Category Archives: Five Minute Friday {Raw & Unedited}

Five Minute Friday | Define

“How would you describe yourself as a Mom?” 

“An incompetent loser.” 

That’s what I wanted to answer. 

Instead, I said something along the lines of, “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I was in drug-free labor for almost 20 hours before an emergency c-section. I’m a breastfeeding mom. A baby food-making mom. He doesn’t watch TV. We plan on homeschooling him. Probably starting kindergarten early, in one of those co-ops where he’ll learn Latin.”

I know there was more in my rambling answer. Can’t recall all of it right now. 

I don’t know what she was actually expecting me to say, but I’m sure my checklist made no sense. 

I had learned early on in the Mom Community to define myself by choices. These topics filled magazines, blogs, and Facebook forums. Birth, sleeping, feeding, free time. Everyone had an opinion. And it stressed me out. 

I was a new mom, with a fantastic support system, but I thought everyone was doing this mom thing better than I was. Graham was a difficult baby. Sleep eluded us. He was a frequent cluster nurser. He was strong-willed. I spent his first 8 months of life trying to figure out what I had done wrong. 

I hadn’t done anything wrong. Except the part where I was trying to control another human with his own desires. I hadn’t yet learned the difference between control and guidance. Breaking versus molding. 

In that moment, I tried to define my motherhood by some choices I had made. And decisions we would make years down the road. Trying to fit into a strange box of motherhood. 

It’s comical how experience changes you. How other kids change you. I spent a few years talking about homeschooling Graham early. Then we started him at the normal time. We didn’t join a co-op. He knows zero Latin. My kids watch lots of TV. Adelaide goes to public school. My girls ate homemade baby food, those pouch things, and jarred food. I’m about to have my 4th and final c-section. 

What would my answer be now? 

“I’m a mom of 6 kids, with 4 surviving. I’m learning to enjoy all these different seasons, including the really hard ones. I’m taking this thing one day at a time. Past that, I have no idea.”

And that’s okay. 


Time’s up. Join me at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited writing. 

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Five Minute Friday | Breathe

Ready, set, go…

Last year, I was tucking Graham into bed when he started a difficult conversation. One I wasn’t yet ready to have. We had just lost Laurence and Flannery the day before. 

“Mama, I’m so sad our babies died, but I’m glad I get to sleep in yours bed. How long we gonna be so sad? And can we be sad and happy? Cuz I wanna be sad sometimes and happy lots of times. Will we get babies again in your belly? Can we be mean to people? Cuz I wanna be mean to people. Am I still your favorite boy? I’ll be okay if you get more favorite boys. I’m so happy you aren’t in da hospital again tonight cuz I missed you last night. Someday you gotta tell me about the dead baby surgery. Da hospital was pwobly too quiet, huh?”

“We will be sad when we need to be sad and happy when we want to be happy. We can be sad as long as we want to be, as long as we don’t hurt ourselves or be mean to other people. That’s not being sad, that’s other things that aren’t showing God’s love to ourselves and others. I don’t know if we get to have other babies in my belly. But I love all five of you so much! And, yes, you’re still my favorite boy. And I’m so happy I’m home with you. The hospital was very quiet, which was nice. But I missed all our noise.”

“You forgotted da surgery part.”

“When you are older.”

How that was exactly one year ago yesterday, I’m not sure. Time is so strange when you’re 33-going-on-34. 
We made it through the anniversary of the twins’ birth and death. I had been dreading February 1st, but it ended up being easier than I thought it would be. Partially because my kids kept me completely busy and I barely had time to think about it. And partially because I decided to place zero expectations on myself. 

I didn’t make plans to commemorate it at all. No tattoos. No visit to the cemetery. No “one year later” post. Just regular life. Just breathing in and out. 

My word for 2017 is breathe. For whatever that’s worth. It came to me at the very end of December. 

Yesterday, in conversation with Nicole, while our kids were running through the house laughing and screaming, I realized I had found my word for 2017. Nothing profound. But the last several years have been more difficult than not, and I’m choosing to focus on the basics in the new year. Breathing in my husband. Breathing in my children. Breathing in new baby smell. Breathing in friendship. Breathing in the Holy Spirit. “Nicole, I think next year is my year to breathe.” She nodded, then we cleaned some weird orange goo off Graham and Thatcher’s hands, changed Adelaide’s diaper, hunted for Chandler’s missing drink, and averted a near disaster as Bess stuck her head into a birdcage. I was breathing in motherhood, and I felt alive.

