When you forget to put it away…

When I first started nursing Violet in public I felt a little self conscious. I worried that someone might be watching me and not in a good way…. I worried especially if there were too many men around. I used a cover when out in public and sometimes in my own home when I had guests over. The cover I used had a nice curve at the top and so I could still look into Violet’s eyes.

As I got more used to feeding her and more used to baring my breasts in public, I decided to try without the cover. She never really liked being behind the cover and I often felt like we were playing tug-o-war with the it. I felt like I was showing more using the cover because she would always pull it away and there would be my breast. Whereas, if I just pulled my shirt aside a little, her head alone would hide most of my breast.

The key to nursing in public with confidence for me is starting out by reminding myself that I am not doing anything wrong. Second, I try not to make eye contact with anyone other than my baby. That way if people are looking at me I don’t have to see their smirks or appalled looking eyes. When I feed my daughter the only thing that matters at that moment is her. And if I do happen to let curiosity get to me and take a peek up at the room around me, I make it quick. If I find disapproving eyes, I flash a quick confident smile. If I find smiles of encouragement, I sigh with a contended heart and imagine that maybe that person is recalling their nursing days.

Sometimes nursing in public can be a great source of laughs, if you aren’t the bashful type. Here’s my favorite comical NIP moment.
When my daughter was about 6 months old we were at a park having a picnic under the cherry trees. This called Hanami in Japan. When the blossoms are in full bloom the parks are flooded with people picnicking, singing, sleeping and taking pictures.
My husband and I were enjoying a nice little lunch and Violet decided she wanted some lunch too. So I pulled over the flap to my nursing shirt and let her nurse until she fell asleep. There was a middle aged couple sitting on a blanket across from us and they were smiling at Violet. They wife nodded approvingly at me as I started to nurse. When Violet had drifted off I let her rest on my lap in my arms and continued to eat my lunch. My husband and I were having a nice conversation about the beautiful trees and the fun we were having showing Violet her first cherry blossoms.

Suddenly, in my peripheral vision I noticed the couple across from us no longer looked so cheerful. Their smiles had turned to looks of shock complete with dropped jaws. I looked down at Violet to see if her head was tilted funny and then touched up to my nose (thinking maybe I needed a tissue). Everything seemed fine. The couple quickly began to gather up their things and started to walk away. It was then that a cool breeze began to blow and I felt a chill where I shouldn’t have felt one.

I looked down one more time and that’s when I saw it. My entire right breast was sticking out of my shirt. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it. I really don’t know how my husband didn’t notice it. But there it was for all the park to see. I quickly pulled my shirt up and giggled saying to my husband, oops, I left my boob out again! This was a common occurrence at home. All of you nursing mamas know what it’s like in the beginning when it’s just easier to leave it out than to keep putting them away and pulling them right back out again.

cherry blossomsWe still laugh about that story. And every year when we go for our cherry blossom viewing picnic and Violet wants a little milk , I always double check that both my girls are back inside my shirt after she finishes.

When you nurse in public something, some time, is bound to get exposed. Just try to look for the humor in it and keep going. At least you will have a funny story to share with your spouse and your child one day.

Happy breastfeeding and try to remember NIP is your right as a mother and it is your child’s right to eat in any place he or she is permitted to be.

Thanks for stopping by! Cherry blossoms 2

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So fast

What is it about life that makes time seem to fly by so fast?

A common phrase among us all is, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” And when seasoned parents speak to new parents they often say “They grow up in the blink of an eye!”

I have been curious why things seem to be going faster the older I get.

When I was a child, I remember it seemed like years before the end of the school year or waiting for Christmas to come again. From birthday to birthday felt like ages and some years I just couldn’t wait to “be bigger”. Why is it that now, as my 35 birthday approaches, that I feel like I blinked and my teens and twenties were gone?

