Tuesday, October 21, 2014

that imaginary t-shirt

It's silly but true...one of my life's passions is our state fair. The fairgrounds closed not even two months ago and already, I'm itching for August. I can't get enough of the sticky, greasy, sugary, spicy, frosty, salty foods. I love the rickety, loosely bolted rides. I savor the wide variety of smells - from fresh hay in the cattle barns to corn dogs and ketchup on the midway. But most of all, I love that feeling of togetherness...the fact that our whole state seems to come together for ten days just to celebrate the end of summer and have fun. The people-watching from afar is great, but in recent years, I have loved striking up conversations with strangers at the fair. Whether I'm asking what they think of the walleye taco they're sampling or inquiring as to where they're from, when I'm at the fair, everybody's a friend.





So this past August, on my fourth and final fair day, I was sitting on a dusty curb and feeding Gus a bottle when another couple rolled their stroller up next to me and sat down. The dad took a fresh mini donut out of the white paper bag and tossed it from palm to palm while blowing on it. Then he passed it to his wife who seemed excited to give their one-year-old son his first taste of this state fair delicacy. The little boy devoured it...obviously. The parents smiled to each other and just as I was opening my mouth to comment about how much he was loving it, the mom said, "I wish I was wearing a t-shirt that said - we usually feed him kale."

I closed my mouth.

I had thought she'd be relatable. You know, we were both feeding babies. We were both wearing Keens. But her comment was such a turn-off for me. It came off as so snobby and I had zero interest in playing the mom olympics with her. My kids don't eat kale. I don't even eat kale. Kale is a hassle. So I turned back to Gus and the bottle, feeling very proud of having liberated myself from such heavy societal pressures.

And then a gentle voice from heaven reminded me what I'd been thinking not even five minutes earlier...

I wish people knew that I usually nurse him and that this is a bottle of breast milk.

Boom. Just like that, Mrs. Kale and I were one and the same. I had been wishing an imaginary t-shirt on myself the same way she had, a declaration to the world that "I'm a better mother than I seem to be at this particular moment in time because I...fill in the blank." She and I were both making the same assumptions...that feeding our kids certain things a certain way is what makes us good or not-so-good moms. And that the world cares. Both are false.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I've worn many, many imaginary t-shirts since becoming a mom.

There's the "I have a masters degree!" t-shirt that I've worn in my mind when interacting with smart, professional women who are getting solid sleep at night and don't struggle to come up with basic words like "tooth" or "television" in conversation.

When Harriet had an absolute meltdown at Target and I had to literally carry her out of the store upside-down, I wished I was wearing a t-shirt that said, "This is the first time she's ever done this...no, seriously, it is."

And then there are the really yucky t-shirts...the ones I wish on my kids. Dumb things, like when I am out with one of the boys, I feel compelled to tell people who comment about him or interact with us that he's a twin. It's like I'm wishing he had a t-shirt that says "I'm a twin" on the front and "I have a two-year-old sister" on the back. Heck, might as well throw in a little baseball cap that says "My mom sure is impressive, huh?"

Ugh.

I wish that last paragraph was wearing a t-shirt that said, "Please like me anyway." Or, "I know this is messed up, but I'm working on it."

When I take my daughter to a playdate or ECFE, I find myself wishing that she was wearing a t-shirt that says, "My parents are doing their darndest to teach me to share." Or, "I'm 98% potty trained." It's like I want to throw a precursor out there in case anything goes wrong...in case kid stuff happens. What's with that? Like I expect people to expect her to be perfect? Plus, let's be real. We're all only about 98% potty trained, right?

Some imaginary t-shirts are less self-involved and more about just trying to survive.

After we lost Ethan, I imagined myself into a t-shirt that said, "I'm a mama."

When I was pregnant with Harriet, I wished I had a maternity shirt with "No, this isn't my first" on it.

And even after Harriet was born, I had an imaginary t-shirt for her that said "I'm an IVF baby" to give other infertile families hope.

I know that lots of you are wearing imaginary t-shirts right now. Some of them say "this isn't a baby bump, it's fertility drugs" or "please stop asking me when we're going to have kids." Others say "I could really use a friend" or "Sometimes I feel like my worst case scenario is starting to play out." Some pretend t-shirts say "I'm not dumb/mean/bitter, I'm just so tired." Those aren't the ones I'm talking about today. Those are really legit. Keep wearing them if you need to, and I really hope that if I see you around, I'll really see you and the words on your imaginary t-shirt.

