday shoes are covered in poop. A study from the University of Arizona on this particular topic says that up to 93 percent test positive, in fact.¹ When I first read this little bit of information, I was absolutely horrified.
In homes with children, this is obviously an even bigger deal, too.
Think about it this way: right now, Ellie spends 95% of her day on the floor. She touches it with her hands, then chews on her fingers. She rolls all around, and sometimes even falls asleep with her face smashed against it. Wearing house shoes or slippers that NEVER leave our home insures a clean environment for her to explore, drool, and chew happily (and safely.)
2. It keeps your house clean
I mean, this is kind of a given, right? This is probably the main reason that most people choose to remove their shoes at the door.
We live in the snowiest city in the world presently. And what happens when snow melts? MUD.
Our porch is constantly covered in dirt, mud, and water, and during the early spring, everything in sight is covered in pollen from the cherry blossoms. Being able to swap out our muddy/dirty shoes at the door, and put our feet into nice, clean soles, keeps our house so much cleaner. I mean, anything that makes my mopping/vacuuming schedule much easier to handle is a must- do for me.
Heck, you can even wash house shoes in order to help keep your floors that much more clean. Did you know that Dearfoams created the very first washable slipper with comfortable foam padding in it? Even all the way back in 1948, they were committed to creating a product that was safe and easy to keep clean for your family. To this day, most Dearfoams slippers are machine washable, meaning even your house shoes can be cleaned periodically- keeping your home as clean and safe for your little ones as possible.
3. It is so much more comfortable
You might be asking, “why wear shoes at home at all?”
If you are asking this question, I venture to say: you clearly do not have a toddler.
Legos. One word. One scary, painful word.
But in all seriousness, it is incredibly convenient to own a pair of shoes that are comfortable enough to wear all day inside of your home, yet protective enough to shield you from the plethora of sinister little bottom-of-the-foot hazards that are children’s toys. Perfect trade off. Your feet remain protected, and you remain comfy.
4. It is polite
This is HUGE in Japan, and I wish it was something that was better practiced in the states. While I don’t think America will necessarily begin carrying a pair of house shoes with them when going to visit friends, I do wish that it would become customary to remove shoes at the door.
It is respectful to the family that is hosting you, it is cleanly, and it is so so easy to do. In our experience in Japan, hosts customarily actually provide YOU with house shoes upon entering their home. Talk about a way to personify “Mi casa es su casa,” right?
There are so many huge reasons to begin building the habit of wearing ONLY house shoes in the home. Mum Ana Lucia Komori puts it best in my opinion:
“When we take our shoes off we are free from all the things that happened to us during the day but that don’t belong to our intimacy and spirit at home.”³
I LOVE that concept. As you shed your dirty daytime shoes, and put on your cozy house shoes, you are leaving the heavy parts of your day behind. You are settling into your own home for the night, and allowing your burdens to stay at the door, where you can pick them up to deal with the following day.
So I challenge you, start taking off your shoes immediately upon entering the home. If you’re like us and like to wear shoes anyway, buy yourself a pair of house shoes. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Dearfoams are absolutely our favorite. Cozy up, leave your burdens behind, and keep your floors clean for the tiny hands and feet that are exploring their little world.
Ha, does that title grab your attention enough? I hope so, because this isn’t really a post I can share a million photos in, if you know what I mean. I believe now that the truths I will share with you are SO important to know, though.
If you haven’t read our marriage story, you may not know how utterly surprising this blog’s title is, coming from our relationship.
If you have read the post, you know Drew and I committed early on in dating to wait until our wedding night to sleep together, and we kept that commitment. It is something I have been proud of for years, and something that I have absolutely adored about our relationship.
When that is your truth, and you KNOW that YOU have never been unfaithful- yet a doctor is calling you and telling you that you have undeniably caught chlamydia, which is contracted 99.9% of the time via direct sexual contact- what would your first thought be?
Yep, mine too.
So, how does a marriage survive that?
Let’s start from the beginning.
