Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

The glass doors slide open and our steps quicken in anticipation. It smells of fresh-printed ink and musky paper. The toddler in my grasp points to everything he sees— the glass elevators, the row of colorful posters, and blinking self-checkout stations—clutching his beloved Mr. Fox’s stuffed paw tightly.

The library. We could live here if they’d let us.

The children’s section is my son’s dream with the woodblocks, puppet shows, assorted puzzles, and rows and rows of picture books. Books on airplanes, origami, the animal kingdom—some that intrigue me, others that only intrigue him. 

The children are chattering, adults shushing. 

We dash over to the author section, “C” for Cousins, Lucy. Fingers crossed, I say a little prayer sent to Heaven with the incense of my sincerity. Please, God, please let them have a few new ones today.

I can’t bear the idea of reading the same books again next week. And the look on his face when there’s a new one available will make my day. 

RELATED: Dear Child, I Hope You’ll Remember This Love

My prayers are answered. With unfeigned excitement, I pull out new Maisy books or at least ones we haven’t read recently. This is a world of primary colors and characters that dance across the page. We know all of their names—Dotty, Tallulah, Cyril, Ella, Eddie, Charlie, and, of course, Maisy, the mouse extraordinaire with the adventurous life. She’s well-traveled, visiting places like the fair, the city, the countryside. She’s mastered the first day of preschool and potty training like an expert. She plays soccer with her friends and, of course, it ends in a tie. No hard feelings in the making of that book. My son eats it up like Annie’s Mac & Cheese. 

Then he beckons me to a children’s table, and I sit next to him on the kiddie-sized chairs.

We read to Mr. Fox, his threaded black eyes staring straight ahead at some 4-year-old picking her nose before putting the last piece into place in the Old MacDonald puzzle. 

She needs to wash her hands, I think, looking up from page five. That puzzle should be disinfected. 

He tugs at my sleeve and suddenly, I am lost in the primary world of Maisy with him again. The worry and striving of my grown-up thoughts melt away with him nuzzled next to me.                                     

When the hour fades, I have the daunting task of ripping him from the block fort he is building. I give him five more minutes, and then five more, fearing he’s going to grow up with a very skewed perspective of time.  I disinfect the puzzle, check an email. 

Then, finally, I say, “Ezra, let’s go. We will check out these books here.” And, “No, you can’t take your fort home with you.” 

But we do take our mound of books to the check-out station, where he insists on helping and making the process take 100 years longer. And that’s not hyperbole. 

And yes, I’ve had to succumb to getting a rolling suitcase for the number of books we check out each time. I swore I would never be that nerdy, but here I am. It’s almost as bad as getting a van, but I promised myself I’d stick with the SUV. I know,  never say never. 

RELATED: I Am The Keeper

We leave our little library-haven and tumble into the car. Five minutes out of the parking lot, a dreadful realization swallows me. 

“Ezra, Mr. Fox.”

The toddler’s tone is panicked. He knows as well as I do that Mr. Fox is sitting inside a block fort, cold and alone, praying hard that some other grimy, nose-picking hands don’t decide to adopt him as their own in the 10 minutes of our absence.

We turn back, this time entering the glass doors with a different feeling of anticipation.

I carry him on my hip so we can rush to the children’s section. There are new faces. My son’s block fort looks like an earthquake destroyed it. No sign of Mr. Fox. 

I suspiciously eye the children around me. Any one of them could be the culprit. We ask the librarian if there’s been a “worn-in, red fox with a freckled face, bushy tail, and green waistcoat” turned in.

She shakes her head, says she’ll let me know if it shows up. 

In my mind, I’ve already started writing the email to the nice creative on Etsy to replicate the endearing piece of childhood she made for us. But it’s not just another stuffed animal, it’s this one. And can it really be replicated with a knock-off or will the magic be gone without this very stuffed fox?

Two more rounds around the library, scanning the nooks and crannies, the aisles, the play areas, the puppet stage where a community theater production of princesses and dinosaurs is taking place.

“Mr. Fox,” I call out telepathically, “where are you?” But, he is quiet, wherever he is, because he prefers to only communicate through the 2-year-old.

