Category Archives: Family

Dear Addison: Three Years + Three Months

Dear Addison,
We ran to the Halloween store to pick up a lace fan you needed for a Spirit Week outfit last week. The fan has since been ever-so-delicately Scotch-taped together because I made the mistake of giving it you in the car, but I digress. It was approaching lunch time, so we went to Chick-fil-A for their nuggets and air conditioned play area.

After polishing off your meal, you skipped off to play while I stayed at our table with Asher, watching you through the glass wall. You scaled the apparatus quickly, waving to me from the very top, a proud smile beaming on your face.

After a few minutes I went into the play area for the last leg of play time. I didn’t spot you for a bit, and then one of the other kids said, “She’s crying.” And after some probing (5-year-olds aren’t the most expansive conversationalists), I realized he was talking about you, “the girl in the green shirt.” And then I heard you crying at the top of the jungle gym.

I tried to speak to you, but all the voices in the tiny space bounced off of all the surfaces, jumbled together, making it nearly impossible to hear you. But I knew the cry. You were scared. You wanted me to appear at your side, let you curl onto my body and scramble safely back down together.

For lots of reasons—the narrow opening between the platform steps, Asher being left alone, my inflexibility and poor lung capacity—I wasn’t prepared to climb up to you.

Another mom sweetly tried to coax her older son to help you down, but in the middle of that debate, someone said, “She’s coming down. That girl is helping her.” Sure enough, I caught a flash of your green shirt, and then your tummy as Caroline, your new friend and my new hero, tugged on your top to keep you moving ahead. You were doing it. Caroline was making sure.

After much effort, there you were at the last descent, only dangling legs and two sets of dirty little girl feet with chipping toenail polish. You didn’t want to drop that last inch. You couldn’t see the step, and you couldn’t feel it, no matter how hard you stretched your tiny toes toward the floor. I told you it was RIGHT THERE. I promise, if you let go, you’ll land on your feet. And you did it. You squirmed, millimeter by millimeter, until those soles touched the ground.

Of course, as I stood fighting back tears at my embarrassment of not being your rescuer, of all the things I was certain everyone must think about me, of what you must think about me, you didn’t waste a second worrying. You were off, tagging along right behind Caroline, on to the next adventure.


So that’s what a lot of the past year has been like for us. To me, it has felt like either I was fighting my own battles and mentally distracted, or I was pregnant and physically exhausted and disconnected from you. I have felt both drawn to you as your rapid changes and maturing reminds me what a blip we have together, and also stuck in my own head, unable to fully match your unquenchable energy.

But oh, what heroes we have in our corner. Our village has been friends who have raised kind, thoughtful little boys who are some of your most favorite people; grandparents who will move heaven, earth, schedules and overflowing chocolate milk to spend time with you; an uncle who adores you and a daddy who embodies selfless, unconditional love.

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It’s been a roller coaster. Not necessarily a fun one, or a thrilling adventure. Just plain scary and overwhelming and unstable. A big part of me looks back at the past year and worries about the time I wasted, wondering if you will remember that person, that version of me. I hope that you don’t. All of my effort and energy spent getting back to a healthier, more whole me is motivated by being a mom and a woman that you can be proud of, a person that you’d want to emulate, a presence that you’ll always want in your life.

Reflecting back now, I realize how much change was thrown at you in such a short period of time. Pre-school, potty training, a sibling. We all certainly know I haven’t managed my chaos with any semblance of sanity, so your quirks must be expected.


But you were a pretty interesting version of you for the past 18 months, too. Probably not one that we’d ever choose, if able. You hit toddlerhood hard around 20 months and never looked back. I kept waiting for the taper, and it never came. Tantrums—intense, lengthy and frequent—colored our days, every day for awhile. I believe we’re out of those woods. For the most part, since Asher arrived, you haven’t maintained that level of impossibility. There are certain moments, and certain days, but the pervasive displeasure has waned, thank God.

Sure, there were lots of things your Daddy and I could have done better or differently to ease some of the issues, but I really think that your third year was the perfect storm of personality, developmental changes, growing independence and frustration with my decreased participation when I was pregnant. And you know what? We still made it. A bit worse for wear, but here we are. Still moving, still laughing, still snuggling.