I've worn lots of those t-shirts. And I've unfortunately also worn a lot of the self-involved ones, too. I have to admit that it matters so much to me what people think. I thought I'd outgrow it but I never did. And I think it got worse after having children. That's the thing about kids - they put all of our garbage out there for the world to see and they don't care one bit, which leaves us with a very important choice...Do we double down and care enough for ourselves and our kids combined? Or do we follow their example, strip off that pretend t-shirt and just dance around in our imaginary nakedness?

I hope that I can learn to choose the latter. Because, as a good friend has been reminding me...I have an audience of One. And He is far less concerned with the meals I'm feeding my kids than with the truths I'm feeding them. He's not worried about the cleanliness of my house but rather the purity of my heart. In fact, I think He cares less about my role as a mother than He does about my role as His daughter. 

An audience of One. The kind of audience that gives a standing ovation and throws roses even when I've forgotten my lines, split my costume or straight-up fallen off that stage. Why? Because of that whole daughter thing. Imaginary t-shirt or not, He sees straight through to my heart.

So...what does your imaginary t-shirt say today? And what would it feel like, just this once, to leave it at home?


Thursday, October 16, 2014

sometimes you're washing rocks in the rain and your blog goes viral

One night in late September, Andrew and I were bouncing the boys to sleep in their room. I don't know if it's the darkness, the whir of that white noise machine, or the sleepy sweet baby in my arms that does it, but that's the time when I often start fashioning blog posts in my head. Most of the time, the good ideas vaporize the second I set that baby down, but prayer was something I'd been thinking about a lot, something I really wanted to write about, so after I put Louie in his crib and tiptoed out of there, I sat down at the computer for about five minutes and outlined a post about praying for the parents of the babies that might someday marry my kids. At 5:00 the next morning, I filled in the missing pieces, and later that morning, I put it up on my blog.

I always post my writing on Facebook for my friends and family to see. My mom always shares it. My husband often shares it. Occasionally another friend or two. But that day, maybe eight people shared it, and from there, it just kept going and going. It was exciting and fun to watch my view counter hit 1,000 then 5,000. I was shocked when it hit the big numbers - 10,000 then 50,000 and eventually 100,000. That's when I started freaking out a bit and considered taking the post down altogether. But I knew that people would ask why and I didn't have a good excuse besides, "It was stressing me out."

Emails started rolling in - from grandpas and grandmas, pregnant mothers, seasoned fathers, new moms struggling with postpartum, other twin parents. People were commenting like crazy. And then ABC contacted me. They wanted to post If My Child Marries Yours on their website. I gave them permission to post it, just as I did for few other websites (including one in Spanish and one in Portuguese) and my favorite - a church bulletin.

That's when it really blew up. The boys were napping and I was in the backyard with Harriet, picking rocks out of the grass and helping her wash them under the drain spout. The rain was soaking my hair and the sweatshirt I was borrowing from my husband. A pink rain slicker with legs was giving me instructions, "More rocks, Mom! Here, can you put them in a pile?" I was on a quiet mission to fill a plastic bucket with backyard rocks and all the while, the world was reading my heart.



At one point that drizzly morning, my post was getting 10,000 views about every four minutes. (Andrew kept me grounded by reminding me that half of those were probably my mom.) I could no longer follow all of the shares, likes and comments on Facebook. It felt bigger than I was, certainly must faster, and it was leaving me dizzy. As my audience broadened, the negative comments started coming in. Some were one hundred percent correct, pointing out the fact that my post promoted gender stereotypes. Some comments were downright mean and unfounded. Most were somewhere in between.

I was struck by the fact that people were judging me as a parent, as a Christian and as a person based solely on this one piece of writing - a simple blog post that was really the electronic equivalent of scrawling something on a napkin, written in an unfiltered manner and for a very small audience.

The most common criticisms I got for the post were often posed in the form of a question - What if your child is gay? What if your child doesn't get married? What if your child marries someone with a background that's different from yours? What if your child doesn't have children? A few even questioned whether I would still love my kids if they didn't follow the path my post seemed to lay out for them. While I will not respond to all of the negative comments I received, I very much want to respond to this one, so please listen carefully...

