"Mommy," my toddler daughter's voice squeaks, "I got you a present!" I look down at her twig-like two-year-old frame to accept the treasure she's come to present.
"Look Mommy, I got you a pine cone!" I ooh and ahh appreciatively, genuinely thank her, and add it to the glass bowl that now houses a dozen or so identical miniature pine cones, a few big ones, and an odd two foot stick.
There's a similar pile in the center console of my car. Every time we go outside, my daughter insists, "I have to get a pine cone for you."
My husband asks one day if i'm excited for summer to come and the pine cones to go so we won't have to continue this game. "No! Not at all, I love her presents. I mean, I don't love the pine cones, but I love that she gives them to me."
It's the end of the workday. I rush out of the office in an attempt to gain as many precious minutes for the evening as possible. We lose a few during daycare pickup, and a few more in traffic. Time flies while the cars crawl forward.
I carry the burdens of the day inside — plus one extraordinarily heavy 6-month-old (87th percentile heavy) — set them all down, and mentally prepare for the momming part of my working mom title.
Bags are unpacked, bottles are washed, butts wiped, dinner made/served/fed, lunches made, bags repacked, tears kissed away.
The baby splashes in the tub — picking up and slamming down his chunky thighs in tandem — creating mini tidal waves. Gracie eggs him on, "Do it again, Logan. Make a big splash!" He complies enthusiastically. She adds in funny faces and silly sounds, and soon enough has him full on belly laughing.
In this moment I'm not tired from going non-stop for 12 hours, just in awe of the beautiful relationship blossoming right in front of me between these two tiny people I get to call my kids. Watching their interactions stirs up an entirely new emotion in me — it's joy and love and laughter all mixed together, warm and bubbling over in my heart.
Saturday morning. Gracie hops onto the bed with Logan and me as my husband heads off to work. "All right family, let's do this thing!" We make it out of the house to Target by 10 am. I grab Starbucks on the way out, and offer Gracie the option of chicken nuggets for lunch. She improvs a song about her love for nuggets the whole way to the drive-thru and has me silently giggling from the driver's seat.
I'm ready to keep the energy going through nap time with cleaning and laundry and all those other "to-dos," but the minute I close Gracie's bedroom door, all my energy is gone.
I try to guilt myself into doing something productive, but when I lay Logan down on my bed, he passes out and it's not long before I'm dozing beside him.
Soon enough, the kids are recharged, but I'm ... not. This time instead of piling guilt on myself, I choose grace. We move downstairs to the couch, snuggle up and spend the afternoon watching TV, building block towers, and loving on each other.
These kids sure know how to take a lot out of me, but when I pay attention and keep my heart open, the gifts they give me weigh so much more.
The guilt and obligations I put on myself are physically and mentally depleting. When I give myself grace and prioritize rest to recharge, I get the energy I need to keep going, and my family gets a better version of me.
I will keep adding Gracie's sweet little pine cone presents to my collection for as long as she gives them to me.