During pregnancy, most doctors request that mothers receive a routine pap smear sometime during the second trimester if they have not had one recently. I didn’t think twice about their tests, and honestly didn’t even know that they were testing for STDs too. I have never once in my life worried about their tests, because I have only had one partner my entire life, as has my husband. So around two weeks later when I saw my OBGYN’s number ringing on my phone, I wondered if I had simply forgotten to schedule my next appointment with them.
Instead, I was greeted by a solemn request for a confirmation of my last name and birth date, and was asked if it was Emily they were speaking with. I agreed, and thereafter heard the words that blew my mind.
“Ma’am, we have received a positive test result for chlamydia. Because you are pregnant, I will need you to come in immediately to begin treatment. Please come in today and do not wait, as this can be dangerous for your baby. Do you have any questions?”
Um, hell yes I have questions.
Now, I am not a rude person to strangers, like… ever. Everybody has a job to do, and some jobs are worse than others. I imagine delivering test results like these really can’t be fun, especially when test results of this sort can carry so much emotional weight with them. But during this call, I didn’t care at all how I sounded, I just needed answers. Immediately, I interrupted and very firmly told the doctor that they had picked up the wrong chart. I believe I even rudely told them to not make a careless mistake like that. My doctor kindly reconfirmed my credentials, checked the system to make sure no mistakes had been made, and confirmed that this was indeed my certified test result.
At this point, I felt rage immediately begin to bubble up.
If I haven’t slept with anybody but my husband, and I have an STD, where the HELL did I get this from?
To be honest, I have never been well-versed on sexually transmitted diseases. I remembered the mind-burning photos from health class, but I didn’t even know which STD chlamydia was. I mean, we started dating at age 15/16, never slept with anybody before we married in our 20’s, and have obviously never saw anybody else since we married. There was no reason to worry about any sexually transmitted diseases, because there was no chance that one could be contracted between the two of us.
At least, until one apparently was.
The next four hours of that day are a complete blur, to be honest. I have never been filled with so much rage, humiliation, and contempt.
I immediately questioned my doctor if there was any way to contract such an infection outside of sexual intercourse. She confirmed that there was not.
I questioned her on what that meant for where I got it from. I was told that if I did not cheat on my husband, my husband, statistically, had to have cheated on me.
In that moment, my world shattered, but I still wasn’t convinced.
I rudely demanded that I be retested. My doctor agreed kindly, but told me I must still seek out treatment, because results for a retest would take weeks to come back with us being overseas, and to actually have the infection could be dangerous for our Ellie.
She told me that I needed to tell my husband, and that he should be tested too.
The hospital that we see also requires that all STDs be reported to public health, mostly for the safety of the base, and that we be consulted by a public health counselor in regards to safe sex practices.
I hung up the phone, threw it into my closet with force, and immediately burst into tears. Drew thought that I had just received a call from home telling me that a family or friend in the states had passed away, because I was sobbing so hard he couldn’t imagine what else could make me cry like that. A million thoughts were swirling around my head at that point, because I knew one of two things was true:
Either my test results were incorrect, or my husband, who I had promised to wait for almost ten years ago, had been with somebody else.
Let me tell you one thing right now. You need to find yourself a Drew. My husband is the most patient human I have ever met, and he is the most understanding human I have ever met. He’s sarcastic and often isn’t directly empathetic, and he is very direct and to the point, but when it comes to issues like these- the big issues- he is a rock. And that is exactly what I needed for those next two weeks while we waited for more results to come in.
So, I hung up the phone sobbing, and stomped into the living room where he was sitting. Before I ever told Drew that information that I had just received, I decided to approach it from a skeptical wife’s standpoint. I walked up to him, barely able to speak through tears, and asked him if he had cheated on me. I’ll never forget his look of confusion, and I actually heard him laugh at the question. He told me he had not, and asked me what in the world was going on.
I ignored him, and rudely asked him again. “Listen, I am freaking pregnant. I am carrying our daughter! This is a big deal! Have you cheated on me?”
He replied confused again, “No, Em. I haven’t cheated on you. Now what is going on?”