I breathed my way through February 1st, the anniversary of losing two children. And I breathed my way through February 2nd, the anniversary of coming home from the hospital empty-handed. And I breathed my way through preschool drop-off and pick-up. I breathed my way through homeschool and pottytraining and dishes and laundry and calling in prescriptions. And I breathed my way through making room for another baby. A baby brother. Who probably eased some of the pain on February 1st. But in the words of Graham, “Getting a new baby doesn’t make me miss our dead ones less. I wish we could have all free of dem!” We’re all breathing our way though pregnancy after losing children. One breath at a time. 
Time’s up.

Join me over at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited thoughts on the word “breathe”…a safe place to share. 

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The Ballew Orchard | My Unedited Thoughts On Our Due Date


When I was a child, I moved 13 times in 16 years. At our last house in Colorado, I planted a rose bush by the mailbox. I thought I could will us to stay put with those roots. Everything else I had ever grown was for a single season. Gardens full of fruits and vegetables that only lasted for so many months, before plowing them under. But the rose would ground us. 


And three years later, I said goodbye to that rose. And moved from magnificent Colorado to muggy Missouri. In an August heatwave. And I hated my life. I told the rose I would move back when I was 18. Dig it up. Take it to my new Colorado home. But I never moved back. 


I ended up loving Missouri. My birth state. I grew accustomed to the heat and the humidity and the mosquitos and a shocking lack of drivers who understood how to use 4-way stops. I fell in love with the trees and flowers and green everywhere. And I fell in love with my husband. At first sight. 


We bought our house ten years ago, and I wanted fruit trees. But I had this fear that I would plant trees, only to leave them behind. All that work for naught. So I pushed the thought out year after year after year. 


I’ve lived in my home for ten years. Which is twice as long as I’ve lived anywhere else in my life. Dave brought stability and security in a way I never imagined as a child. 


We came home from our honeymoon to this home. We learned we were pregnant with each child in this home. We drove from the hospital to this home. Three times with a newborn babe, and once with a condolence packet from the hospital. 


And that was when I decided this was the year for trees. Ten years. Five children. I was planting an orchard. 


After the twins died, someone anonymously gave me $100 and said I couldn’t spend it on medical bills, gear for Adelaide, or anything for anyone else. It was solely Lyndse Money. So I tithed and spent a solid 24 hours thinking of all the things I could do with $90 whole dollars. 


Earrings, clothes, haircuts, wall art, socks. My list. In that order. And in that 24th hour, I said, “Fruit trees.” And I tucked that money into a zipper pocket in my wallet and it sat there. Through medical debt and curriculum shopping and so many Adelaide needs. It was off-limits. 


I knew Mother’s Day would be difficult. I volunteered us to work in nursery, because I couldn’t stand to be in service when our sweet Pastor acknowledges all the moms who are grieving this year. I’ve always been the proud beaming mom during the part where he talks about what a gift children are. And now I find myself with a foot in each camp. The smiling mom, surrounded by adoring faces. And the weeping mom, with children in a cemetery. 


My children are buried in Mt. Hope. Hope. My word for 2016. For a year that was supposed to bring all things baby and so many joyful moments. And we’ve managed to find that joy buried in grief, but the year felt anything but hopeful. 


For Mother’s Day, I asked my mom to plant trees with me. We took that $90 and ended up with five apple trees, a watering can, pruning shears, flowers, soil, and a rose bush. 


What I realized was this: we could leave this house. Move closer to a children’s hospital for Adelaide. Relocate for an incredible job offer. We could lose this house. It could be flattened by a tornado. Destroyed by fire. But this house is like carrying a child. You don’t know what will happen. Sometimes you carry that baby for 39 weeks and end up with an emergency c-section after almost 20 hours of labor. Other times, you have an uneventful scheduled c-section to deliver a breech daughter who ends up changing your life at her 9-month checkup. And then you vomit every single day with your third. And you go into labor, but choose a c-section, because your track record isn’t so great in the pelvic department. You are surprised with a precocious mite who most likely could have been born without help. But you’ll never know. Other times, you go to the hospital to return empty-handed. Empty-everything.