I decided to do some reading on the subject and found some very interesting articles. One in particular stated that it all has to do with anticipation and retrospection. This resonated true with me. When we are waiting for something monumental to finally happen the anticipation can make it feel like time is moving in slow motion. Where as after it has happened and we look back on it, it seems as if time was moving at the speed of light. As we continue to age we pass more and more milestones. The more milestones we pass the faster they seem to have gone by.

As we grow up and get older we are constantly waiting for the next milestone. The next birthday, the new school year, getting our driver’s license, voting for the first time, graduating from high school, college, turning 21, getting married and having our first child. This is just to name a few along this journey called life.

I have definitely had a lot of fun in the past 35 years of my life and so I could believe that because of all that fun time has flown by. But I have also had a lot of sadness too. The most difficult to bear being the loss of my mother. As the anniversary of her passing approaches each August, I reflect on the last month of her life. The last 2 weeks in the hospital with her as she slowly faded away and her body succumbed to the terrible cancer ravishing her organs. Those two weeks in the hospital felt like an eternity. All of the waiting and wondering if she would make it through. Not knowing if each touch of her hand would be the last. The day she passed felt like the longest day of my life. Learning to go to sleep without her physical presence in my life anymore felt like an unbearable task. Singing at her funeral and greeting each guest that arrived to honor her felt like a mountain I would never finish climbing.

Now as I look back on it almost 14 years later, it seems like it was only yesterday. The fun and the sadness in our lives all seem to pass by quickly in retrospection but in the moments of anticipating the next stage they seem to drag on.

Since becoming a mom the milestones that I am anticipating are those of my daughter. It seemed like an eternity until her birth when I was pregnant. Then she was here and as I looked back on my pregnancy I couldn’t believe it was already over.

summer palace ChinaHer first smile, first words, first tooth and first steps all seemed to come so fast. Why are her milestones slipping by faster than my own? Or are they both going by just as fast but I am more focused on hers? I don’t really know. I suppose the latter is true.

How did I go from this little girl on the beach with my mom and siblings to being the mommy?kid to mommy beach

Violet has seemingly grown up over night. When we first moved into our temporary house (housing provided by the government to those who lost their homes in the tsunami) she was only 19 months old. She couldn’t reach handles and needed help opening doors. Now almost 2 years later, she is closing the door opening the fridge and showing herself to the bathroom without any assistance needed. I blinked and she became a little girl rather than my baby girl. She will always be my baby, of course, but she so big now.

moving into temporary housing

Witnessing the changes in her life both physically and emotionally is such a gift. Last month every day that I dropped her off at school was heart wrenching. She cried and begged to stay with me. It tore my heart in two each morning and each night as she would ask me if there was school tomorrow and I had to answer yes. The school year starts in April here and she started a new class (preschool class) on April 4th. The first day of school was so different than the days before that. She woke up excited to go to school. She told me she loved me best but loved her friends too. My heart soared that she had found a way to find happiness at school.

Now, she tells me in the mornings sometimes “Mommy, I am not going to say ‘No school today?’ anymore because I am a grown up.” I tell her that she can if she wants to but it’s o.k. if she doesn’t. She has told me she is not going to cry when we get to school either because she’s a big girl now. I again tell her that she can if she wants to and it’s also o.k. if she doesn’t.

When we take her to school she wants to walk in sometimes vs. being carried in. And this morning when we were saying goodbye after several kisses and spoken goodbyes she stood at the door to her class and said “mama, I’m not going to say goodbye anymore. I love you.” and then she walked into her class. She did pop her head back out though and wave and say I love you in her kitty voice until we could no longer see each other.

First day of school with mommy

It is so precious to see her growing up. I sometimes can’t even believe how fast this has all gone. I imagined it feeling fast but not this fast. Some days I just want to stop the clock and stay in these moments forever. I want to hold her so tight and wrap her up in my arms and never let her go. But I know that I can’t do that. I want her to have a full life, exploring every opportunity that she chooses to explore. I am excited about reaching future milestones with her while at the same time wanting to hold on to these days as long as I can. I am always trying to learn how to hold on without holding her back.