So I told him absolutely everything that was told to me on the phone. Drew ONLY once, later on that day, as we were waiting to receive treatment, “well, you didn’t cheat either right?” When I told him I had absolutely not, he never asked me again. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my husband, who is an incredibly trusting, level-headed, and calm individual. But during that first 6 hours after this diagnosis, I shot every question and accusation I could conjure from any depth of doubt I had stored over the last 10 years.
And in response, I cannot remember a time in our almost 10 years of dating and marriage that I can remember Drew being more patient with me, but man, am I thankful for his response to the chaos. He held me in our living room while Henry stared at me, utterly confused as to why his mom was wailing. Drew even kept laughing at my anger over the weeks, because he knew the entire ordeal was a huge mistake. I of course, tried to feel this way, but was only overwhelmed with dread when it came to the entire subject.
By the time I had collected my thoughts after the call, I decided to march straight into the medical center and demand retesting. I walked to the lab before checking in anywhere else, and demanded that I be retested BEFORE ever accepting treatment, because I wanted to know if my test results were correct. If they weren’t, I wanted the ability to wipe the whole ordeal from my record. It was suggested that Drew receive treatment as well. He was not even referred for testing before being offered treatment on the precedent that he would undeniably have the infection too, obviously because he is my husband. But he demanded a test from the doctor as well before ever agreeing to take treatment.
We were both counseled by public health on how to not contract STDs, (ironic, in hindsight, right?) were told that a false positive was extremely unlikely, and were made to ingest our treatment in front of our doctors so that they could record that treatment was taken.
I remember sitting in front of a nurse, who looked upon me with pity as I sat crying with my toddler son on my lap, drinking the antibiotic that was to “cure my chlamydia.” She was as kind as she could be, and I can’t blame her for looking at me the way that she did. After all, if my husband had cheated, and I had contracted the STD in this way, it would be an INCREDIBLY emotional moment for a pregnant woman to endure as she sat in an office accepting treatment.
She asked me if there was anything she could do for me, and I tearily replied “no, thanks.”
I remember sitting in every office that day, embarrassed beyond belief, and absolutely filled with rage as doctor after doctor told me that it was incredibly unlikely that I had been misdiagnosed. I was told by doctor after doctor and article after article that there was no chance that chlamydia could be contracted in any way other than sexual intercourse, and that if I truly had not cheated, there was only one explanation for how I had received the diagnosis: and it was not the explanation I was wearily reaching for.
And as infuriating as that is in hindsight, I suppose this is a normalcy today. These are the things that these doctors see on a daily basis, and honestly, to have a married couple come in for an STD diagnosis and treatment, stating that they had both absolutely not slept with anybody else in their entire life and marriage would be a situation what was… well… somewhat laughable.
Nevertheless, I held out hope that my retest would provide me peace and clarity in the situation, while reading every medical journal in the world that undeniably told me that it would not.
We were both sent home after receiving treatment. They told us that the certified retest results for both of us would be back in around 14 days. Unfortunately, being stationed overseas, many tests have to be sent stateside for reading, meaning many tests take a LONG time to return.
This meant that the next two weeks of my life were absolute hell, to be honest.
I’ll never forget the countdown. I had determined exactly how long my first results took to return, so I was pretty positive of the day that I would receive the call with my new retest results. My heart raced the entire day, and I’m guessing my blood pressure was pretty sky-high. Drew, on the other hand, put everything behind him the same day that we accepted treatment. He took my harassment for the following two weeks, he took my random outbursts of anger and tears at the situation, and he took my accusations- even if I said them passive-aggressive-jokingly.
And when I received the call that my retest came back clearly negative for chlamydia, he simply said “Well yeah it did.” And when his retest came back clearly negative he simply said, “Well yeah it did.”
So, yes friends. I never had an STD. Drew never had an STD. WE WERE DIAGNOSED WITH AN STD, AND WE NEVER HAD AN STD.
To this day I have no idea if my results got mixed up with someone else’s on paper, or if my specimen got swapped with someone who truly did have chlamydia, or if it was simply a skewed test (which can actually happen, albeit somewhat rarely, during pregnancy.)
All I know, is I was told I had an STD, when I have never had an STD.
Do you see the depth of that statement?