My house. My trees. My children. I can’t hang onto any of them with tight fists. They could be gone in an instant. All I can do is enjoy the time I have. We don’t know how long our kids will live, but we still do the mundane with the majestic. I could argue that we don’t know Adelaide’s life expectancy, so I’m going to keep her home and enjoy every second of her life. But I don’t. I have hope that she can learn new things everyday. I send her off to school, where they try to teach her to hold a crayon. Because holding a crayon isn’t a necessary life skill. But it’s worth knowing. Or at least having the opportunity to try to know it. And I don’t spend 12 hours a day holding Graham and Bess, even though they could both die at anytime. Because they need clean clothes and vegetables and books. We spend our days doing a hundred little things and a few big things. 


And we planted trees. Not because I have the assurance of seeing them grow and bear fruit, but because I don’t have that assurance. None of us do. We planted trees to remind me everyday that it’s fleeting. But still worth it. There’s still hope in a 2016 that started with fireworks and onesies and then sputtered to an August Friday of remembering two children gone before they could breathe their first air. 


Five trees. One for each of my children. My Mother’s Day gift to myself. A gift I’ve wanted for most of my life. But too afraid to risk loving something only to lose it. But February 1st showed me that I had done it and survived. I had lost something worth more than any tree. Any house. Anything this world offers and screams, “You want this! Go buy it!” I lost life. Children. 


And Flannery’s tree has apples. I think they will be eaten by a bug this year and that’s fine. It’s fitting for her first fruits to be taken. It’s not the end of it all to lose some apples. Maybe it’s what I need this year. For Flannery’s tree to just be. But the trees are all staked and pruned and watered and lovely. This balance between caring for something that needs me and letting it just exist. Teaching a child to read, but mostly letting him play. Putting her in diapers just a bit longer, but making her put her pink cowgirl boots on the right feet. Taking a daily school photo before I push a wheelchair through double doors, when I would rather just soak her up every minute she’s awake. 


I ordered tags for the trees. From a college friend’s wife. Because each tree belongs to one of my children. Graham mentioned that he wanted to take apples from Laurence & Flannery’s trees to their cemetery bench next year and have a picnic. I agreed that this was a fabulous idea. But I wanted to give the caveat: if the trees make it. And then hoped that the trees weren’t lost to disease or drought or neglect. Because Graham has lost so much this year. A six-year-old who fell in love with a Baby Bump. But I need to teach him that we take risks. We love when we aren’t given any promise that it will be returned. We speak to a girl who may not answer back. We replace kitchen cabinet doors when a house may not be standing next week. And we learn addition facts and how to use a screwdriver and brush our teeth. And we continue to love babies in the womb, even though there is always a chance to lose them. And even if you do, you still get up from that hospital bed and brush your teeth. And you brush them everyday. Even on August 26th. Because life keeps going. 

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Five Minute Friday | Limit

Ready, set, go…

“We can’t underwrite your policy due to your drug use.” It ended up being a clerical error. Someone checked the drug box. Who applies for life insurance while on drugs, anyway? A nurse came to our house. Weighed me. Took my urine. Two vials of blood. Cried with me about losing the twins. I told her I had taken an 800 Ibuprofen 3 days before. She told me I had ridiculously perfect blood pressure. But someone somewhere said I was a druggie. I have had one sexual partner. I’ve never smoked, done any drugs, or been drunk. And I had one very questionable moving violation when I was 16. The officer said I didn’t come to a complete stop. He said he turns his eyes at reckless disregard for speed limits, but failing to stop actually kills people. I resisted the urge to ask for statistics of how many people were killed by my supposed stop sign roll with zero cars around vs. a speeding vehicle causing a truck to jack-knife on the highway. But I kept my mouth shut and paid the ticket. I should’ve gone to court. I would’ve won. On my application, I marked the ‘no’ box for every risky behavior: paragliding, rock climbing, motocross, and traveling to the Middle East. Honestly, I’m a homebody. My riskiest behavior is taking three kids to the grocery store. Preschooler in a wheelchair. Wearing my toddler. And keeping my kindergartner from touching every piece of produce. I do a fine job dragging a cart behind us. But then a random stranger always says something rude to me. And I suppress the urge to throatpunch that person. That clearly shows I am a responsible person who deserves life insurance. Their form didn’t have a box about taking strong-willed kids to buy almond milk, but it should have…because that is a better question than asking me how many times I’ve gone bungee jumping. I need this policy. Navigating my bathtub is more dangerous than a crocodile hunt in the bayou…

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Time’s up!

Join me at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of unedited, raw, zany, or poignant writing.