IMG_7683Your tastes change with the days, so it’s nearly impossible to name a favorite food outside of cake, the only food group with any staying power. I’m always worried you’re not drinking enough water.

We thought we nailed the potty training in a few weeks’ time. We were wrong. Like all the other developments in your life, you called the shots and regressed for a few months before deciding that you were good and ready to commit to a life without pull-ups. And once that’s what you wanted, it was smooth sailing, to the point where you now try to lock me out of the stall in public bathrooms because, back off mom, I can handle this.


The term threenager exists for good reason. You are three going on 23. You’ll pick up on sarcastic phrases and voice inflection and use them right back at us in the appropriate context. Some examples: “Have you lost your mind?”
“I didn’t see that coming.”

It’s a little tricky to discipline you for adopting our way of speaking, but don’t worry—we still do. I am a little glad that you get it, though. We are going to banter like it’s our job when you are a real teenager.

I am at a complete loss as to how to manage your unruly hair. Your Daddy and I can’t bear to cut off the curls, so we let it fly and tangle and frizz for now. You’re quite opposed to any styling or combing, so usually it’s a hair clip or a loose ponytail and you’re off. You don’t want anything that may make you “like a boy.”

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You love princesses, pink and parties; your BeeMa, PawPaw and Kunkle; girls’ night with a movie and popcorn; any night with a move and popcorn, actually; running, roaring (at friends and strangers) and racing your Daddy; Max and Everett to the moon.

A park

When you wake up in the morning, you put on an entire outfit, complete with shoes, before coming out of your room. It’s always a dress, and always the most sparkly shoes. So now I lay out your clothes the night before, and by the time I’m awake, you’re already dressed for the day. That’s one small way I’m learning to work with your personality rather than fighting it. Because let’s be real: you’re already so much stronger and braver than I am, Addison Brooke.


When I worry about my failings, the full depth and magnitude of all the “what if I’d done this” labyrinth, your very presence assures me that I have not failed in the ways that matter. I have not given up. I have not given in. I have not un-loved you for one second. My heels are dug deep in the soil of this season, holding steadfast to the most basic, most calming truth that we are in this together, in this forever.


Like most things right now, I wish I had more time. Time to keep telling you how spectacular I think you are. A beautiful, infuriating, hazel-eyed whirlwind of raspy giggles, sweaty curls and bruised knees. Running around the playground in shoes that are supposed to be for church. Walking into the mall with a “Sophia the First” purse on your shoulder. Furrowing your eyebrows at me from the the back seat. Wanting everyone at the park to play with you and not understanding when they won’t chase you. Calling me a princess when I put on a dress. Holding your palms up to mine to examine all the ways our outlines are so similar and how much space you have left to grow into this world of womanhood.

addie blue dress

You are fire and strength and power. You are sensitive and silly. You are strong-willed and independent, girly and mischievous. You are a little girl that I am so extremely proud of. You make our lives louder and crazier. You make our family bonded in the battles of raising a tiny dictator. You make our minds alive with thoughts of the greatness you will achieve when you harness all that brilliance. You make our love well-worn and sturdier. And you make my heart so very full.

From My Whole Heart,

addie mall

Dear Asher: Four & Five Months

Dear Asher,
A few weeks ago you turned four months old! And I kept thinking about how I needed to write you a letter, and then all of a sudden you are five months old.


You’re still snoozing well at night with one wake-up around 3 or 4 a.m. You’re growing like a weed but shaped more like a tree stump.

You are noticing people and things around you, and your favorite faces are Addison’s and Maya’s. Addison makes you jump and squirm with excitement, and Maya’s shaggy, always-slightly-damp, furry face fascinates you. You patiently let her sniff your legs and lick your ears. I hope she returns the favor when you become mobile.  

IMG_9534You can’t crawl, but you are still a rolling force to be reckoned with. I had to buy mesh bumpers for your crib so you’d stop waking up with your limbs stuck. Two rolls and you’re off the play mat, wobbly head looking around, big gray eyes blinking in confusion, wondering where all that giggling is coming from.


One thing I knew I wanted to tell you this month is the story of your name. I suggested Asher several months before you were born, and your Daddy and I both liked it. We weren’t totally sold, but we kept it at the top of the list. As your arrival became closer and closer, we narrowed the list down to two names. Your dad was all about “Asher.” I kept waffling, and we even arrived at the hospital without knowing for sure what we’d call you. To help me decide, I looked up the meaning of the name.