Had I decided not to demand a retest; had I taken the advice of every single doctor that day; had I chose not to believe my husband over a diagnosis… said diagnosis could have ended our marriage. I could have accepted the words coming out of the mouths of those with letters behind their names, because they are those that we trust to tell us the truth about our bodies. I could have walked away from my marriage months before birthing our sweet Ellie, believing that I had been wronged by a man who has stood by my side through so much. Don’t get me wrong, I trust in the knowledge and expertise of doctors. I trust that the doctors that oversaw my care were doing all that they could to correctly diagnose and treat me. I trust that the doctors I saw (and still see) are good people, with no intentions to ever hurt us. But unfortunately, doctors are not always correct, and that is one of the hardest parts of living in a fallen world.
All of this mess went down almost a year ago to the date. I have told very few people outside of my close friend group and my immediate family. Honestly, for months now, I have still been morbidly embarrassed by the entire fiasco. I am not proud to admit that I have called medical records and chewed out the attendants when they wouldn’t wipe the entire thing from my record. I have checked my online results time and time again to make sure they they were properly documented with the correct notations of the positive being a “false positive.” I have told every doctor who views my lab results during current appointments that they were INCORRECT, because I have been so mortified by the entire emotional memory. But I am sharing today, because in hindsight, a few truths were SO important during those moments. And I believe it is undeniably important for you to know these truths, too.
1. You are entitled to a second opinion, and you are entitled to retesting.
In anything. In everything. Whether a doctor tells you you have cancer, or that your husband has cheated and you have contracted an STD from it. If something doesn’t add up, you are forever within your right to say “Bye, Felicia.” Ask for a retest. Seek out a new doctor. Go to a completely different medical facility. Do whatever you can to feel that your results are correct, while communicating your concerns with your healthcare team. Because as my mom has told me for years, all doctors are PRACTICING medicine. No doctor is 100% perfect 100% of the time, and no lab is perfect in the slightest. This is just a simple truth of life, and it is nobody’s fault.
2. Test results are often mixed up, labeled incorrectly, lost, or otherwise falsely positive/negative.
Seriously, do the research on it. Not just from WebMD. Read medical journals. Read statistics. Read information from the CDC.
Anyone and everyone you speak to in person will tell you, “Oh, that crap doesn’t happen. Test results are test results. Yep. You have an STD from your scumbag husband.” But statistically, this happens WAY more often than you would expect.
And in addition, watch your lab tests be labeled. Confirm your name, date of birth, and label on everything you provide to a medical facility. If you do your due diligence in making sure your results are labeled as your results, you cut out at least one possibility of getting a false result.
3. A diagnosis should not immediately come before the trust you have built for years with your spouse, especially not before talking things through with them.
In hindsight, I am still ashamed of how much more trust Drew had in me than I had in him. Thankfully, we have built a marriage based on open communication, full trust, and thankfully, he is one of the best men I have ever met, and loved me so well through it all. Go into all aspects of your marriage with this mindset. If you married your best friend, your partner in life, and your biggest cheerleader, remember that during the chaos.
4. It should always be okay to tell your spouse how you feel.
This is something that was fundamentally important to us making it through those weeks. I could sit down, look at Drew, and say, “Babe, I believe in my head that you did not cheat on me, but my heart is absolutely bursting with sorrow that you did.” And he understood that that was a valid way to feel during the fiasco, and he loved me through it.
5. Good people exist & good marriages exist.
The hardest part by far in this entire process, was the fact that I could tell nobody. For those weeks, I cried at home or only to my closest friends. I reached out only to those who personally KNEW my marriage. Because I knew if I reached out to anybody else for advice or encouragement, the immediate response would be one of anger and pity for my side of things, and I would undeniably hear “Wow, Emily, I am so sorry… but your husband cheated while you are pregnant, and you should leave him.”
The world will tell you that there is nothing true left, that commitments do not matter anymore, and that these situations happen daily. While they are not necessarily wrong, and this stuff does happen daily… they are wrong. Good marriages exist. People who value commitment over everything else exist. Faithful marriages exist. And above all else, in a world where this is very often not always true, marriages can be rebuilt. I still have a statement that I cling to years ago, that I believe is SO crucial to know in today’s world.
