Thermostats

It was our first vacation as a family of five. The trek would involve airplanes and hotel rooms and rental vans, the trifecta of chaos for a young and unseasoned traveling family. I started piling clothes up under the window in our bedroom five days before we left, each child with a designated area for clean and folded pajamas, shorts, tank tops, and swimsuits. To add to that, we had candy, crackers, games and a fully charged iPad.

If there was ever a mama prepared, you were looking at her.

When I woke up on the morning of our trip, the anxiety I had kept at bay with superhero amounts of preparation began to creep in slowly and steadily. I had, of course, thought about how badly things could go with three children on an airplane. The four year old’s excitement could turn into defiant opposition to all listening, the baby’s need for a nap could turn him into a hot mess of epic proportions, and the three year old’s autism was the wild card in the equation: would he panic mid-jetway and throw down all the stops to not step foot on that airplane? Would he start swinging his arms at anyone trying to comfort him? Would he bite? Would he make people stop and stare? Would we all come out of this still liking one another?

As we piled luggage into the trunk of the car, I expressed all of my worst fears and ‘what ifs’ to my husband, hoping that somehow speaking them out loud might magically make them not happen. He listened well and affirmed that, yes, things could unfold in the worst of all possible scenarios, that we could have meltdowns and potty breaks and some anxious biting all at the same time. This long-anticipated trip, despite my efforts to leave no stone unturned in preparation, could all go terribly wrong. “But Babe,” he said, “we are the thermostats here. It is only going to get as bad as our reactions are.”

I knew he was right. We may not have all control over our kids’ behavior, but we are fully in control of our own.

***

Late last fall as the new season brought colder evenings and earlier sunsets, we set the heat in our house to turn on every night. For a few days, it kept us comfortably warm and cozy and thankful for the luxury of temperature controlled homes, but that comfort quickly turned into, well, sweat. My husband woke up at 3 in the morning and threw the bed covers off, complaining about the temperature and quick to go find out who had tinkered with our system. He turned the hall light on and pressed a few buttons, then came back to our bedroom and said, “It is 87 degrees in here, but the thermostat is set at 68. Something is off.”

Yes. That much was obvious.

All three children woke up the next morning with red cheeks and hair caked to their faces, and we called the HVAC repair man as soon as they opened. By the time he arrived just before lunch, the temperature upstairs was in the low nineties and even when we turned the unit completely off, it would not stop pumping heat. After a short assessment, he returned from the attic with red cheeks himself and confidently announced, “Your thermostat is broken.”

Yes. Again, that much was obvious.

“The unit will continue to pump out heat because nothing is telling it to stop; as the temperature rises the thermostat gauge just goes up with it, so we will get someone out here as soon as we can to fix that.”

Three days later, as we slept with windows open to the freezing temperatures outside to battle with the heat inside, we learned firsthand the problem with a broken thermostat: when the heat rises, there is nothing to tell it to stop, there is only more rising heat.

***

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to check in and get to our gate, and had already mapped out which adult would watch each child as we made our way through security and to the airplane. Again and again, we looked at one another and mouthed “thermostats” and then flashed a smile, our tiny reminders to one another that we were ready with calm hearts and minds for whatever our three littles would bring.

As the plane picked up speed and began to lift off of the ground, the three year old did do exactly what we expected him to, and his anxiety got the better of him. He cried and yelled and signed with his tiny hands ‘all done’ over and over again. He wanted to be anywhere but that airplane, yet there was nowhere he could go. And my husband held him tight, rubbed his back, and looked nowhere but at him for 25 minutes, until he fell fast asleep on his daddy’s chest. The thermostat did its job.

And later in the trip, when the sun and the swimming and the long days of fun took their toll on an exhausted four year old little girl, on the same morning the baby had been awake since before 5 a.m., our hotel room became a disaster zone before breakfast. So much of being a parent is being constantly tempted to respond to our children with the same kind of behavior they are showing—isn’t it a bit amazing that a four year old can actually make me act like one myself?

Motherhood, over time, put some wear and tear on a thermostat.