The fun times and the sad times will continue to pass through our lives and I will probably look back on today a few years from now and think it was only yesterday that she was going to preschool. I know that time will continue to go by faster and faster the older I get and the older she gets.

As parents the days are sometimes long and the years are often too quick. Days of nursing, changing and late nights will seem so close yet so far away and one day she will be graduating from college and I will without a doubt be whispering in my heart “How did my baby become a young woman so fast.”

One day I will be writing about her weaning and I will again be hit with the heart wrenching awareness of how fast she has grown up. Today I will cherish the moments of the day. Tomorrow I will look back with fondness and awe at how quickly it all went by.

sweet smile carseat 1st day of school

A letter to my daughter

Today I was asked to write a letter to my daughter to submit into the end of the year memory book for her nursery school. I was only allowed a page. So I will write what I submitted along with everything else I wanted to say. ❤

violet3pensivetext

Dearest Violet すみれ、

We are coming to the end of your first full year of nursery school. You have been going for a year and a half actually. I never thought I would be working outside the home after you were born but here we are. Every day that I send you to school a piece of my heart goes with you. But each time I pick you up at the end of the day, your smiles put my heart back together again.

I wanted you for so long. I loved you before you were even born. From the moment that little plus sign showed up on the first of 4 tests, I loved you. As I carried you in my womb I worried and prayed for your safety and well being. The first moment I saw your tiny form at 7 weeks on that black and white fuzzy print, you stole my heart. When I finally heard your heartbeat racing through the speakers of the ancient Doppler machine at our doctors office I no longer knew where your beat ended and mine began. And I laughed and cried tears of pure joy and relief. When I felt that tiny butterfly movement inside my growing belly for the first time, I knew that I would do anything to protect you. Watching my body change and grow to accommodate your growing body was the most amazing miracle I have ever witnessed. When I finally saw your tiny sweet face and looked into your innocent eyes for the first time I finally knew what it was like to love someone without restraint. When I held you in my arms and brought you to my breast at long last, I felt peace, I felt like this was where we were supposed to be. I knew that I was born to be your mommy. It was as if you had always been with me and yet I was filled with such anticipation to know you.

We have loved every second of having you in our lives. Through changing diapers and late night nursing, we have loved you. Through sleepless nights and joy filled days, we have loved you.

For three years now we have been given the gift of enjoying your smiles, your laughs, your hugs and your kisses. We may have taught you a few things along the way but dear Violet, you have taught us so much more. You have taught us how to be patient, how to be compassionate and about true empathy. When you are sick or sad my heart actually hurts. When you laugh my soul shines. You have taught me how to live each day with pure joy and to truly live in each moment we are given. With you, I now know what true unconditional love is. I know how it feels to give it and to receive it. It is a humbling experience to be loved so much by one person.

I have made many mistakes in this short time I have been allowed to be your mommy and I don’t doubt there will be countless more. Thus far, you have been quick to forgive and so you have also taught me what it is like to be truly forgiven. To forgive and to actually forget the wrongs done to you and to go on loving as if it never happened.

I will do my best to protect you dear daughter and to nourish your great strengths while also letting you experience your life. There will be times that I cannot protect you but I have faith that you are always in the care and protection of the One who made you. I am learning every day how to hold you without holding too tightly.

Thank you for loving us, Violet. Thank you for being our daughter, our friend and our teacher. “I love everything you are and all that you will be.”

With love that lasts forever, Mommy

kimono1

Reading is fun!

Reading is Fun!posterI have been an avid reader since I was a little girl. If I had a picture of my favorite place to read as a kid and teen, I would post it. We had this high backed chair in our house that was reupholstered 2 or 3 times I think. It came from my Grandmother’s house originally. When I was about nine it was upholstered in a pink,white and turquoise, southwestern pattern. (Very popular in the early 90’s) I used to love to lay on it with my back and head on the seat and my legs up along the back of the chair and feet hanging over the top. Sounds weird for reading, I know, but I loved it. I loved reading all kinds of books and I was lucky enough that my mom was an avid reader who happened to have a wonderful collection of books from her youth too. So I was stocked! I had my own personal library plus mom always took us on trips to the library to check out whatever books we wanted. I can still remember the smell of our little library and how the cold steel on the doors felt so revitalizing on a hot South Texas day. Walking into that quiet library knowing that there was an endless number of adventures awaiting my mind and my fingertips was exhilarating to me. I still feel that sense of excitement when I step into a library today.