And then, as I’m about to walk away in the magnanimity of the loss, I spot the little, apple-red tail poking out from the cupboard of a wooden-toy kitchen set.

“Ah,” says a man nearby, “is that your fox? My daughters were cooking and serving him to the other kids.”

I laugh with relief and notify the daughters their dinner is now going home with me as take-out. I hand him to his rightful owner, who smiles with tender love in his eyes and squeezes the little creature in his stubby arms. We walk back out the door, hand-in-hand, feeling lucky.

Mr. Fox and Ezra lay down that night, as always, in Ezra’s “big-boy bed” and I “nurse” a stuffed fox until their eyes are shut and they’ve drifted off to sleep. I smile as I tiptoe out of their room.

RELATED: How Often Do We Overlook the Simple Joys in Life?

Motherhood has expanded my heart to new depths I didn’t know existed within me. It means I love very much a little primary-colored mouse creature and her peculiar set of friends. It means my heart genuinely thuds in fear when I think a stuffed fox may have disappeared from our lives forever. 

Because this love means I take an interest in what he takes an interest in, and that ability to care for someone outside myself has changed me.

But, there’s more than that. Motherhood has caused me to slow down and keep my eyes open to the world around me.

We never get anywhere fast, but there’s a beauty to the slow-pace of raising children that I’ve come to appreciate. 

It’s spending hours in a small corner of a library and noticing the glass elevators go “so high.” It’s teaching how to do the simplest tasks, like setting a book on a counter or stopping on the pavement to pick up a leaf and observe it’s pretty colors. 

Sometimes, I think about how much easier it would be to get things done without a child. I always said I didn’t want children in my 20s. I wanted to travel and build a career so my to-do lists could have clean little check marks on them instead of invasive scribbles. I’d answer emails and update inventory for work without a single disturbance. 

But I got pregnant and had a baby in my 20s. I became a stay-at-home mom by 24. How did that happen? 

For me, motherhood became the surrendering of expectations for the years, the months, the day, the hour, even just the next 10 minutes. It became the realization I could be lost in a world of wonderment alongside a little person. To experience the world through his lens. 

Yes, parenting is hard, but isn’t that part of the beauty of motherhood? We walk the slow, grueling steps with them until they can walk them on their own.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Kris Ann Valdez 

Kris Ann Valdez has had personal essays included in Motherly, Motherwell, Her View from Home, The Kindred Voice, Motherhood Mag, and elsewhere. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three children.

Going to Church with Kids is Hard but We’ll Keep Showing Up

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother holding young daughter in church

Going to church is hard with young kids. It used to be something I looked forward to. It’s something I’ve always valued deeply and needed desperately. It’s the one place that will always be home regardless of what location or building it’s in or what people attend. Church is my sanctuary. But it’s become a battle with the kids’ resistance, my tired mind and body, and my lack of ability to actually listen to the sermon. Going to church is hard with young kids. It’s become normal for me to lie down in bed on Saturday night thinking, with dread,...

Keep Reading

I’m Praying for My Teenager in These Challenging Years

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Teen boy holding a smartphone and wearing headphones

In my mid-40s, I began to long for a baby. We didn’t get much encouragement from friends and family. My husband is a high-functioning quadriplegic, and I was considered way too old to start a family. But our marriage was stable, we were used to obstacles, we were financially prepared, emotionally experienced, and our careers were established. I began to paint my own sublime mental portrait of parenting tranquility. What could go wrong? At 48, I delivered a healthy baby boy, and he was perfect. We adored him. The baby we had longed for and prayed for, we had. And...

Keep Reading

When Motherhood Feels Like a Limitation

In: Faith, Motherhood
Ruth Chou Simons holding book

Twenty-one years ago, my husband Troy and I welcomed our first son into the world. Two years later, I gave birth to another boy. And again two years later, and again two years after that. A fifth boy joined our family another two years later, and a final son was born 11 years after we began our parenting journey. If you were counting, you’re not mistaken—that’s six sons in just over a decade. We were overjoyed and more than a little exhausted. I remember feeling frustrated with the limitations of the little years with young children when I was a...

