Katie...Mom 2 (or too).
This post is part of a series I'm calling The Mother's Project, where I will be highlighting the incredible moms in my life throughout the month of May. Check back later this week for more posts!
I picked this photo because it tells you a lot about Katie's life right now. She will probably be embarrassed that I used it because she will say it's too messy. But she has two small children and her life is full of a lot of messes. She patiently picks up toys no less than two times each day to reveal a very clean kitchen, dining room, and living room. And then the kids wake up and make it look like that photo.
Max is my adorable nephew back in the high chair who will only eat everything bagels (which make his breath smell terrible), berries, yogurt, granola bars, cookies and sometimes french fries and carrots. He is basically just a hungry trail hiker.
Katie is holding sweet Addie, my 20-month-old niece who will only take bottles and micro bites of food. (We joke that there is a fat Italian man living inside of her because she only eats pasta and meatballs.) Addie is not a normal almost two year old, but she sure is a special one. She demands a lot of love and attention, but we pretty much think she deserves it. She was only three pounds when she was born and has been playing catch-up ever since. Katie has done everything possibly to give Addie any advantage in life. The best example of this is that Katie pumped milk for EIGHTEEN months because Addie wasn't eating solid foods yet. It's not even grammatically correct to spell it out, but it's so ridiculous that I wanted to make sure people read it. Addie has made huge strides in the past year developmentally and it's fun to watch our doll grow into a big kid.
Katie is my oldest sister and my closest friend. My other sisters and I call Katie "Mom 2" because she was basically a second mother growing up. Not that our real mother wasn't perfectly capable, it was just that Katie was an incredible supplement, an assistant if you will. (All mothers of five kids should get an assistant, yes?) Katie was a natural-born mother. She dressed us, played with us, read us books, fed us, and I even remember a time when she mixed toothpaste with water and said we had to use that because we were little. When we were older, she came to countless soccer games (she even coached our middle school team!), celebrated every single birthday with us, and drove us around.
Katie was the one that taught us about tampons, boyfriends, and sex—probably in that order. Patsy could have done all of that, sure, but if Mennonite moms have a weakness, it's probably in those conversations.
I wish I could transplant you all into my 12-year-old brain so you could hear my thoughts about Katie then. She was in college and I thought she was simply the coolest person alive. Those bangs, leather jackets, and Birkenstocks were the pinnacle of cool. She always had cool boyfriends, cool Volkswagen cars, and cool friends. I would have done anything to be as cool as Katie.
I now laugh about her style choices back then, but it's still true. Katie is still the coolest person I know. She doesn't measure herself against anyone else. She sets standards for her life and does not care if they are similar or opposite of other people's. She doesn't march to the beat of her own drum in a crazy way—she does it in a way that makes you want the confidence and contentment she has found. I feel like most women I know struggle with finding comfort in their own skin or with comparison. Katie might be the only woman I know that seems truly comfortable and assured. It's like a daily refusal to be anything but happy. It makes being around her kind-of addictive.
She doesn't know this, but everyone feels that way about her. She isn't a loud or boisterous person. She will never command attention or demand much from anyone. But every single person in her life can tell you about the calm she has brought them. (And the laughter. She's really just so clever.) Katie has a gentle kindness and is attentive to 100% of the people in her life. She never yells or snaps or speaks rudely. It's just not in her nature. She is the kind of friend that people crave and need.
If there is anyone that can talk me off a crazy ledge, it's Katie. She has loved me more honestly than anyone else in my life, never afraid to tell me when I need to change my attitude, perspective, or expectations. The only person I trust more than her in the world is my husband. Her wisdom has always guided me toward a better version of myself, constantly making me examine my motivations and the root of my hurts and frustrations. She has always been willing to enter into the difficult spaces of my life and can usually talk me into laughing on the other side.
I think Max and Addie are the luckiest 3- and almost-2-year-old I know because they get to be mothered by her. She's been doing it for me for almost 28 years now and it's a delight to see her with her actual children. It's like she spent the first three decades of her life practicing and now she has stepped into the role perfectly suited for her, the one that was waiting for her. She's just one of those women that motherhood looks so good on. Watching her parent is one of my most favorite things in the world and I think it's one of the main reasons I get homesick.
Though her kids are so young, their love for her is already so apparent. They are sad when she leaves, but they trust her enough to have fun with the people she left them with. I know Katie and her husband Jon will raise them with a deep appreciation and gratitude for the life they have. There will be no entitlement or whining in that house. But oh ... will there be so many hugs and long conversations about why life is good and so.much.love.
I'm having a hard time ending this post because my relationship with Katie is still a daily sister/friend/mom exchange. All I can say is that if you don't have a Katie in your life, I suggest you find one. Mom 2 is an underutilized and necessary role to play and I could cry from happiness that I got one.
(I love you Katie. Let's be honest, so does everyone.)