Your name means happy. I couldn’t help but love the idea of planting such a simple but transformative foundation for your life. I am not perky, not overly bubbly or cheery. But you, my little light, are so very happy. You are content and calm and the picture of happiness. Of course there are many months and years ahead for you to discover death metal and black eyeliner, but these past few months have been filled with the radiance of your pure, innocent joy. I want to bottle it or snort it or bathe in it—whatever is less weird. Basically, I can’t get enough.

IMG_9468From the moment I come to scoop you out of your crib in the morning, your day is filled with gummy smiles, delighted squeals and calm observation. You have lived up to your name more than we could have ever thought, and I’m certain you were always my Asher. When my reserves are running thin, and I’m scraping at rusted tin trying to scoop out some joy for the day, you have so much to spare.


Thanks for all that happy.


From My Whole Heart,

Dear Asher: Three Months

Dear Asher,

Last week you turned three months old! Hooray!

You are not lacking in rolls or cheeks or cankles, my sweet boy. You are all pudge, and I am all in love with it. You are a great sleeper and only wake up once at night to eat. I’d say that sleeping through the night would be preferable, but we’ve been hanging out in this 3 a.m. wake-up phase for so long I find myself awake before you start fussing many times. I will get some eye rolls, but I think I might miss those overnight dates when they are gone. Just you and me in the stillness and peace, holding onto one another.

asher couch3

You are starting to find your voice and will coo and squawk when you get worked up, usually on your play mat when that hanging elephant gets on your last nerve. You’re also sitting in the Bumbo and your exersaucer now! What an exciting life you lead. You will entertain yourself for a little bit in all these contraptions, but your most favorite activity is hanging out with someone who will talk and laugh with you. You seem pretty social and a lot of times I think you fuss simply because you want some company.

asher bumbo3

This month you are an official roller-over! I’ve forgotten every word of every parenting book or article I’ve ever read, so I have no idea if this is advanced or weeks behind, but you’ve definitely mastered the back to tummy roll. More than that, you are a MOVER. Every night, without fail, I will come in to feed you and find you squished right up against the crib slats. A stray foot or arm has been stuck several times. You may even sleep through the night if you had a California king sized crib and could roll and scoot all night long with no obstacles. But don’t hold your breath, champ; Mama is still stuck in a queen bed.

Your smiles stop my heart, and every now and then they come with a lilting squeak that must be the soundtrack for joy itself. You are such a happy baby, and I cannot tell you how beneficial that has been over the past month.

asher bed5

I will tell you the truth, little man: it’s been challenging in this place with you and Addison. My optimism slowly dissipated into feeling overwhelmed and burdened with the weight of two lives and two schedules that seemed to require the sacrifice of mine. It’s not that I don’t love being your Mama—I absolutely do—it’s just that I am having a difficult time remembering who I am outside of that.

But in the midst of that struggle, you are here with bright, cheery eyes that tend towards blue; full, pouty lips that move to mimic mine; your Daddy’s rounded nose; chubby feet that kick and squirm incessantly and the sweetest, most patient temperament. In these three short months, you have seen me at my worst more than I’d like to admit, and still you seem to say, “It’s okay, Mama.”

asher red shorts6

If I hold you with arms that are weak and frail, you don’t want to get down. If I curl you into shoulders that are heavy and slumped, you still nuzzle into them without hesitation. If I look at you with eyes full of tears, you still know who I am. You still come alive with recognition and delight, and that, little Asher, has been a saving grace.

I know that my voice and and my smell and my face help define your world right now. That responsibility is ever-present in my head. But I also know that your staccato sounds, warm smell and sweet smiles have anchored me in the here and now this month. You have helped me rediscover the simplicity that I have been craving and the joy I was afraid wouldn’t be found. On dark days, you have been such a beacon of light in my life, in our home and in our family.

asher smile

Looking ahead, I already know the sunnier days are waiting. I am so grateful I get to share them with you.

From My Whole Heart,

To mothers. To me.


We know, but I want to remind
to myself, mostly,

because, yes, we chose this journey towards and along tiny hands, tiny hearts,
huge personalities.