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Five Minute Friday | Focus

Ready, set, go…

Two of our children died this week. My brain is so fuzzy. I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why I’m not nauseated. Confused that I can sleep on my back. On my stomach. I don’t need to pee. And it makes me sob. Because I’ve been unpregnant for only a few days. Yesterday, two-year-old Bess came up to pat my belly. “Babies!” I can’t correct her. I just can’t. But Graham does it for me. “No, Bess, our babies died. They are dead now.” Bess giggles and runs off. Graham asks for chocolate milk. I go cry in the laundry room and try to pull it together. But I’m constantly reminded that they are gone. My belly is smaller today than it was last night. My breasts are actually shrinking. My hormones are starting to level out. And I hate it. I want my hips to ache. I want to be vomiting. I long to be peeing every 2 hours. I can’t have it back. It’s over. And everyone keeps asking if I’m okay. I smile and say, “I’m doing okay.” But I want to scream, “Of course I’m not okay! I just packed up all my babies’ clothes. All my maternity clothes…except for these jeans, because I’m so swollen from 7 liters of iv fluids. And I just want to cry for an hour until I can’t cry anymore, but I have apples to cut and diapers to change and pee sheets to wash.” Because life keeps going on. There’s barely any grieving time when you have 3 littles who need a mom. And how ironic is it that I can’t focus on being a mom to 3, because I’m aching from being a mom to 5?

Time’s up..join me for your own five minutes of raw, unedited writing at katemotaung.com

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Five Minute Friday | Time [and my thoughts on Alan Rickman]

Ready, set, go…

I fell in love with Colonel Brandon when I was 12 years old. As soon as I finished watching the Dashwood Sisters’ story unfold on the big screen, I checked out Sense and Sensibility from the library. I wondered if Alan Rickman was anything like Austen’s brainchild. And he was. As a preteen, I couldn’t understand Marianne’s inability to see Colonel Brandon from the beginning. He was everything I thought I wanted in a future husband. It doesn’t surprise me that I married Dave. I never thought love would be sex and roses and vacations. I desired for love to be sacrifice. I wanted a man who poured himself out for others. Gave his time and sweat. Dave’s dad unexpectedly died a few weeks after our engagement dinner. My fiance put his college on hold, in order to take care of his mom during their crisis. He did dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and checked her homework when she was getting weary and blurry-eyed. And he worked full-time. When she lost a second husband in a decade, this time with months of notice and preparations, Dave was there again. Mowing the lawn, doing home repair, cooking, and helping with his stepdad’s care. Dave hated the word stepdad, because he said Bob was more than that. “Bob loves my mom, my wife, and my kids as his own. He’s not my stepdad. He’s one of my best friends.” And when cancer took Bob from us, I watched my husband. My own Colonel Brandon. The one who does for others. Alan Rickman was an actor. A phenomenal one. And cancer took him, too. But I watch Sense and Sensibility with my breath caught in my chest. I marvel at how beautifully he portrays Brandon. Of all Austen’s men, the Colonel is one of my favorites. And when Mr. Rickman reads Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, I am transported to a 12-year-old Lyndse. Hoping she gets to marry a man who reads to her. And a couple decades later, she did. My love reads to me. My love has one of his degrees in English Literature. My love cares for others when things are falling apart and storms are raging and all hope seems lost. Austen wrote the man. Alan brought him to life. And I get my own little piece in my real life world. The one that’s filled with cancer and heartache and true love. Austen lived in that world, too. It’s why she was able to make a girl in 1995 fall in love with an ideal. RIP Alan Rickman. You will be greatly missed.

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Photo credit

Time’s up…join me at katemotaung.com for five minutes of raw, unedited, from-the-heart writing.

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Five Minute Friday | First

Ready, set, go…

In December, Bess said “I love you” for the very first time. To Adelaide. She hugged her big sister, said “I love you, Adelaide!”, and left Dave and I speechless. I can’t quit talking about the beauty between siblings — those with typical development and special needs. Bess shows so much compassion to Adelaide. She shares toys with her. Two-year-olds don’t naturally offer their favorite snacks to another child, but Bess willingly gives her food to Adelaide. She brings things to Adelaide and presents them with glee and pride. She greets Adelaide every morning. “Good Morning, Mama! Good Morning, Adelaide!” When the naysayers frown upon having more children, I’m just going to show them my daughters. Bess could’ve professed her love to anyone. She chose Adelaide. And she chooses her everyday.

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Time’s up.

Join me at katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw and unedited writing. It’s a new year!