During summer vacation, my mom and I would often read a book together. I would wake up in the morning and go crawl into her bed. She would pull the soft cotton sheets over us both and we would pick up where we had left off the day before. Reading aloud to each other, alternating after a chapter, the stories would come alive. My mom had a great reading voice and always drew us into the story with her enthusiastic reading. One of our favorite books to read together was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The copy we read from was my mother’s from when she was a young girl. The pages were a bit yellowed and there were some small tears here and there. The scent of the old paper and the inscription on the inside cover “To Pamela with love, The Roberts” drew me into her world. I could picture her as a 10 year old girl opening the pages with anticipation of what adventures might lie within this new gift. She had some neighbors who gave her books on special occasions. We read The Secret Garden aloud to each other the summer of my freshman year in High School. We had both read it several times before but it was one of our favorites so we decided to reread it together. We were lost in the gardens together and lost in the love of a mother for her son even after she had passed on to the next life. Little did I know that 7 years later my own mother would no longer be with me in this world. And so that book still holds special meaning for me.

I read to Violet every day. I have read to her since she was in my womb in fact. Every night we read at least 3 books. We started out with just 1 book a night but as her love for the written word has grown we have added to the nightly ritual. We read throughout the day as well but definitely at least 3 books as we are lying in bed. If she is feeling particularly sleepy she will nurse while I read. She struggles to see the pictures and will often tug down on the pages to get a better look. Other times she is content just to listen to my voice as I read to her. She has memorized the way I read her favorites and if I put emphasis on a different word than I usually do she will correct me. Or if Daddy is reading one that I usually read she will correct him if he doesn’t emphasize the same words. For example I usually say “I just can’t wait to dance.” But if I say, “I just can’t wait to dance” she will ask me to read it the right way. With a smile. Another funny thing she does when I read is if I yawn while reading she will say “Mama, can you try that again please?”

I love snuggling up with her and reading. It is hard for me to see the words over her sweet head as I hold it down for her to see the pictures while she is nursing. But I love how she wants to be close to my heart. I can remember laying on my own mother’s chest and feeling her voice as she spoke to me or read to me. It was enough to soothe me even as a teenager.

I am thrilled that Violet has developed the same love for books that I have. I can’t wait for the day when we can read aloud together alternating and sharing in an adventure. But for now, I am enjoying entertaining her with my own renditions of our favorites and cherishing the closeness of our nursing/reading sessions before bed.

She is growing so fast and I can hardly believe how much she changes even week by week. Two weeks ago, Violet read her very first book aloud all by herself. We have been using The Bob Books as a tool for reading and she just adores them. The stories are simple and have words that use the first phonetic sounds only. For example, “The cat sat.” She was so pleased with herself and when she finished it she looked up at me with a surprised look on her face and said “I read that book, mama.” It was a special moment for us all.

Just in case your interested, our favorite books to read together are:

Zippity Zebra and the Windy Day by Claire Henley

Someday by Alison McGhee

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

any Sandra Boynton Book (especially The Belly Button Book)

Bear Feels Scared

Bear Stays Up For Christmas

Bear Snores On

Bears Loose Tooth

Don’t Be Afraid Little Pip (and all the above Bear Books) by Karma Wilson

Nursies When the Sun Shines by Katherine Henley

Winter Days in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I Wear My Tutu Everywhere by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

What are some of your favorite books to share with your little ones?
Do you have any special memories involving reading?