But we mustn’t love every second of it
to love our children every second.
We mustn’t pretend to cherish certain days
to know we cherish this life.

This living ain’t easy,
and we don’t have to act like every moment is magic.

But let’s agree that every moment is a privilege.

Our choice to embrace this role was
a promise
that we would accept the awful,
and appreciate all the mess in between the magic.
A promise to look beyond
while doing all we can to not miss
right now.

I will be remembering my promise today.
Through gritted teeth,
I will thank God for this privilege of motherhood.

And I will be wiping a lot of butts,
wading through a lot of tantrums and
taking lots and lots of deep breaths.

We can do both.
That’s exactly what makes us these magical mothers.

brenda nat addie asher

Five for Friday

In honor of Addison’s birthday week, here is a special birthday edition of the weekly round-up! I hope all of her birthdays are filled with so many of her favorite things.

1. A birthday birdhouse. We took Addison to Home Depot and let her pick out the colors. Surprisingly, the mess wasn’t the Lilly-Pulitzer-meets-Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre disaster I was anticipating. We still have to buy bird food and put it out in the yard, but I think those birds are really going to enjoy feasting in such a bright, whimsical abode.

addie birdhouse

2. Sliding and bouncing with friends on birthday morning.

addie slide2

3. A very serious tattoo application. Clouded by the excitement of a free birthday tattoo, she pointed to the first one she saw: a skull and crossbones with spikes coming out of its head. Thankfully Addison allowed me to steer her away from her initial choice and she landed on a slightly less horrific bear with hearts.

addie tattoo4. Followed by tailgating with massive cupcakes and frosting for days.

addie frosting5. The birthday girl was able to choose between dinner at home (I even offered pancakes!) or going to “the restaurant.”

addie walrusWe ended the night with “Shrek” and a very flexible bedtime. This fantastic week is going to be capped off with a party this weekend. Birthdays are the best, especially when I get all the celebratin’ with none of the aging. Have some cake for Addison!

Dear Asher: Two Months

Dear Asher,
Last week you turned two months old! You get cuter and chunkier with each week!

You’re still so content most of the time, and I sometimes can’t believe how calm and happy you are. You are a smile factory when someone is talking to you, cooing and trying your best to talk right back. The squeaks and squeals are too much to handle.

asher smile1

You still hate the swing and the car seat, the two devices that saved my sanity with your sister, so logistically you’re a little more of a challenge during the day. Our options are limited to holding you or propping you up on the Boppy to chat until you can sit up on your own. Don’t worry—that’s a task you’re already working on and seem pretty determined to master soon.


It’s already been a busy summer for you, and this month we celebrated Father’s Day and Independence Day. Plus, you had your first trip to the zoo! Clearly, you were thrilled.

asher zoo2

And your first trip to the children’s museum, but you didn’t have the best view.

nat museum tula

With the whole family infatuated with Addison, I wondered how adding you to the mix would change things. Let me just tell you, little man: you could not be more adored by every single person who has met you, and even some who haven’t had the chance yet. Battles ensue over your snuggles and smiles, just as they should. No one can deny the draw to the chub.

c ash hanksIG

Even your sister is slowly becoming an ally with “baby Asher,” though I am in no rush to be on the business end of her evil genius combined with your brute strength.

I took Addison to the playground the other day, just the two of us, and we were the only ones there. On the way home, I told her how much fun it was going to be once you were older: she would always have a friend to play with at the playground. I am eagerly looking forward to those days, with the pair of you screaming and chasing and tagging and making the sweetest (and some sour) memories, just like I did with my brother.

But not yet, okay? I am not ready for those squishy thighs to straighten out, or that wobbly head to stay upright just yet. I am having too much fun with baby Asher. I am caught off guard by how much I enjoy being needed this way again, how hearing my voice or feeling my arms can comfort you when no one else’s can. When my shoulder is what that nuzzling nose is searching for and my sounds are what those gray-blue eyes are reacting to. Running and jumping and playing with you is going to be amazing, I know.

Today, though, I want exactly this moment for just a little longer.


From My Whole Heart,

An al fresco summer

This weekend we got out of the house more than my reclusive tendencies have been allowing lately. Friday night we were considering going out for an early dinner, but Addison snoozed for longer than expected and we got lazy. Enter a crazy idea from Mama: picnic dinner at the park.