But in the midst of that chaos, of two loud and whiny children and one on the ground with his knees tucked up under him in his ‘make it stop!’ posture, we kept reminding each other of the thermostats, of our ability to be mom and dad and to endure patiently rather than reacting angrily at each other (which usually happens first) and then angrily at the children who reason at the level of, well, children. Thermostats don’t have much work to do when the temperature is perfect, but we need them desperately when the climate changes. Maybe that’s the whole point: we don’t really even notice that the thermostat is doing its job until it breaks.

Our trip did not go off without a hitch. We had tantrums and meltdowns and at least one more three year old anxiety attack that would not quit. But oh, it was amazing, not because it was perfect but because it wasn’t, and we still managed. Like stagehands with cue cards visible to the actors from anywhere in their performance, our whisper of ‘thermostats’ became our daily reminder of what we needed to be, of what we were capable of doing.

I hope that my family remembers our trip like I do, with images of laughter and moments of chaos and all the best things that real life with real children is, and with five people who did indeed come out of it still liking one another. And I hope over a lifetime, until they are old enough to raise their own children and look back at the kind of home they were brought up in, to pick out what they want and what they do not want to replicate in their own way, I sure hope they see, purely and simply, a mom who was there and present and steady, who was just doing her job—in all kinds of temperatures.  

The Girlfriends' Guide to Underthings

This post is sponsored by Soma, a company we love and trust. 

Ladies, we’re not going to sugarcoat it. The state of our collective unmentionables drawer has been … lacking in recent years. You could probably trace it back to that first pregnancy. We remember strolling through the maternity clothing store and being mystified by maternity underwear. Shirts and pants, obviously, and we outgrew our bras by the end of the first trimester. But why would one need maternity underwear? We might’ve rolled our eyes and muttered something about stores trying to sell eager, first-time moms something they don’t need. Of course, immediately afterward we went and registered for a wipe warmer and two different kinds of shopping cart covers.

We kept on wearing that non-maternity underwear straight up through month nine. They stretched to keep pace, and we patted ourselves on the back for our practicality. We see you, pregnancy marketing people. Can’t pull one over on us!

It was right around the two-month postpartum mark when we realized our mistake. The bleeding had finally stopped and we were able to put the canoe-sized pads away, along with the granny panties we’d sent our husbands to buy in a six-pack at Target the day we came home from the hospital and realized how much we missed those fabulous mesh panties. The baby was napping (in the bassinet!) and we’d just taken an actual, hot shower. We reached for a pair of regular underwear—an old favorite—pulled them on and … they promptly dropped right back down to the ground. Turns out, all that stretching they did was a permanent adjustment and maternity underwear is not a marketing scheme but an actual thing you should buy to avoid ruining all of your underwear.

Lesson learned.

Thoroughly discouraged, we made do. After all, when you’re a new mom, self-care is a hazy concept and the last thing you want to do is set foot in a lingerie store to replace the entire contents of your unmentionables drawer. Plus, we planned on more kids and what’s the point of replacing it when you’re gonna need the stretched out stuff again at some point anyway? Then suddenly, we looked around and realized our youngest children were potty-trained and in their own brand new underwear, and we were still rocking the same sad, droopy drawers.

It was not our proudest moment.

While we’re confessing, let’s talk about bras. True story: at our Sacramento book launch weekend, we could not stop gushing over Anna Jordan’s adorable maxi dress. The dress was slightly low-cut and a bit open on the sides, and would’ve been perfect over a pretty lace bralette (like this one). But that’s not what Anna wore. She wore a nude nursing bra. Friends, Anna’s youngest child will soon be two. She hasn’t breastfed in almost a year. She has zero need for a nursing bra right now.

Her explanation: a shrug and the following statement, “it’s comfy and it fits. Sort of.”

Oh, sisters. Don’t we deserve better than a bra that “sort of” fits? Motherhood is a crash course in humility; we know this. We are, quite literally, brought to our knees daily by these little people we are in charge of. We might have yogurt from breakfast on our shirt and applesauce smeared on our yoga pants, but dammit, haven’t we earned a bra that brings the girls up where they belong? Can we get an amen?