No, not “everything happens for a reason.” Rather,
Anything can be redeemed.
I will tell you this: That two weeks of chaos… SUCKED. There has not been a time in our marriage that I felt lower, that I felt more depressed, or that I was more sure that terrifying times were ahead. It was emotional and exhausting and I cried my tear ducts dry so many times over those weeks. But if it taught me anything, it taught me that good men exist. It taught me that my husband is so incredibly kind. It taught me that marriages can make it through anything. And ultimately it taught me that the commitment that we made, means something to each of us.
And let me tell you something in hindsight. If you are unmarried, find yourself a spouse who will stand with you through those moments, even if they are crying right beside you. Find somebody who will accept your anger, your tears, and your understandable doubts, and realize that this is the exact things that God does for us.
Find yourself a spouse who values the commitment they made to you over the words a doctor is spewing at them as they accept treatment for what you were supposedly diagnosed with. Find yourself a person who knows what real commitment means.
Because when you are sitting at home for two weeks, staring at a phone, willing with your whole heart for it to ring in order for there to be a “I’ve made a terrible mistake with your results” call… a feeling of infatuation, of romantic love, or of chemical attraction is absolutely NOT what you are clinging to.
But, do believe in your spouse. Honor your commitment. Through better or through worse, give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them forgiveness. Give them the grace that Drew has given me daily since I walked down the aisle to him. Because if there is ever a time that you practice “for better or for worse,” it is during the moments that you are sitting on a cold, paper covered bench, drinking a bitter and pasty mixture to “cure your chlamydia,” as your husband sits 4-5 rooms down, doing the exact same. You will come out of those moments with an appreciation for the person you married, and with the realization that a Christ-honoring commitment will be hard, it will be messy, and it will be so beautiful, and so worth the chaos.
Two years ago on this day, at 5:44pm, our lives got so much brighter. Our sweet little 8lb boy with a full head of black hair was born, and I so vividly remember not being able to hold back tears as they handed him to me.
“Oh my gosh, that’s my baby. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, he’s our baby. This is our Henry.”
During my pregnancy with him, I stumbled upon the song Cecilia and the Satellite by Andrew McMahon, and it played on repeat for the following 20 weeks. Such a sweet song, written for his own daughter, and his words are so unbelievably true.
“For all the things my eyes have seen, the best by far is you.
For all the places I have been, I’m no place without you.
For all the things my hands have held, the best by far is you.”
Man, you’ll hear me constantly talk through my emotions about motherhood in similar ways, but I never knew just how deeply it would change me until my sweet Henry was laid on my chest that day in July.
Two years later, I still feel the same.
It’s funny, because typically the first birthday is the hardest for parents . But this second birthday has been so much more tearful than expected. The little boy that made me a mom is turning two only a few weeks before his little sister will make her appearance, making it all the more real that it has actually been two entire years since our lives changed so drastically.
So, my sweet boy. You went to sleep last night a 1 year old, and opened your eyes this morning a whole number bigger. And since I can’t seem to figure out how to stop this from happening each year, here’s to you on your second birthday.
You are so resilient. I am constantly in awe of your ability to go with the flow, and your ability to adapt to any situation. Less than a year ago you moved 6000 miles away from the United States with us, and ever since Japan has simply been your new playground.
You have the sweetest heart, and I hope you never lose that. Your sensitive and caring nature dumbfounds me, and sometimes I am convicted so deeply of my own fallen heart simply by looking at you and the way that you interact with your world. You love kitty cats, you pat my arm when I cry. You snuggle your daddy as he sleeps, you say “pwease” and “ank-youuuu” for everything we hand you. You have a heart of absolute gold, and a face full of sass, and I could not love that more about you.
I pray you will remain resilient as your baby sister comes. So excited for her arrival, we anxiously await as she gets bigger every day. But the countdown is bittersweet knowing that every day that we get closer to meeting her is a day closer to you no longer being our only baby. I pray you always feel loved, cherished, and important, no matter how many times you become a big brother.
I pray so many things for you, sweet boy.
I pray you never stop saying yellow the way you do. “Wewwow”
I pray you never lose your love for all things “vroom vroom.”