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Five Minute Friday on a Monday

I’m taking all the vitamins. Drinking all the water. Eating all the lean protein and fiber and healthy fats and leafy greens. Trying to sleep. With three kids under seven, that’s not always a reality. And a few people have mentioned miscarriage. I try not to think about it. I know the truth. I know all the percentages. But I try not to think about the possibility, because there’s nothing more I can do. I am literally doing everything I can do for a healthy pregnancy. And I don’t think about genes and defects and mutations. Because I can’t control that either. Once, a woman looked at Adelaide and said, “I’m glad I miscarried. My baby probably would’ve been like her.” I said, “You wouldn’t be that lucky.” Walked away. Why does our culture think it’s better to be dead than to be disabled? So even though I don’t focus on it, I know the possibilities of losing a baby. Having a baby who isn’t typical. And I still announced the growing human in my womb. As tiny as a poppyseed. This week is one of his/her most vulnerable weeks of development. But I still rejoice and buy maternity clothes and let Graham touch my stomach…which isn’t baby, but is actually bean burritos and candy from my Christmas stocking…and we just live in this moment. Aware of danger, but reveling in the beauty of it all. And I look at Adelaide and think, “You are more precious than anything in this world. Do not listen to the ignorant and misguided people on this broken, fallen planet who worship ‘perfection’ and think death is better than being different. They’re so very wrong.”

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***Five minutes of raw and unedited writing.

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Five Minute Friday | Season

Ready, set, go…

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Photos courtesy of Myra Wike Photography

I try to be really honest here. So I’m going to share something tough with you.

Adelaide’s birthday is hard for me. Not just because it falls in December. But because it brings up fears, questions, and this gnawing sadness that another year has passed us by. Sure, I’m happy that we get to celebrate her. But my daughter turns 4 this weekend and my mind is reeling with how little we gained and how much farther behind we are with every day crossed off a calendar. It’s not logical. Rationale says, “It is what it is. She’s making progress. Rejoice.” My mom heart counters with, “I need to clean the highchair for food time. I need to let everyone know she outgrew size 5 diapers and needs size 6. Does she even care that we’re having a party? Cancel.” Every year, I want to cancel and spend my own child’s special day hiding under covers. But I keep going. And this year has actually been the worst. I almost cancelled our family brunch 12 times. And even know, I’m thinking of canceling. I didn’t finish decorating. I have no food. I’m buying her Wal-Mart cinnamon rolls for her cake. This party is going to be a direct reflection of my broken spirit. It’s not what I had intended. I spent hours pinning things to her birthday board. I had grand vision for this birthday. This time to honor one of my favorite people. To start a new year. And maybe that’s why it’s been so incredibly difficult. We are starting a year that will be full of difficulty and changes, and I wasn’t expecting 2016 to usher in such a hard season. It was sprung on me. Unlike Adelaide’s birthday, which I’ve been planning since last Christmas. But plans can only take you so far when your soul won’t follow through. And this special needs mom is between happiness of surviving another year and feeling downtrodden for surviving another year, but falling so incredibly short. And trying to figure out which drool bib will look cute with a birthday dress sucked the wind right out of the Pinterest sails. Adelaide’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s party became a breakfast. Just like that.

Time’s up.

Join me at http://www.katemotaung.com with your own five minutes of raw, unedited, and probably-shouldn’t-be-sharing thoughts. It’s cathartic, at least.

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Five Minute Friday | Table

Ready, set, go…

Adelaide slept through Thanksgiving dinner.

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It didn’t surprise me. She’s had an exhausting week. A 6 hour round-trip for a 2 hour appointment with our new neurologist.

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A 30-year-old woman who’s studied in Pakistan, Texas, and at Duke. We loved her. She was caring, funny, and thorough. We left with a seizure action plan and a prescription for rectal diazepam, even though we just passed 9 months of being seizure-free.

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She was shocked by Adelaide’s progress. We were, too. Adelaide decided to take 10 steps with Dave’s help. He was holding under her arms, when she decided to go from standing to taking 10 reciprocal steps. Ten.

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So I wasn’t surprised that she slept through Thanksgiving dinner and missed sitting in her highchair at the kids’ table. She ate both her meal and her pie during dessert time. And she laughed and played and watched her Aunt Kita’s team play on tv. And she giggled so much we all couldn’t stop laughing at her.

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She did Thanksgiving on her timeline. Which is how she does life. And we are thankful for the inchstones and the milestones and everything in between.

Time’s up.

Join me at katemotaung.com with your very own five minutes of raw and unedited writing.

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