Enter: Soma. Their pretty underthings are just the rejuvenation your lingerie drawer needs. With bras in sizes from A to G, you’re bound to find the right fit. Not sure what your fit is? We feel you. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can completely change your size and shape; most of us are wearing bras that are the wrong size and don’t even realize it. At Soma, you can have a consultation with a trained bra fitter who will measure you and make recommendations based not just on size, but also on style.

We were also thrilled to discover their line of no-show panties, because we’re finally old enough to admit how uncomfortable thongs really are. Soma has truly mastered the art and technology of creating practically-invisible panties that stay where they should. Our underwear collection is officially droop-free, and we couldn’t be happier.

We know what it's like to be a busy mom who puts herself at the bottom of the priority list more often than not. But if you just registered your youngest child for kindergarten in your nursing bra because it’s the only one in your drawer that “sort of” fits, maybe it’s time for an upgrade? 

Keep scrolling for our personal reviews, a link to 20% off your purchase, and a chance to win $250 to Soma!


- our favorite soma products -

Name: Ashlee Gadd

Body type: petite, small-chested

Looking for: pajamas that are not maternity sweats, undies that don’t give me muffin-top, a bralette that also provides support.

Favorite Soma Products:

1) The plunge lace bralette. Since I’m small chested, I can get away with wearing bralettes as real bras. However. Most of the bralettes I’ve tried tend to stretch out after a few wears, and while I feel really comfortable wearing them around the house, I feel less comfortable wearing them out in public, especially when chasing my children around the park. The lace plunge bralette is awesome because it has real bra clasps, adjustable straps, and feels as secure as a regular bra. Perfect foundation for: low-cut dresses and v-neck tanks/tees. These bras do fit small, so make sure to check the sizing guide (I ordered one size up!).

2) The Embraceable Super Soft Hipster Panty. If you HATE underwear cutting into your hips as much as I do, get ready to fall in love with these bad boys. The lace at the top is crazy flattering, smooth against your skin, and gives a nice shape to your waist/hips. Five stars. Get them in every color. These are the most comfortable undies I’ve ever owned. Perfect foundation for: everyday play clothes, mom-ing, leisure and loungewear.

3. The Microfiber Boyshort. Somewhere between shapewear and underwear, these boyshorts are best described as a second skin. Three cheers for zero panty lines! Perfect foundation for: maxi dresses, maxi skirts, fitted clothing.

4The Lace Trim Camisole & Lace Trim Shorts. These are sexy AND comfortable (my favorite combo!). I wear them every single night and while I cannot prove this with science, I swear I am getting better sleep.

Name: Jennifer Batchelor

Body type: tall, curvyish

Looking for: a bra that can give some lift, a great pair of leggings, pajamas that aren’t my husband’s t-shirts.

Favorite Soma Products:

1) Lace Cropped Bustier. I used to think padded bras were false advertising. Now, two kids later, I’m like “give me all the false advertising, please and thank you.” I loved this bra because unlike a typical pushup that has heavy padding on the bottom half of the cup, this bra is lightly padded from bottom to top. It’s not overkill, but it creates a nice shape. No more gaping at the top of the cups and the style works underneath almost any shirt. Plus, it’s pretty while still being functional. 

2) Run Around Rose Leggings. I'm a standard black leggings girl (truth: I have three pairs), so the pattern on these would normally be a little outside my comfort zone, but I actually really love them. They're high-waisted for a little tummy control, thick enough to not be see-through, and great for working out or running errands. 

3) Cool Nights Lace Trim Camisole and Matching Shorts. I cannot overstate how much I love these pajamas. They are comfortable, sexy, and I don’t wake up sweating in the middle of the night anymore. I wish they came in every single color because I would buy them all.

Name: Lesley Miller

Body type: Tall, boyish build (as-in: no boobs, no hips, no butt, but I do have a stretched out tummy from babies!)

Looking for: Pretty pajamas, post-nursing bras

Favorite Soma Products:

1) Vanishing Edge Microfiber with Lace Hipster. I didn’t even know I was looking for these, and yet, they’ve quickly become a closet staple. After years of wearing thongs because I thought I had to, these undies might be the best invention since the epidural. (And I really like epidurals.)