My ultimate dream for my children is not that they are heterosexual, that they marry or that they have children. My ultimate dream for my children is that they will know God and follow Him. Not because I want them to follow in my steps but because I want them to follow in Christ's. Because I know the hope, freedom and transformation that comes only by trusting Him, and the thought of them living and dying without Jesus is more than I can bear.

My prayers for my babies are not dominated by thoughts of their spouses, but rather by thoughts of their character. My main prayer for them, the one I recite over and over again is that they will seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). That they will stand up for those whose voices aren't heard. That they will be kind down to their core. That humility and selflessness will define them. And that most of all, they will walk with God. This, I'm not budging on. This, I will battle all of hell for.

But like I said, at night when I sometimes feel alone, my thoughts go to those other parents who are perhaps doing the same tasks I am doing and to that larger legacy that we might be building together. That vision is something that helps me see past that mile-high stack of dirty diapers and the seemingly endless string of sleepless nights. It helps me remember that the menial tasks I'm doing right now...are important.

I don't moderate comments. You are all welcome to say whatever you want here. A comment would really have to cross the line in order for me to delete it. But a lot of the comments did sting...more than I thought they would have. Those first few days after the post went viral, I kept telling Andrew that I wished it never would have happened. I felt bruised by unkind words and I felt like so many assumptions were being made about me that weren't true. I also felt like my blog had been overexposed and was struggling to feel welcome in my own space. It is going to be a challenge for me to find my true voice again without examining every word for fear of either offending or being judged. In my last post, I wrote Harriet had been drinking a lot of kool-aid...and then deleted it because I didn't want people to point out the fact that she shouldn't be drinking something so sugary and artificial. That made me sad because if I'm censoring myself all the time, this blog is worthless to all of us.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of my very favorite comments were from people who identified themselves as atheists. They said that although they don't pray or believe in the God I follow, they still loved the heart of my post. They picked out things in my post to celebrate rather than nit-picking things that they didn't agree with. I am so sad that all of these commenters were anonymous because I would love to write to them and thank them for choosing to be so positive. I so wish that more Christians would do that. So, my dear readers, if you are a Christ-follower, can you make me a promise? When you read something online, written from a worldview that's different from yours, can you please look for the good? Can you please choose to encourage rather than argue, to find common ground rather than pointing out differences? A friend of mine recently told me that her husband said that he hopes he's never the type of person who clicks "dislike" on youtube. Amen, Nathan. I hope the same thing for myself and my children.

Having a post go viral was a crazy experience. At times, I felt like I was flying and at other times, I felt like I was sinking. What kept my head up? The comments and emails I got from struggling parents saying that the post was exactly what they needed to help them get through that particular day.

Also, I am humbled and grateful that a string of simple words got so many people dialoging about prayer...prayers for our children. And no matter how big that particular post got on that random Tuesday or how absolutely itsy bitsy it will be in the near future...because that's how the internet works...I hope that our prayers for our kids will stay big...and bold...and uncensored.




Two quick things...

1. If you are a "no reply commenter" or always comment as "anonymous," please consider claiming your comments and giving bloggers an opportunity to respond to you directly. There were so many comments - both positive and negative - that I would have loved to respond to, but I wanted to do it via email to assure that they'd read my response and to avoid a public argument when a private discussion would be more appropriate. It was a bummer to not be able to connect with readers more directly.

2. If you are one of the many who stated that you disagree with letting babies cry it out, know that I'm right there with you. Please read these two posts, not because I'm trying to convince you of anything, but because I want you to know the sleep journey that we've been on (or at least part of it).

lullaby and goodnight

sweet dreams

Thursday, October 2, 2014

red

Sunday morning, eight o'clock. Gus cries and wakes me. I double take at the clock. They never sleep in, but of course when they do, we have someplace to be. I hop up fast and jump into high gear. This baby needs to be nursed. So does that one, but we don't have time. Andrew gives him a bottle. I skip stairs on my way up to Harriet's room. Grab clothes and start dressing her, but she doesn't want that dress...melts to the floor in tears. I pick her up, skip stairs on the way up to her room again...way out of breath. Note to myself that I need to start working out.

"What do you want to wear?" I say in my best negotiating-with-a-toddler voice. I'm working hard to stay cheerful. She picks something goofy, too small and rather inappropriate for the weather.