I pray you always carry kittens around, snuggling them as you do every single day right now.
I pray you ask US to say “MMM, GOOD” about our food forever.
I pray you always walk up to us and open our hands to stack your matchbox cars in, no matter what else we are busy with.
I pray you never stop leaning forward to have me kiss your forehead every night.
I pray you never stop grabbing my face to kiss me.
I pray you always reach your hand towards mine as we leave the house.
I pray you always bring me books to read to you.
I pray you always look at everything in your world with the same wonder that you do right now. I especially pray you always excitedly and loudly exclaim, “WOW, LOOK AT THAT!”
I pray you stay this little forever, but since I know you won’t, I hope you are always your sweet, thoughtful, and funny self. I hope as you grow well into your toddler years and into the years of school, that you know Jesus as your best friend, your parents as your absolutes, and your family as your biggest fans- no matter how far away they may be at the time.
I fear about the attitude and temperament of your coming little sister, because I do not see how I could ever be blessed with another baby as sweet as you. Thankfully, as seen with you, I have been surprised before. I’m sure you both will grow into quite the spitfires, and I am okay with that. Teach her to see the world you do. I wish I could learn more through your little eyes.
You are so dearly loved, my sweet boy. Your daddy and I can’t seem to say that enough.
Grow in height, grow in sizes, but mostly, please continue growing in your sweet personality and your care for others. If the world could have a million Henrys, it would be all the better for it.
Oh sweet July 2016. I became a mom when my first baby boy was born in the heat of the summer, smack in the middle of July.
Do you know what this means?
It is mid-May 2018 as I write this, so inevitably the so-called “terrible twos” are almost here.
May I put for you into words how toddlerhood is going for us so far? Yes? Great. Let me just give you a little view from Henry’s side of the world.
Wake up with the sun. Scream loudly until mom wakes too. Hungry. Ask for banana. Cry when banana is offered. Cry when banana is put back. Cry when banana is offered again. Smash banana into carpet. Cry when banana isn’t whole anymore. Thirsty from crying. Point to the milk. Bring mom the orange cup. Watch her fill it and take it when offered. Cry because it is not the blue cup. Thirsty… really thirsty. Drink milk. Cry when milk doesn’t taste like juice. Dump the milk on the carpet. Notice the smashed banana. Eat smashed banana. Cry when smashed banana is gone. Walk towards mom to ask for second banana. Step in milk puddle. Cry because feet are wet. Throw body onto floor. Flail arms and legs. Cry because shirt is soaked in milk.
Any parents out there feel me? Toddlerhood is so ridiculous that the fits often end up humorous in the end.
Let me preface all of this with what most of my close friends and family already know and are probably thinking while reading this:
Our Henry is really an angel. He’s a sweet little thing who loves kisses, loves to snuggle, picks up his toys without being asked, and loves kittens more than any small human I have ever seen. We have been so blessed with such a sweet and tender little boy, and I fully acknowledge that. But some days, the “terrible twos” seem like such a real thing that will devour me whole as a mom.
I wrote briefly about a morning like this in a post on my blog’s Instagram account the other day. Henry had a horrible morning where absolutely nothing I did seemed to make any difference. I write this in my post:
“I am not going to lie, this past week has not been a good one, and today has been particularly hard so far. It’s only almost 10am in Japan, and I’m already close to pulling my hair out. Henry is hitting the “terrible twos,” but I am constantly repeating to myself that contrary to popular belief, they are indeed not “terrible,” and HE is not terrible. He is frustrated, he can’t express himself in the way he wants to, he needs things he can’t convey, and that sucks more than anything in his world. He is a smart, sweet, silly little boy. I refuse to ever let him ever believe he is anything less than this.”
Drew and I expected to have so much longer as a childless couple before we had babies. We dated all through high school and college, leaving us ample time to plan out our future in depth, and our plan was always to wait until at least our late twenties to begin the process of building a family. Around 6 months after we married, I realized something was not right with my body and the way I was feeling. I grabbed a pregnancy test in passing at Target, and when I couldn’t sleep at 4am a night or so later, I so distinctly remember sitting in the bathroom, and seeing those two dark, unmistakable little lines appear in the form of a cross on that test.