2) The Plunge Lace Bralette. I recently finished nursing and I wasn’t sure what size my post-nursing boobs would be. I originally purchased this bra as a transition piece, but I’ve now officially fallen in love and wear this bra day and night. It’s perfect for under pajamas, but it’s also really pretty peeking out under a tank top.

3) Cool Nights Scroll Burnout Print Cami + Shorts. When I wear these, my husband thinks I’ve put on lingerie even if I’m just ready for a night of great sleep. I consider sexy but comfortable pajamas a total win in this stage of life.

Name: April Hoss

Body type: before baby: curvy on top, not a lot of back; after baby: … TBD (Hi, I'm 40 weeks pregnant).

Looking for: pajamas sexy enough for stay in dates without being full throttle lingerie, pretty bras, workout gear that's cute and functional.

Favorite Soma Products:

1) Cool Nights Tank/Shorts Pajama Set Spotted Rose QuartzI would love these pajamas for their softness alone. They could stop right there and I would be a lifelong fan. But on top of their texture, they are feminine without frills and very flattering. Slip into these after the kids go to bed and enjoy with your well-earned glass of wine. They pair well with evening plans that include staying in them or out.

2) Max Support Contour Underwire Sports Bra. Here is what I want in a sports bra: don't act like a medieval corset, don't give me the dreaded uniboob. Am I asking too much? Not according to Soma. This back clasp wonder keeps all its promises. Everything stays comfortably in place while you enjoy the freedom of working out as strenuously as you please. Put another way: you could chase your preschooler across a trampoline park in this baby without becoming the mom of bouncing boob infamy. Added bonus: adjustable straps.

3) Vanishing Tummy Modern Brief. Confession: I haven't tried on these panties yet because I don't want to make them suffer the aforementioned maternity stretch. But, I will tell you that in person they are soft and lovely and I have every confidence they will be a staple in my wardrobe come summer. I got a nude pair for all my summer whites, but I've already got my eyes on some darker shades come leggings season a few months from now. Adios, thongs from my twenties. I have endured you long enough.


Well there you have it. And good news! Soma is giving C+C readers 20% off their purchase now-May 31st. You better believe all of us are stocking up! Our underwear drawers have never been so happy. Just head to www.soma.com/coffeeandcrumbs to get your discount!

ANNNNND, that's not all! Soma is also giving one lucky reader a $250 gift card (!!!!). You guys. You could practically buy a whole new undergarments collection with that. Don't miss out! Enter below and we'll pick a winner on May 22nd. Good luck!

Second Best Mommy

“Goodbye! I love you! You’re my favorite boy in the world,” I called as my son hopped out of the van on Thursday morning. He adjusted his backpack and flipped up the hood on his sweatshirt because he’s almost six now and knows what looks cool.

“Love you too, favorite mom in the world—“ then he paused and took a step back to the van and peered his face in through the open door. “Actually, second favorite.” He smirked a little, and I pretended to be shocked. “Just kidding,” he said. “Well, maybe I’m not. You know, because I have two moms.”

“Yes, you do.” I said. I smiled because I knew where he was going with this, and I never want him to feel like he can’t say what he’s about to say.

“I mean I don’t remember the first one, but she might have been my favorite, you know? But for now, I guess you can be the first favorite since you’re like my mom mom.”

“Totally,” I said.

He laughed again and hollered goodbye as he trotted over to meet his friends at the playground.

           ***

Five years ago, I held this same boy on my hip and reheated a cup of coffee in the little kitchen of our tiny yellow house by the beach. We were two months shy of his first birthday, and I still didn’t know if we would spend it together. From the bay window, I could see our social worker pull up and parallel park on the street in front of our house. I pulled my coffee from the microwave and walked to the porch to greet her.

The social worker visited about every four weeks back then. We had twice weekly visits with the biological parents in effort to reunify the family. According to the County workers, reunification was the preferred plan. Families should stay together. Parents should be with their children. They should fight for their children. The original biological family is the first choice. I supported that; I signed up for that.