Keep Reading

I Obsessed over Her Heartbeat Because She’s My Rainbow Baby

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother and teen daughter with ice cream cones, color photo

I delivered a stillborn sleeping baby boy five years before my rainbow baby. I carried this sweet baby boy for seven whole months with no indication that he wouldn’t live. Listening to his heartbeat at each prenatal visit until one day there was no heartbeat to hear. It crushed me. ”I’m sorry but your baby is dead,” are words I’ll never be able to unhear. And because of these words, I had no words. For what felt like weeks, I spoke only in tears as they streamed down my cheeks. But I know it couldn’t have been that long. Because...

Keep Reading

Here on the Island of Autism Parenting

In: Motherhood
Son on dad's shoulders looking at sunset over water

Hey, you. Yes, you there: mom to a kid on the spectrum. Well, you and I know they’re so much more than that. But sometimes those few words seem so all-consuming. So defining. So defeating. I see you when you’re done. That was me earlier today. I had to send a picture of a broken windshield to my husband. I prefaced the picture with the text, “You’re going to be so mad.” And you know what? He saw the picture, read my text, and replied, “I love you. The windshield can be fixed. Don’t worry. Just come home.” I think,...

Keep Reading

Round 2 in the Passenger Seat is Even Harder

In: Motherhood, Teen
Teen boy behind the wheel, color photo

Here I am, once again, in the passenger seat. The driver’s side mirrors are adjusted a little higher. The seat is moved back to fit his growing teenage limbs. The rearview mirror is no longer tilted to see what’s going on in the backseat. Yellow stickers screaming “Student Driver,” are plastered to the sides of the car. The smile on his face is noticeable. The fear in mine is hard to hide. These are big moments for both of us. For him, it’s the beginning of freedom. Exiting the sidestreets of youth and accelerating full speed into the open road...

Keep Reading

We’re Walking the Road of Twin Loss Together

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother and son walk along beach holding hands

He climbed into our bed last week, holding the teddy bear that came home in his twin brother’s hospital grief box almost 10 years earlier. “Mom, I really miss my brother. And do you see that picture of me over there with you, me and his picture in your belly? It makes me really, really sad when I look at it.” A week later, he was having a bad day and said, “I wish I could trade places with my brother.” No, he’s not disturbed or mentally ill. He’s a happy-go-lucky little boy who is grieving the brother who grew...

Keep Reading

Somewhere Between Wife and Mom, There Is a Woman

In: Living, Motherhood
Woman standing alone in field smiling

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember there is a woman behind the mom. At home, you feel caught between two worlds. Mom world and wife world. Sometimes it’s hard to balance both. We don’t exactly feel sexy in our leggings and messy mom bun. We don’t feel sexy at the end of the day when we are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from being a mom all day. The truth is we want to feel like ourselves again. We just aren’t sure where we fit in anymore. RELATED: I Fear I’ve Lost Myself To Motherhood We know the kids only stay...

Keep Reading

Until I See You in Heaven, I’ll Cherish Precious Memories of You

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Toddler girl with bald head, color photo

Your memory floats through my mind so often that I’m often seeing two moments at once. I see the one that happened in the past, and I see the one I now live each day. These two often compete in my mind for importance. I can see you in the play of all young children. Listening to their fun, I hear your laughter clearly though others around me do not. A smile might cross my face at the funny thing you said once upon a time that is just a memory now prompted by someone else’s young child. The world...

Keep Reading

Friendship Looks Different Now That Our Kids Are Older

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Two women and their teen daughters, color photo

When my kids were young and still in diapers, my friends and I used to meet up at Chick-fil-A for play dates. Our main goal was to maintain our sanity while our kids played in the play area. We’d discuss life, marriage, challenges, sleep deprivation, mom guilt, and potty-training woes. We frequently scheduled outings to prevent ourselves from going insane while staying at home. We’d take a stroll around the mall together, pushing our bulky strollers and carrying diaper bags. Our first stop was always the coffee shop where we’d order a latte (extra espresso shot) and set it in...

Keep Reading