Because I love you

after workViolet and I were sharing some time on the couch after returning home from school and work. I decided I would ask her “what’s your favorite thing about having milkies?” I wasn’t sure what she would answer. I thought perhaps she would say the milk. She looked up at me with smiling, sparkling eyes for a moment. Then she pointed her short chubby finger up at me and touched it down onto my chest and said “you mama!” I said “what about me?” She replied, “I love my milkies mama because I love you. I love to be with you.” Then she also said that she, of course likes the taste of her milkies too.

Love can be shown in so many ways to our children. Spending time together is one of the most important ways, in my opinion. For Violet, when we sit down or lay down to nurse she gets my undivided attention. We look into each others’ eyes and we share a conversation without speaking. I am thinking of her and she is thinking about me. I know this because I have asked her, “what are you thinking about now sweetheart?” She usually answers, “you.” These moments are so precious and so sweet. Sometimes during a nursing session she will stop and ask me questions about my day or tell me something about her day. Breastfeeding such a vocal child is so rewarding in so many ways.

This connection that we have will not last forever. One day she will not need her milkies anymore. I have told her over and over that she can have her milkies until she is ready to not have them anymore. I tell her this not to try to encourage her to stop, but to let her know that she has the ability to decide when she wants to stop. These conversations usually happen after she asks me if “so and so” still has milkies. For example, her cousin and aunt that she looks up to so much are 9 and 10 years old. She has asked if they still have milkies. I explain to her that they had them before but they don’t have them anymore. She asked me why they stopped. I told her that they stopped because they were ready to stop. Violet is very much into role play. She loves to pretend to be her Aunt or her cousin and many other people or animals that she loves. When she is pretending to be someone who doesn’t breastfeed she will tell me “I am Maddie now so I am ready to not have milkies anymore. But then I will be Violet again ok, Mama?” I always play along.

I see her reaching out for her independence. I am watching her experiment with letting go. I will not hold her back and I will not push her forward. I am lovingly letting her be and letting her discover this on her own. She still nurses quite frequently when we are home together all day. But I know that she is thinking about it more than she used to. We co-sleep and she still nurses to sleep as well. Sometimes she will tell me that she just wants to fall asleep by herself. I let her try and wait for her to ask for me. A few times she has just fallen asleep laying on top of me instead of nursing. We will take this journey at what ever speed she chooses. I will cherish these days for as long as I live. This journey has been a lot longer than I expected it to be but I have not regretted one day of it.

Are you still nursing a toddler or preschooler?
When did you start to see a change in their frequency?

A letter to my future self

Dear 70 year old me,

I have no idea where you are living now. I have no idea what you will be doing at this age. In my 34 year old mind I like to imagine that you and Gabe have retired and are enjoying spending time together. I pray you are cherishing each other as the days go by. I imagine that you are doting on a grandchild or two and definitely still adoring the friendship you and Violet have created through these years. I am sure as you sit back and think of the days when she was small you wonder how the time could slip through your fingers so quickly. How in the blink of an eye she was grown and gone off to create her own life and her own way in this world. I hope you remember the simple things in your life. I hope you to live for each moment. I pray you wake with the spirit of that 3 year old girl so many years ago that woke you with kisses and giggles, feeling that the day is not to be conquered but enjoyed and treasured. I imagine that in the span of your life you have not regretted the lack of sleep that you got as a mother of a young child. I would wager to say that you do not wish that you had slept just a little bit more in the mornings before heading off to work. I can almost guarantee that you are wishing, in fact, that you had woken up earlier to relish in the laughter and hugs and kisses of your little girl. To cradle her in your arms while you still could. To linger in her arms as she squeezed your neck so tight and left warm wet kisses on your face. To watch as she pounced out of bed ready to greet the morning with energy that could not be contained any longer. I imagine that you often close your eyes and still see that tiny ballerina dancing in her pajamas as she made her way to the next room, then insisted on putting on her “real ballet clothes” to give you a special, private performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. I want you to remember this morning. The love you both felt for each other. Remember the joy in her voice as she stood behind the curtain that separated the shower and the kitchen announcing “Today I’m going to do a big ballet show”. She flung open the curtain and began dancing along to the Nutcracker music, remembering what each movement portrayed and trying to recreate it herself. Then asking you to join her, and at that moment saying to yourself, “Remember this, cherish this, this time in her life of carefree bliss.” Remember the sheer joy that being together brings to her heart and to yours. Remember what she answered when you asked her “what does love mean?” She said “Love means always being together.” Spending time together is how she shows and feels love. I am sure love will mean many things to her as she grows and matures into a woman. But at this moment it means being together. Whether she is living next door now or is if she is on the other side of the world, remind her that you are always together. If we carry each other in our hearts we are always together.