“So we’re still moving towards reunification,” the social worker started as soon as she sat down. Not one for warm greetings, she opened a manila folder and shuffled some paper work around.

I nodded and bounced the baby on my lap.

“We don’t know what will happen with the next court date, of course, but as of right now I can’t see a reason why he couldn’t be back home in the next six months.”

Home. A place in which he had never lived. Not one day. Not one night. Not one minute.

As the social worker spoke, she settled into the couch in my living room. She shifted a throw pillow behind her to ease the pain in her back that, understandably, came from her very pregnant belly. She rubbed her stomach as she spoke. “We really haven’t heard from extended family, but it’s important to exhaust all of our options before we begin considering adoption—should the reunification fail. I know you’ve expressed interest, but you can see why that’s the last resort.”

“Of course,” I said.

At this point, Mason turned around and began chewing on the beads of my necklace. He was teething hard, and just the night before I spent hours pacing the living room, bouncing him in effort to console him back to sleep. When he finally drifted off, the sleep was fitful. We spent the remainder of the night on the couch where the social worker was now sitting.

***

I remember hearing the Parable of the Workers in the book of Matthew in Sunday School. At the end of the story, Jesus says, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

The story itself is challenging, and as adults it causes us to confront our own biases and understanding about judgment and fairness, but the complexity of the story was lost on me as a child. My Sunday school teacher gave some illustration about humility, and ultimately I left class thinking that I needed to let other kids cut in line at the drinking fountain. Whether this interpretation is accurate or not, the association stuck with me and has continued to reverberate in my mind, especially during our foster care years. My whole understanding of fair was confronted, and I’ve continually wrestled with these ideas.

***

On Christmas Eve, I held my raging five-year-old boy on my lap in an upstairs bedroom of my parents’ house. Travel, late nights, anticipation, and frustration had gotten the best of both of us. Sometimes feelings are far too big for little bodies, and my son could not fight all that was roaring inside of him. He screamed and growled, and when he finally calmed his body, he turned his tear-filled eyes toward mine. I wiped his cheeks with my thumbs and hoped we could now have a more measured conversation about why we can only open one present on Christmas Eve … but this fit was so much bigger than toys or Santa or who got the bigger candy cane.

My son took a deep breath and placed one hand on my shoulder. With the other hand, he gently picked up my necklace. Carefully, he stroked each of the three heart charms and traced the initials inside of them. He found the one with his initials and began inching it around the chain. When the heart reached the nape of my neck, he dropped it. He centered the initials of his sisters at my chest and calmly said, “You are not my mother.”

I caught my breath and stared into his deep chocolate eyes. I felt the tears welling up inside me, and I fought the urge to let them flow. This isn’t about me, but also, it was.

You don’t know what you’re talking about, I wanted to say. Don’t you understand what a mother is?

It’s Christmas Eve, I wanted to say. You should be dreaming of sleigh bells and praying for snow! Why can’t you be like other kids? Why do we have to do this now? Why do we have to do this at all.

He turned his face away from mine, and moisture filled my eyes. Whether the time feels right or not, the weight of adoption hangs heavy in the air around us. It fills our home, and this time it was nearly suffocating. The pain that consumed him now rushed inside of me. I couldn’t stop it for either of us. All I’ve ever wanted was to protect him from these feelings, to jump in front of them and stretch my arms wide. For years I’ve tried to stand guard, to protect him for the sadness of his own story, to arch my body over any of the parts that are scary or confusing, to fling myself in front of heartache. But I am too small, and the truth is too big. I cannot stand in front of this, and as I sat there watching the tears roll down his cheeks, and felt the tears stream down mine, I knew that I should stop trying.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” I said instead. “I love you.”

***

Mason’s adoption had been finalized for nearly four years. We had been the last resort, but adoption is the business of last resorts. As Mason tapped the initials on my necklace, I realized that he knew what I’ve always known … maybe he’s always known too but just hadn’t admitted it out loud: I’m not the first choice mom. I knew this in my head, but now I felt it profoundly. I was picked last for this position, and even though it often seems like I was the one who came out on top because I got to keep the baby, we both knew I wasn’t at the front of the list. In the absolutely tonally inappropriate words of Ricky Bobby, “If you’re not first, you’re last,” or at least that’s how I felt.