Henry comes from that seemingly impossible 0.01-1% in the birth control world. He is a failed birth control pill baby, when I was using the pill correctly. I don’t hide this fact from anyone, because although he was an “oops” I believe that far before those hormones ever failed to stop ovulation, God has known my heart so desperately needed that little boy. What a blessing it is to be able to say that we had our son by accident.
But we never expected to have two kids by 23, and sometimes I find myself sincerely terrified that I am responsible for who my sweet babies grow up to be, when I am barely more than a baby myself in my mind. I am scared crapless, but I am also so intrigued by the monumental job is is to raise a little one.
Let me put it this way:
I can remember experiences in “people watching” from stages in life that I can barely remember anything else from. In places like Walmart, the park, or even my hometown school and church, I remember always noticing how mothers and fathers interacted with their kids. Though I never anticipated becoming a mother myself so early in life, I remember taking in every little tidbit of information on how others interacted with their children, and how their children interacted with them in return.
I remember the time in high school I left Walmart after purchasing nothing I walked in for, only to return to my tiny Cavalier’s front seat and sob. I remember crying for the blonde little girl who I saw reaching out for a book, begging her mom to let her read it to her as her mom repeatedly talked over her, telling her to be quiet because she was in a hurry. I remember her mother being SO angry with her in that moment, because the little girl would not seem to listen, no matter what. I remember that little girl loudly shouting that they had read the book in their class, and that she knew the words and could read it all by herself without her mom’s help. I remember the little girl yelling over her mother as her mom ripped the book from her hand, slamming it back to the shelf, while scolding her for not keeping her hands inside of the cart. I remember so desperately wanting to stop and let the little girl read me the book.
I remember the time during my college years that a rather young mother stopped everything she was doing in front of me at the bank in order to hear her seven or eight year old son stumble over his words as he told her a story he had suddenly remembered about what they had learned in school that day. I remember her apologizing to the bank teller briefly, but giving her son her full, undivided attention until he had finished his story. I remember the little guy beaming with pride as he told his mom about the lesson they had been taught, and I distinctly remember his mom’s sincere face and seemingly honest body language as she intently listened to his story- even though it was holding up the line. I remember her apologizing to me with a smile and a sheepish nod as she walked out. And I remember my feet moving without me even realizing what I was doing as I awkwardly (and in hindsight probably creepily) started running after her when I left the bank, simply to tell her thank you for the way she spoke to her children. I remember her response plain as day. “Oh my gosh, I have been terrible today. We were late to everything, and my youngest (who was barely a toddler) has seriously not slept more than 6 hours in three days. But thank you. I just try to let him know that I care about the things he cares about.”
I won’t bore you with all my silly small details that I have stored from my people-watching, but I could tell you a million. I can’t tell you why the way people interact with their kids sticks with me, but it always does. From the time I was in high school until this very day, I am profoundly affected by other parents and by the little humans that pop in and out of my day.
If you are not a mom or dad yet, I will be the first to tell you- when you have your first baby, you look at that sweet little face, and you promise to never ever speak a harsh word in their direction. You promise to never have time for anything but them, and to always and forever make them the center of your world. You wholeheartedly mean it, because those tiny little hands, those sweet sounding gurgles, and that intoxicating new baby smell seem to, well… intoxicate you. And it’s easy to promise these things until the hard moments come.
The “I haven’t closed my eyes even once in 48 hours because this baby screams every spare second unless he is latched to my breast” moments.
Or the “My toddler is hitting his head against the wall in frustration, and absolutely will not stop screaming at the top of his lungs because I won’t let him lick the dog” moments.
Or the “I swear on my life, this child has told me this same story six times today- four times yesterday- and if I hear one more thing about why she thinks she deserves a kitten even though she is massively allergic, I’m going to scream” moments.
Or the “My teenage daughter just told me she hates me because I told her she can’t date at fourteen, not even considering the fact she doesn’t even have a car to go anywhere” moments.