Now that you and Gabe are on your own again, perhaps you are getting a little more sleep than you used to. I am sure you miss these early mornings and wish that you could go back to them for just one brief moment. So I want to tell you that I am cherishing them for us. I am soaking up every minute. I am trying to preserve these memories in my heart of dancing before dawn and cooking breakfast in the dim light of morning. I am holding on without holding her back. So that one day, when you close your eyes and listen to the music that plays in your heart you will be there. You will be there with this tiny ballerina, this beautiful soul who loves you no matter what, who forgives you no matter how badly you fail. These days she often asks “Will I always be your baby?” and you always answer “always and forever!”. And then she asks “how long is forever?” you always answer her “forever means it never ends, it goes on and on and on. It never stops, never fades.” She will always be your baby no matter how old she is. These days went by faster than you ever dreamed possible but I am sure you remember the love.

Love, you (mom of 3 year old Violet)

It all started wth a memory

Yesterday was one of those days when sadness crept up on me and caught me by surprise. I am sure we all experience them from time to time. I felt overwhelmed by grief yesterday and it stayed with me till I picked up Violet from nursery school.

It all started with a memory.

I was thinking about our sweet Violet at about 10 months old. Violet had this cute little bonnet with birds on it. It was a handmade bonnet made my Urban Baby Bonnets.Image She loved her hat. In fact her first word after mama and daddy was hat.

Every day Violet and I went out for a morning and afternoon walk. She always pointed and said hat before we walked out the door. I can see her smile and the twinkle in her eyes as I placed the bonnet on her head and snapped the snaps beneath her chin. I would then snuggle her into the sling and out the door we would go. I can hear the click clickety clack of our sliding door and feel the warmth of the sun on my face as the door opened to our front yard, just like it was yesterday.

We first stopped at our cherry blossom tree that Daddy planted when I was pregnant and we found out that we were going to be having a girl. It was Violet’s tree. We counted the leaves and talked about the colors we could see. The color of the branches, the leaves, the flowers in the spring.We looked up to the sky and sang “Blue Skies”. We would walk around our block and talked to our neighbors and kitty friends.

One day Violet realized how to unsnap her bonnet. Just as she did so a gust of wind blew and her bonnet flew off her head and through my fingers as I tried my best to catch it. But I failed and the hat flew straight into a covered ditch.

Violet and I looked at each other and she started to tear up. I knew she loved that hat so I ran down the street and found an opening. I carefully stepped in because the water was low and not rushing too fast. We waited and waited but her little hat never came.

When Gabe came home that afternoon I told him what had happened. Being the super daddy that he is, he told us not to worry.

We all walked down to the last place we saw the hat. He got in the ditch and started to look around. It was there, in a spot directly under a heavy concrete slab. He found a branch nearby and then lifted the concrete as much as he could and carefully fished out Violet’s favorite hat.

It was covered in mud and gunk from the ditch. But Violet knew it was HER hat and she smiled so wide. We took it home and washed it over and over and finally it was ready for her to wear again. It was a little stained but still very wearable. She loved that hat. I imagined that I would keep it in a box for her to see when she got older and that perhaps she would put it on her daughter’s sweet head one day.

But that will never happen. It was washed away once again but this time forever.

