It was just an ordinary pantry in a turn-of-the-century house. Small with a low ceiling, shelves on three sides, each bowed with jars of jellies and tomatoes, boxes of cereal and oatmeal and my Poppie’s beloved prunes.

But to a five-year-old me, behind that wooden pantry door was another world. Grocery store. Restaurant. Hideout. School. Cozy house for my babies. A place of imagination and mystery and familiarity.

It’s fitting that playing in my Nannie’s pantry is one of my most cherished childhood memories. For me, like many of you, food isn’t just a daily necessity. It’s a celebration, an itinerary, a thread that weaves between the generations.

For example, Nannie’s gravy. It’s legendary in our family, a silky salty goodness that is impossible for any of us to replicate. “Oh, I don’t even know if it’s any good this time,” she would always demur just before we all groaned with sighs of satisfaction.

But really, gravy was just the beginning. A child of the Great Depression, Nannie’s food was always made from scratch, and she always made enough to feed each of us three times over. Her pie? Oh my goodness, her pie. Homemade crust, naturally. Fruit that bubbled with sugar and cinnamon. Vanilla ice cream at the ready. It was standard for her to make multiple kinds for big meals, and then to ask the impossible: Which kind would you like? My Dad would say, with a grin and a twinkle, “Oh Nannie, I can’t choose. I’ll just have a sliver of each.” And he would be rewarded with a sliver of each that looked more like a slice of each to the rest of us, but who could grudge him when her generosity was just as rich with us too?

Today, I am leaving my family to fly to my Nannie’s funeral.

She died on Saturday, at the age of 97, a home going that is as much relief as grief. The past few years, she disappeared under a cloak of Alzheimer’s like dementia. We have mourned the loss of her, we have eagerly anticipated her reunion with Poppie – her husband of 60+ years who died just a few days after Natalie’s birth. Today, I rejoice because she is free. She is free! She is with Jesus, her lifelong love, and she is throwing her many crowns at his feet.

Glory. My eyes are welling with tears just thinking about it.

I last saw Nannie three years ago. I introduced her to Teyla, her newest great-grandchild.

She was joyfully surprised numerous times during our lunch to find that I was really there and that I was all grown up. “Oh Kelly!” she would exclaim. “I remember you! Look at how you’ve grown! And who is this little sweet baby?” She would ask again and again. She was as childlike as a toddler, living in both confusion and wonder.

But one thing shined bright in the dimming twilight. “I wouldn’t be here without God’s faithfulness,” she would say, time and again. “I owe it all to Him.”

I love you, Nannie. I look forward to seeing you again,. And I surely hope God allows you to make some pie for the feast of all feasts that awaits us. I would like a sliver of each, please.

On that last trip to see Nannie, my aunt let me go through some old pictures. Here are a few I found of my Nannie and my Poppie and my mom. Indulge me?

Do you not love the hats?

Summer Nova

Summer is waning. But like a dying star, it shines brightest at the end.

Today, I awoke to brilliant blue skies and a wind that talks back. It’s dancing in the trees and making melody out of the window blinds and knocking over the vase of lilies on the kitchen sill. The sun is golden and warm, but already its caress fades. The windows are thrown wide open, the better to drink in the beauty.

The kids, of course, know school is just two weeks away. They are equal parts squeal and groan.

Me? I’m melancholy about the end of my favorite season, as always. Lazy mornings, afternoon swims, tan lines, fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market, the smell of turkey burgers on the grill. What’s not to love?

I gingerly look forward to routine and structure and a little more time to enjoy the littles and then focus on the bigs when they return from school.

But until then, I can be found sitting on my front porch, listening to the wind pirouette in the birch leaves and watching the sun make ever changing puzzles on my sidewalk.

It’s true what Robert Frost said: Nothing gold can stay.

Six of the Last 10 Years: My Breastfeeding Journey

If all goes well, I'll be in Seattle when this posts. We are taking a trip to visit Corey's workplace and do a little sightseeing. It promises to be sunny and 75 all week; here's hoping. (Or maybe not. I have approximately 5,048 photos to go through from our Colorado trip. Maybe if it's foggy and cool all week, I can keep the camera loving at bay.)

In the meantime, I wanted to repost this in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. Inspired by Stephanie, I did a little math yesterday and figured I've breastfed six out of the last ten years. (Pause here to be impressed because, dang.) That's a lot of nursing, a lot of lessons learned. Kieran is pretty much fully weaned at this point (story to come, I'm sure), so my journey is almost complete. Originally posted at 5 Minutes for Parenting last September, this is my breastfeeding story, my tips to offer. If it helps you or offers some companionship on the road, I will be blessed.

I was in the zone this morning.

Reading blogs and perusing my local newspaper online, I happened to look down at my four-month-old baby, happily nursing himself to sleep for his morning nap.

And I got such a big burst of joy, I thought my heart would explode.

I love breastfeeding. I love the closeness, the ease, the sweetness, the simplicity. It amazes me that my body can nourish my child. It makes me worship, to be honest.

But I’ll also be honest and say: It isn’t always this perfect.

Kieran is my fourth baby. I’ve nursed all of my children until they were at least one year old. The girls breastfed until they were almost two. (Which means I’ve been pregnant or nursing almost continuously since the year 2000. Good golly, Miss Molly. No wonder this body is tired.)

I feel like I’ve learned a lot along the way about breastfeeding. Permit me today to share a few of my hard-won lessons.

Breastfeeding hurts at the beginning.

This is probably the most controversial point I have to make, because many lactation consultants insist breastfeeding should not hurt if it’s done correctly.

I beg to differ.