And then in these moments, you will probably become a totally different parent than you ever thought you would. And you WILL say harsh things, and you WILL speak in ways you regret, and you WILL still love your kids through these moments- but you definitely sometimes will not like them. And please hear me out- I am human, I get it, and I sincerely believe that it is okay.
But while we will all lose it at times, I believe it is so crucially important to remember that the way we speak to our kids is the voice they will hear for the rest of their life. Their little hearts are so open to the ones that care for them and provide for them, and the voice that you use becomes the voice that plants itself in their noggins. The tones we use, the words we speak, and the things we lead them to believe will forever stick with them. And whether we mean to or not, we will ALWAYS instill in our children what we repeatedly preach to them, and they will always believe what our actions repeatedly tell them that they are. I see so many young adults with parents who instilled all the wrong things from the start. They fight for years to believe they are worthy, or important, or even loved at all, and I think that that is the biggest tragedy and the root of so many problems we see in the world today.
So I pray every single day, that if I do anything as a mother, I make sure my babies grow up knowing two fundamental things above all else first. Above their success in life regarding their careers, or their financial security, or their need to be liked and known by others, I hope they are deeply rooted in these two things.
They are forever loved by their God. I will never be there 100% of the time, and I will miserably fail them no matter how desperately I try not to. But He is the one that never falters, and above all else they should always cling to Him. He is the only refuge and strength that will remain the same no matter what comes at them on this side of heaven.
They are so immensely loved by their daddy and by me. There is not a thing that they could ever do that would ever make us love them less. We are always on their side, we are always rooting for them, and we always want the absolute best for them. Through discipline, praise, and even through the moments we are silent, we love them more than we can ever convey.
And from my desire to instill these two truths, I pray daily that they will grow to be kind. That they will be compassionate. They will love others above themselves, and they will love the way God has crafted them, too. I pray that my words lead them to believe that they are important. That their stories matter. That they are beautiful. That they are so, so loved.
Every morning that I wake up, I am reminded by my own sweet mama’s words. “Speak to Henry gently. A little boy’s first love is his mama. You are his world right now.”
And every morning I intentionally remind myself of what a gift my little Henry is. And I will do the same when his baby sister arrives and I am as tired as I have ever been. The “terrible twos” are followed by the “three-nage” years, and then by the “four-nado” and so on. There is a whole list of terms we could bestow upon the hard years, but the reality is- all the years of parenting are hard in their own ways.
Every story is different. Maybe you are like me, and never expected to be a mother as soon as you became one. Maybe you have more kids than you can count on two hands. Maybe you are a foster parent, just trying to help some kiddos through a scary time in their lives. Maybe you have an only child, want no more kids in the future, and are happy with loving your one babe. Maybe you flew to impoverished countries to bring your babies home to you. Maybe you wanted your babies for years and years and years, and are finally now blessed with them.
Whatever your story- you, mama- you, daddy, are doing an incredible job. Just keeping a little one alive is a feat in and of itself, because I swear, their sole mission is to find all the ways that they could possibly hurt themselves. There is a reason that we have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and you deserve to be thanked and to be cherished, whether you have been the “perfect parent” or not. You are still a parent. You are doing the biggest, most important work you will ever do, whether you believe you are doing it well or not. The days are long, the tantrums are infuriating, and the sleep is scarce. The patience runs thin, and the TV occasionally just runs all day- because sometimes Paw Patrol can calm your kid like nothing else can. And the days are hard, but they are so important. It is never too late to begin instilling in your kids the things you want them to grow up knowing and believing with their whole hearts.
Find time in the morning to evaluate your upcoming day, and to pray for the moments that you need His unfailing grace. Take a breather. Take the time to collect before you react. Tell them daily through your words, but mostly through your actions, that they are loved, cherished, smart, capable, independent, kind, and compassionate. Sail through the hard days with a desire to understand WHY the days are hard, and why their little hearts are so frustrated. They see the world through unexperienced eyes and brains, and they are not always able to process the things we think they are. I promise, the behavior of your children will make so much more sense when you stop for a moment to see the world from their tiny little two-foot perspective.
The days are long, and they are hard, but the years are so short.
And ultimately above all else, on the hardest of these days, always remember to love them the hardest.