We picked up some food and headed to a shaded park (because it was still 85 degrees at dinner time) with some grand plans of summer fun. With the exception of two falls with subsequent meltdowns, one flat on the mulch tantrum, one bruised cheek, three ant bites on my foot, one mosquito bite on the infant, one wasted kids meal and an hour late bedtime, it was a complete success.

park dinner

Despite the inevitable difficulties, I keep thinking, “This is it. These are the nights and moments that you will look back on. What will you remember?” I know my life is not the brazen string of exploring and adventures I once imagined. I am happy I had my fair share of those and don’t truly believe I’m fully done with that brand of trekking either.

For right now, though, the exploring hovers close to a suburban, single family home. My adventures involve a packed SUV instead of an overstuffed backpack and overflowing passport.

But these days are no less memorable. In many ways, they are more so. And I want to remember a husky laugh echoing from the swings, a breathless “Mommy, look at me touching the sky!” I want to soak in a summer night that radiates the thrill of breaking from routine, to take advantage of days that pour sunlight over the witching hours and draw us out of a physical and mental hibernation.

I want to borrow my daughter’s immediate agreement to new ideas: “Sure!” And then go. Do. Create. Swing, climb and jump. Maybe not across the world, maybe in no way that garners attention or envy. But in our way, the way that will linger in our minds throughout any looming winters. In the way that these four souls will remember long after the mulch has been washed from stringy, sweaty hair and the ant bites have healed and the bruises have faded and so has the thrill of playgrounds or hanging out with your parents on a Friday night.

addie clayton park2

So yes, it was muggy and strenuous at times and my toes itch like no one’s business right now, but it was a really good summer night.

Dear Asher: One Month

Dear Asher,
This weekend you were one month old! These past four weeks went lightning fast, and every time I tried to remember how many weeks it had been since you were born, I was sure I was doing the math wrong.


There was only a small respite before we had to continue on with life. I was sick and had to go to the doctor when you were four days old, we had to take Addison to school a week after you were born. We didn’t have a lot of down time, but you have been wonderfully flexible.

Besides being a little sleepy at first, you’ve been a great eater and had already surpassed your birth weight when you were five days old! Every few days we will look at you and you will seem twice as big as the day before. Your one job right now is to plump up, so way to go, champ!


Days are sort of a breeze. You don’t really cry at all unless you absolutely hate something, and instead fuss a little to let us know when you’re unhappy. You do seem to get bored quickly with the same thing, like the swing or sitting on the Boppy. You much prefer to be held where you can see what’s going on around you. If we really want to keep you occupied, we’ll give you a nice view of the fan, your favorite.


I’d think having to feed you and hold you and reposition you and entertain you so frequently would wear on me—and sometimes it does, of course—but mostly I am relishing this fleeting phase of being needed so completely. I’ve been here before, and I know when it’s gone, it’s gone. You’ll never return to this itty bitty size, you’ll never again squeak at me like this when you’re happy, you won’t stare straight into my eyes with those big, blue-gray, straight from your Daddy eyes and immediately calm us both. I know it’s already slipping from me, sweet boy, and I refuse to miss it.


Nights on the other hand…those are tricky. You are so uncomfortable lying on your back (thanks to a sensitive, still developing tummy) and will grunt and strain and strain and grunt for hours. The noise combined with feedings every two and a half hours is not a recipe for sleep success. I try multiple locations and positions every night, hopeful that eventually we will stumble on a system that works for all of us. No such luck yet, but we’ll get there. I have to keep reminding myself of that around 4 a.m.: we will get there one day.


But hey, at least you’re not screaming.

I only believe that you are my child because I had a front row seat at your first appearance. Otherwise, I’d assume your Daddy handled the whole thing by himself since you look nothing like me and everything like a Noa.


It sounds so funny to say out loud, but you have no idea how much we needed you, Asher. You came on the heels of an emotionally chaotic and complicated time. More than a distraction, you’ve been a grounding force for our family. A lot to take on at eight pounds, but you don’t seem to mind.