"Perfect! Great choice!" I say and wrestle this child who has mysteriously and suddenly lost all muscle tone into this lousy excuse for an outfit.

I hear Andrew from downstairs, "Why don't you hop in the shower and I'll get the kids ready?" I know, most women would LOVE hearing this. But I'm annoyed because it feels like he's trying to control the situation. We're often late, and he hates that, usually blames me. I do my best to avoid you're-not-the-boss-of-me mode. I'm only moderately successful.

I try to make myself some oatmeal. The dog is in my way. The dog is always in my way. This morning, I'm not in the mood, so I put him out in the backyard where he can roam and explore and run. But he wants back in...very badly. "Fine. Come on in buddy," I say and open the door. He just stands there and about five mosquitos come inside instead.

The clothes I planned to wear? Dirty. Those earrings? Missing in action. That purse? Emptied out on the living room floor. The oatmeal? Totally forgot to pour it into the boiling water. The babies? Crying. The toddler? Not even sure where she is.

I burp Gus while I grab a pack of pop tarts from the cupboard. He lifts his head off the burp cloth and pukes down my neck. New shirts for both of us. Burping Louie, letting the dog out again. "Go outside Murphy. Hurry up," I say while holding the door ajar, welcoming in the rest of the mosquito family. Murphy finally goes outside while Louie shoves the burp cloth out of the way and empties his stomach all down the back of my shirt. Without even thinking, I slam that door as hard and as fast as I possibly can. The thunderous crack echoes in the kitchen, stops Gus's crying and brings Harriet out from hiding. I walk slowly through the intense silence and into my bedroom to change...for the third time in one hour.

I was frustrated. Frustrated...disappointed...such gentle, fancy words for something so plain and simple - anger. I was angry. Boiling mad like the oatmeal-less pot on the stovetop. Furious as the storms that were apparently raging inside my babies' tummies.

I've never been an angry person. I don't mind conflict, probably because the more intense things get, the more calm I get. I've never struggled to stay cool in the midst of relational tension...until I became a parent. In her book Surprised by Motherhood, Lisa-Jo Baker writes that she didn't realize that she had a temper until she became a mom. Same here, Lisa-Jo. Same here.

Maybe it's the sleeplessness. Maybe it's the feeling of powerlessness that happens when you can't get an eight-pound baby to do anything you want her to do. Maybe it's the caldron of emotions that gets stirred when two adults from different backgrounds try to parent the same child. Maybe it's the hormones. Maybe...yeah, pretty sure it's all of the above. And then there are the endless toys everywhere you walk...all of them somehow sharp or squeaky.

My husband's not immune from it. In fact, he's the primary target. I remember when we were having such trouble getting Harriet to sleep, we went for a morning walk. Andrew was full of advice and theories, and I literally had to step to the other side of the path to keep from slugging him. And not in a playful way. I wanted to punch him in the arm and I wanted it to hurt. I was angry. Sometimes, my fuse is short...too short. Sometimes it turns into sarcasm. Sometimes I get loud. Sometimes it's just a seething silence.

We're potty training around here. Have been for quite a while. We've taken a really relaxed approach to it. Partially because we want her to lead and partially because we're lazy. Some days she wants to wear a diaper, and that's fine. Most of the time, she wants to wear her underwear, which is exciting. I'm so proud of her. The other day, she was drinking a lot. She had four accidents in about three hours. I kept asking her if she had to go, and she'd insist she didn't while doing a dance that looked like she was standing on hot coals. I begged her to use the potty. Enter power struggle. I backed down, knowing that this was a battle I couldn't win. All of a sudden, she's standing in another puddle. I already had the boys in the stroller, all ready to go to the park. I didn't want to leave them in the driveway while I got her changed, so I wheeled them into the garage and hurried her into the house.

They were kind of like this...except crying.
I was annoyed. Okay, I was mad, and she knew it.

"I'm not mad that you peed, honey. I'm mad that you keep lying when I ask you if you have to go."

"But Mom, I...no, not those pants!"

I did not have time for this. I ran and grabbed a few pairs for her to choose from. She deliberated for several minutes before announcing her decision. All the while, I'm sighing loudly, rushing her, feeling my face get hot. I put the pants on her and gently push her out the door.

"Mom," she says in her best preschool teacher voice, "It's not a good idea to push kids. And when you use that hard voice, it hurts my feelings."

"Okay, I'm sorry, sweetheart. Let's talk while we walk."