Maybe it’s because my babies have vigorous sucking reflexes. Maybe it’s my genetic make-up. Maybe I’m just a freak. All I know is, the first few weeks of breastfeeding are about as painful as giving birth itself. This is due to the presence of large, open sores that develop about day three and don’t heal until about week three. I get these despite the baby having a perfect latch. (Trust me on this one. I had two lactation consultants and three nurses check Kieran’s latch in May before we left the hospital, and I still had scabs in places where the son don’t shine.)

My best tip for this is to get some gel pads from the hospital – the kind often used on burn victims. They are blissfully cool on traumatized skin, and they will help you heal without scabbing (much). Lanolin and expressed breastmilk are also wonderful healing agents.

It does get better.

If you can persevere through those first few weeks of torture, you will get a gold medal and a million dollars.

Well, not really. But it will get better. Your toes won’t curl each time the baby latches on, you won’t break out in a cold sweat for the first 90 seconds of each nursing session. Somewhere along the way, it will become natural and easy and ohmyword I really love this.

Watch for lumps that are tender to the touch.

This seems obvious, but the first few weeks and months of breastfeeding can be so hectic, I think it’s good to state the obvious: If you feel a sore lump in one of your breasts, get thee to the shower and run some warm water on it while doing a gentle massage. And then nurse that baby as often as you can from the affected side.

The goal is to avoid the nemesis of breastfeeding mothers everywhere, the Mastitis Monster. I’ve had mastitis twice, and it is horrible. I shook so violently because of the fever, I was afraid newborn Teyla was going to have shaken baby syndrome. Twenty-four hours of antibiotics later, I was fine. But it was a miserable few days. Don’t mess around with a sore lump.

Letdown hurts.

At least for me.


Invest in a good nursing bra.

I wish someone had told me this years ago. I don’t normally spend a lot of money on underwear because, well, it’s underwear. But a nursing bra isn’t just underwear. It’s your companion, your advisor, your support. Wearing a bra that fits well and is easy to manage is a boon to you and your hungry baby.

Besides, you’re not really saving money if you have to buy six nursing bras over the course of a year because they are so cheap they trash easily. Trust me. I know.

Nursing pads can save you a lot of embarrassment.

Maybe it’s just because I have a bovine gene, but I do not leave the house without a nursing pad the first few months after having a baby. They are important if you want to avoid obvious golf-ball sized wet marks on your chest.

In fact, you might want to wear a pair of nursing pads anytime you’ll be away from your baby for a while. I will never forget a Sunday when my oldest was about 10 months old. We went to church and Sunday school and then my Mom’s for dinner in a whirlwind. It was a great lunch; a fellow teacher at the high school where I worked (a single male, it should be noted) was joining us that day, and he regaled us with stories for hours. It wasn’t until he got up to leave and I heard Natalie getting up from her nap that I realized the front of my (silk) shirt was dripping – literally – with milk.

I am Mommy. Hear me moo.

Don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it work.

I love breastfeeding. But I have many friends – many – who have tried and tried and sacrificed and prayed and tried to breastfeed their babies. And for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. Maybe their milk supply is too low. Maybe the baby is always fussy and takes forever to nurse. Maybe they get repeated infections.

Whatever it is, I get it. I know they’ve tried. It’s OK. I don’t want them to beat themselves up for making a decision that is best for them and their baby.

Yet they still feel judged and guilty because they didn’t breastfeed their children.

Here’s where I say: That is crazy. Yes, breast is best. But we need to give our fellow Moms some grace here, especially if nursing is (mostly) easy for us. We are not all the same. Show compassion. Extend grace.

Enjoy your baby.

These days of nursing are quickly over, even if you practice extended breastfeeding. Having to stop multiple times each day to nurse a little one can be frustrating or tedious or even boring.

But it isn’t, really. It’s a chance to snuggle and savor that tiny person who just entered your life, to look into their eyes and see eternity. It is special and oh so sweet. Savor every second that you can.

Jane Austen on Sanguines

I'm reading Jane Austen's "Emma" right now for the first time. (Somehow, I managed to get through high school without taking a single literature class.) (I know!) (And even in college, I only took one literature course - a Drama Lit course which had us reading everything from Moliere to Shakespeare to Arthur Miller. It's one of four college textbooks I still own.)

So anyway. I'm reading "Emma." And last night, I came across this little gem on the difference between sanguines and the rest of the world.
Mr. Frank Churchill did not come. When the time proposed drew near, Mrs. Weston's fears were justified in the arrival of a letter of excuse. ...

Mrs. Weston was exceedingly disappointed - much more disappointed, in fact, than her husband, though her dependence on seeing the young man had been so much more sober: but a sanguine temper, though forever expecting more good than occurs, does not always pay for its hopes by any proportionate depression. It soon flies over the present failure, and begins to hope again. For half an hour, Mr. Weston was surprised and sorry; but then he began to perceive that Frank's coming two or three months later would be a much better plan; better time of year; better weather; and that he would be able, without any doubt, to stay considerably longer with them than if he had come sooner.

These feelings rapidly restored his comfort, while Mrs. Weston, of a more apprehensive disposition, foresaw nothing but a repetition of excuses and delays; and after all her concern for what her husband was to suffer, suffered a great deal more herself.
I laughed out loud - literally. I can't count the times in my life I have been warned of my high expectations by well meaning people. Very often, my hopes weren't realized. But I bounce back alarmingly fast. Like Mr. Weston, it doesn't take me long to twist the situation to fit back into my rosy colored glasses.

And the Mrs. Westons around me? Poor things. They suffer more on my behalf than I deserve. Bless them.