I will always be grateful to you for how you helped pull me back into a place of hopefulness and joy. I hoped for you, Asher Wylie. You are my joy, grunts and all.

nat asher kiss2

From My Whole Heart,

Life Lately

Since we’re approaching four weeks with our new little tenant, I was thinking about how we’re adjusting to all the new. As anticipated, the first week with Asher wasn’t really an accurate gauge of true life. He was still all “what the WHAT is going on?!” shell shocked and didn’t make a whole lot of noise. His temperament is slowly changing, and while he’s definitely not a screamer, he seems to be particular. So far he does not enjoy the swing, bouncer, car seat or bassinet for more than a few minutes at a time. That basically exhausts all of our baby soothing and baby sleeping resources, with the exception of my two arms and two other appendages. Nights are unpleasant for Mama.

We’re already becoming second time parent stereotypes, throwing caution to the wind with things like stomach sleeping (usually only during the day), using a pacifier at two and a half weeks and taking the little guy out and about.

I don’t know if it’s the second baby thing or because my labor was so different this time around (birth story is in the works), but I’m finding recovery much more manageable this go around. With Addison, I didn’t even feel like going for a walk around the block until nearly two weeks after she was born. Before Asher was three weeks old, we’d been to multiple doctor appointments, Target runs and park trips. And we’re getting daily walks, either just the two of us or with the whole fam. If I’m not careful, I may do something absurd like consider having another one of these nuggets.

MTA 053

Life is only now starting to resume a little normalcy. The week that Clayton went back to work, my mom came to help on the three days that I had both kids. Unless my dad and I plan to share custody of her, I don’t think that plan will work for the long term, unfortunately.

Thankfully, I’m feeling ready for the challenge of finding our new normal. After wallowing in self pity and exhaustion during late pregnancy, I am so excited to have my energy returning and actually feel motivated, rather than obligated, to be awake and active. I love getting down on the floor to play with Addison again, I look forward to running errands as a family on the weekends. I forgot how vastly different it feels to live in a non-pregnant body. Though I have no idea when they will fit into the new schedule, I am also stoked about taking on some new workouts when I get the green light.

Pregnant work out: lift feet on top of cooler, place feet on ground, take out more water from cooler, repeat.

MTA 083

Basically, I am sort of annoyingly optimistic right now and I ain’t mad about it. We’ll see how long this mood can compete against zero sleep. 

Memorial Day Weekend

We had a lovely, relaxing Memorial Day weekend over here. On Friday my mom and I toted the kids out to the park with my pal and her two boys. Taking two kids out of the house is certainly a chore, but I’m feeling a little more confident with each trip.

Addison expended some serious energy leading to a serious nap afterwards, so mission accomplished. I also had a real conversation and wasn’t wearing pajamas; double win!

Like every night for the foreseeable future, we chilled at home and one of us spent the overnight hours pleading with a two-week-old to stop grunting and go to sleep.

I don’t even remember what we did on Saturday. That’s called confirmation there’d be no interest whatsoever in reading about it.

The major highlight of our Sunday was a family trip to Wal-Mart in a torrential downpour. Life is so glamorous up in here. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Clayton try and explain to Addison what lightning is and why it prevents her from going to the park. Spoiler: she wasn’t convinced about this “electricity in the sky” business. Now I’m really considering writing a Scientific Explanations for Toddlers book. Chapters to include Pregnancy Means Mommy Gets to Sleep All Day, Nutrition: Beyond Cheerios, The Sound Barrier and How Your Screaming Threatens to Shatter It and Waking Up Before 6 a.m. Proven More Harmful than Most Chronic Diseases.

We played the new baby card on Monday and made my family come over for a cook out. Chicken is back in my life and meals are infinitely easier. We had burgers, chicken, baked beans, salad, chips, brownies and strawberry shortcake. For five people. God bless ‘merica.

Themed toddler toes:

addie toesClayton and Addison were the only ones who braved our frigid pool while the rest of us hung out on the deck. The family that selfies together, stays together.

noas selfie

That’s Addie’s hair sticking up under my arm. Looks rather suspect. She’s also in her most favorite pj’s ever because she got a bath at 4:30 and we went rogue and put her to bed an hour early. AND IT WORKED. Air high fives all over the place right now.

That night Clayton and I stuck with the patriotic theme and watched “American Sniper.” My mind cannot comprehend what some people willingly take on out of duty to and love of this country. It was a necessary but sobering reminder of what the day was all about.

mdw flowers