And we did.

I usually find that my temper flares when my self care is low or my sense of self entitlement is getting the best of me. Like when I haven't had time out of the house in a few days. Or when I have insisted on doing the nights by myself for a week straight. Or when I realize that it's 6:00 pm and all I've eaten are some chips and fake guacamole (yeah, when you're eating artificial guacamole, you know it's bad).

Or when I start to think that I deserve this or that, because really, I don't deserve anything at all. And this season - the parenting one - is a season of sacrifice. When I was a little kid, we would sing this song:

Make me a servant, humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant, make me a servant
Make me a servant today.

This has been my prayerful song for the past few months. You'll hear me singing it at the strangest times, all throughout the day. Reminding myself that I'm a servant mama, making sure that while I'm wiping their hands and faces, I'm also metaphorically washing their feet. If I'm able to take good care of myself while maintaining a servant's heart, those red hot angry emotions usually have a hard time besting me.

Here's the thing...I don't think there's anything wrong with anger. It's an emotion just like sadness or excitement or fear. We can't judge it. In fact, I think our kids can learn just as much from our anger as they can from our joy.

Every time we mess up is an opportunity. An opportunity to show our kids that we are flawed, sinful people, and that apologies are some of the most important words we can speak. In fact, the first words I spoke today were apologies - to Harriet for being crabby with her during her bedtime routine last night and to Andrew for...pretty much everything I did and said all evening long. My blog post was going viral and although I was excited, I was also feeling the weight and responsibility of those two million views heavy on my shoulders. I was digging deep to fight off the discouragement that I was feeling from the negative comments. I was exhausted (like maybe five hours of sleep in three days exhausted) and everyone in the family was feeling the prick of my spiny mood. So this morning started with two apologies, both graciously accepted. Harriet even told me that she thinks Jesus is warming up my heart.

That's good news, my girl. Really good news.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

if my child marries yours


If my child marries yours...

I just want you to know that I'm praying for you.

When I'm awake at night - feeding babies, burping babies, giving tylenol to a feverish toddler, covering up chilly toes, tucking green monkeys under little arms - I think of you. Because chances are, you're awake too, doing the same sorts of things. Taking care of tiny children that I already love because they will someday hold the hearts that are beating against my chest tonight.

I'm praying that you'll stand firm against the pressures to overcommit and hyper-schedule, that you'll shut out the voices that tell you you're not doing enough, that your kids aren't doing enough.

I'm praying you'll have the wisdom to know when to pick that crying baby up out of her crib and when to just sit outside her door, your fingertips pressed to the wood, willing her to feel your love and comfort and just finally fall asleep.

I'm praying that you will take those children to church...that the mothers and fathers of our future grandchildren will grow up knowing what it means to worship, even when that means missing out-of-town basketball tournaments and marathon sleepovers.

I'm praying that your love for and commitment to your spouse will swell with each year you're together, that you will grow to love the legacy you are creating just as much as you adore the person you're creating it with.

I'm praying that you take lots of pictures so that I can see where our grandchildren got their sticky-out ears and their mischievous grins.

I'm praying that Jesus will give you just enough strength each day to keep you from losing it but not so much that you forget Who that strength comes from.

I'm praying that we will be friends.

Will you pray those things for me too?

I don't really pray for your child. Maybe I should. My husband does that, and I think it's wonderful. But chances are, your child is just fine. And chances are, a lot of the time, you aren't. Chances are, if you're anything like me, you're very tired. And some days, you get so discouraged. Sometimes, your temper erupts, your selfishness wins, and your smile is fake. Sometimes you forget to change the baby's diaper, to spend time being silly with your toddler, to really see your spouse. So it's you I am praying for right now, in the still darkness, with this baby fist pressed up under my chin and this sweet, sleepy breath on my ear. May you feel these prayers when you need them the most.

We are in this together, you and I. We are building something beautiful with each onesie folded, each invisible owie kissed, each story read.

You don't know how much it means to me that you give your children everything you have every single day...even on days when it's not much at all. Because your child will fall asleep next to mine for fifty-some years. Your child will be the one holding my child's hand when our first grandchild is born. And when they face the darkest days of their lives, it will be your child and mine, facing into the struggle together.