The tsunami took many things from us. And I know it is silly to mourn material possessions. I know that things are just things. But the memory of that little hat reminded me of all that was lost and that is when I began to feel that feeling…that feeling when you can’t catch your breath. When you feel that lump in your throat will take over and air won’t be able to pass through it. It was then that I felt the warm wet tears begin to fall down my cold cheeks.

I was walking from work to the nursery school. I knew that people were driving past me and thinking what could be wrong with that woman. But I couldn’t stop it. It had already begun.

We have all tried so hard to just move forward since the devastating events of March 11th. I think that in a way I have tried to push it away as much as possible. But some days it is just too much. The images of my friends faces who were taken away flashed through my mind and I saw their smiles and felt their warm embrace. I thought of friends who survived but seem lost in their survival. Those of us that survived may feel guilty for surviving and maybe we feel guilty for missing our old lives.

I miss our life before. I miss our walks, our neighborhood, our flowers and trees. I miss our warm bed and the memories that we made there. The pictures and videos that we were so careful to take that were lost forever.

I miss the faces of the mothers and children that we played with on a weekly basis. And the volunteers that worked at the center. Three times a week we went to the play group on the mountain. In fact on that day we were there in the morning. We played and laughed and communicated with out words. These women and children were part of our life and although we didn’t talk much because my Japanese is so poor, we shared our motherhood. We were all learning together. It was a happy time, a time I will remember for the rest of my life.

Two weeks ago I asked Violet if she remembered her old house. She said yes. So I said “what color was your bed Violet?” She smiled and said “Red. That’s where mommy and Violet had milkies.” Gabe and I looked at each other with amazement. She really does remember. Violet always slept with Gabe and I in our bed and we had red sheets.

Yesterday, for some reason, I finally began to grieve the loss of that life. It seems like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then. Gabe and I always say to each other, “He took away everything we had and left us with everything we needed.”

After walking and crying for 40 minutes from my office I finally arrived at Violet’s nursery school. I wiped my face and did my best to put on my smiley face for our daughter, although the sadness still seemed to be taking over my heart.

When I got to Violet’s room I saw her running to the door. She was crying for me. She said, “I was looking for you but I couldn’t find you mama.” I wanted to break down right there. But I didn’t. I swept her up in my arms and wrapped her up in my love. She stopped crying very quickly and gave me that sweet smile of hers. The one that shines through her eyes.

Her teacher came to the door and said “Today Violet did something that she has never done before.” I started thinking “oh no I really hope she didn’t hit someone” (something she has not done before). Her teacher continued, “She hugged 4 of her friends today at different times during the day.” I remembered the devotion we read the night before in Violet’s book, The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers. It said,

“Do your friends ever get mad? Maybe you could give a hug to an angry friend. Or you might say something kind to that person. Hugs and gentle, quiet words can help an angry person to calm down. Sometimes people who are mad just need to know that someone loves them.” “A gentle answer will calm a persons anger.” Proverbs 15:1 “Dear God, if someone is mad today, please help me to know what words to say. “

After we read that devotional I talked with Violet about her friends at school. Recently she has been getting hit and bitten. It breaks my heart to see this happening. I told her after the devotional that if her friends seemed angry or if they seemed sad maybe she could give them a hug. I told her that sometimes when people are sad they get angry too. She looked up at me and said “A gentle answers calms anger.” “Yes” I said. I was surprised that she remembered the verse. So we practiced the verse a few times and then we hugged, of course.

I told Violet’s teacher that we had talked about hugging our friends the night before and we were both amazed and happy that she had put that thought into her mind and remembered to put it into action. As is our ritual, on our way home I asked Violet what her favorite part of the day was. She usually answers ‘finding mommy”. Yesterday, however, she answered, “Hugging my friends!”

It was at that moment that my sadness and grief melted away. Our daughter teaches us everyday. I was reminded of how powerful a hug really can be. So many of us are hurting, many of us are angry or lonely. Imagine what a great change you can create in someones day just by showing them love, by giving them a hug. Thank you Violet for hugging me and Daddy and your friends. You show us what love is everyday.