***

Since Christmas Eve, Mason and I have had this conversation about my role as his mother many many times. Sometimes he’s angry. Sometimes he’s sad. Sometimes he’s more neutral. Every once in awhile the sentiment comes out in a joke.

The birth mother or “tummy mommy,” as my kids refer to her, is a regular point of conversation in our home and always has been. My husband and I have worked for adoption discussions to be commonplace rather than taboo, but I can see why some parents would ban these conversations altogether. In those moments of hard conversation when Mason is working out the challenging details of his life, I want to open myself like an umbrella over top the conversation and catch all the confusion and frustration as it rains down so that it never hits him. But I can’t be that mom no matter how hard I try. There’s a space inside of him that I cannot and will not ever fill, and while I would love for him to never feel that void, we cannot pretend it doesn’t exist. No, my place is no longer in front of his pain. My job is to help him feel the weight of the loss alongside the joy of belonging. We’re past the time for shielding him from what he already knows; this is the part where I step back and let him tell his story.

Still, in between all of those moments of heartache and anger, Mason also declares me the best. The clouds clear and the sun shines bright. He writes me love notes and sticks them to my bathroom mirror. He makes me necklaces during art class at school. He’s affectionate and funny and cuddly … and then … well, the wind changes and the clouds blow in.

The more the pendulum swings, the more I realize he’s just a little boy with a complicated story trying to find a way to hold all of his feelings inside of his heart.

***

Stepping to the back of the line when you’re thirsty is difficult, but if I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that I am not defined by my place at the front—being here at all is a privilege—and I’m not the only one entitled to a drink.


P.S. Don't miss our giveaway of a gift bundle from NuRoo Baby!

#loveyourvillage

Truth: we LOVE reading your posts about The Magic of Motherhood. But, if we're being totally honest, we love watching you give copies to your friends even more!  

Which got us thinking. 

What if there was an official day to gift your friends The Magic of Motherhood with a note thanking them for their friendship? What if there was a day set aside on the calendar to drop books and treats on the porches of your friends as a way to simply say, I'm so grateful you're part of my village?

(You know where we're going with this, right?)

Here at C+C, we're a bunch of gift-givers. We believe in surprises and little luxuries and tangible acts of love and the power of a handwritten card. We believe in friendship -- in real, authentic, living, breathing, always-there-for-you friendship. We believe in encouraging each other, supporting one another, and, as Anna Jordan so eloquently said, that one of the most wonderful joys of motherhood is the other mothers.

Which brings us to: The Love Your Village Challenge. 

Here's how to play: on May 12th, surprise your mom friends by leaving a little gift on their porch. We're planning to drop copies of The Magic of Motherhood + a little treat (a coffee drink, jar of granola, flowers from our backyards, etc), with a handwritten note on the back of these prints thanking our friends for being part of our villages. That's it! 

Want to join us? Grab your books here or here, and click here for the print file!

If everyone in your village already owns The Magic of Motherhood, would you consider blessing a stranger? Think: secret Santa, only better. Traveling? You could hand a copy to the first momma you see shuffling her toddler through airport security. Grabbing drive-thru coffee on your way to work? You could hand a copy to the barista and ask them to give it to the next tired momma who drives through with a screaming baby in the backseat. Whether you're spending the day at the library, the park, an office building or a doctor's office, we bet it won't be hard to spot a mom who looks like she could use a pick-me-up.

Coffee + Crumbs has been around for almost three years now, and while you've certainly learned a lot about us during that time, we've learned a lot about you, too. We know our readers are kind, gracious, creative, and above all else: generous. And we know if anyone can flood hundreds of mommas with love and encouragement next Friday, it's you.

Can't afford to buy extra copies of the book? No sweat. Download the print anyway, pluck some flowers from your yard, and tell a fellow momma that you see her, and that she's doing a great job. If a bunch of mothers hear those words next Friday, we will consider this campaign a total success. 

We'd love for you to join us! If you post any pictures to Instagram, use #themagicofmotherhood and #loveyourvillage so we can see what you put together!