I'm pretty sure that our longest days - the ones that are brim-full with hair-pulling moments, impossible messes, and toddler meltdowns - those are the days that we are fashioning hearts. And someday, one of the hearts I'm helping create will crash into one of your love-crafted hearts, and what spills out as a result of that jolt...it's kind of up to us. I promise to tend to these hearts with utmost care, to plant in them humility and peace and selflessness...especially selflessness. I promise to plant Jesus seeds in these hearts every chance I get. And I promise to keep praying for you.

I'm praying that you will hug your boy tight when he's sad or lonely or scared. Because someday, my girl - all grown beautiful with babies of her own - will be sad or lonely or scared. And he'll need to know how to hold her. Teach him.

And let your daughters hear you speak righteous words that bring life and hope. Because someday, my sons will be worn and weary, and the words you're placing in your daughters' minds today just might become the balm to my sons' souls.

I'm doing my best to do the same. And sometimes...much of the time...I fail. Pray for me too.

Someday we will sit on opposite sides of the aisle...all fancy and with gobs of tissues tucked into our fists. We'll watch our silly, sticky, sweet babies somehow transform into brides and grooms and make the same promises to one another that we ourselves have kept...against all odds and only by His grace. And we will watch these children create families of their own with the ingredients we have given them. The ingredients we are slipping into their souls today.

But until then, I'm sitting here in the dark with babies in my arms.

And I'm praying for you.


Monday, August 25, 2014

advice i give myself

It's quiet in my home right now. All I hear are the rhythmic tic-tocs of two baby swings, the whir of a fan...and a toddler bellowing "moooooommmmyyyyy!" from her crib upstairs. So it's not technically quiet, but it's "resting time" for another fifteen minutes, so that's good enough for me. If you were to stop by for a visit right now, you might be impressed. No dishes in the sink (although the stovetop is covered in pizza crumbs). No puddles of baby puke on the floor (the dog is useful for something). And the laundry is done (my mom did it). Although I haven't showered since yesterday morning, I'm pretty sure I smell reasonably fresh because I took a dip in the kiddie pool last night. And I even made time to weed half the backyard a couple days ago. I'm leaving the left half the way it is so that I can see how far the right side has come. It gives a nice before-and-after affect.

But don't be deceived. Although I may look like I have it all figured out (please sense my sarcasm here), this mom stuff is hard. Some days, it's super hard. Like cry-into-the-fridge hard or snap-at-your-biggest-support-person hard. Some days, I'm nauseous and dizzy from tiredness. Other days, I'm full of self doubt and self blame. Some days are just-make-it-through days and other days are catch-up-from-the-just-make-it-through days.


Thankfully, I've got support. If I hit a tough spot and don't know what to do, there are pep talks everywhere - from people who love me, people who have walked this road before me, people who are just straight-up wise. They give support. They give advice. They give pints of Ben and Jerry's Salted Caramel Core. But there are other times when it's just me, figuring this stuff out minute by minute. And during those times, I give myself a pep talk. I give myself some advice. And I probably eat that whole pint of Ben and Jerry's.

So feel free to listen in. This is the stuff I'm learning every day, the advice I have to give myself over and over to keep myself on track when the (albeit priceless) monotony of motherhood starts to become too much.

You might be next - balancing your laptop on your belly as you read this. Or scrolling through these words on your phone as you empty your bladder for the twenty-first time today. You might be freaking out about the fact that you're going to have a tiny little person who relies completely on you. Or maybe you're having twins like I did. If so, I hope you can benefit from these words, not because I'm an expert on managing the littles but because I'm still in the thick of it. It's great to glean wisdom from people who are on the other side - that woman behind you in the check-out line whose twins are twenty-three now. She's got a lot of good stuff to say. But sometimes it's nice to hear from the woman who has a fresh spit-up stain on her shoulder. That's me. Each shoulder, in fact.

So without further adieu, here's the advice I give myself...

1. When you eat, make it count. 

It's hard to find time to eat, so when you do make time to feed yourself, choose something that sticks with you. I never eat breakfast foods anymore. This morning, I had a salmon burger with no bun. Yesterday I microwaved a mini chicken pot pie. The day before that, I think I had a taco. It sounds weird but it helps a ton because it keeps me full longer and gives me a lot more energy than a bowl of cereal would.

2. Remember that dads make lousy supermoms.

Andrew is a fabulous dad, but he's not a baby person. In fact, the other day, he said that if he could just press a button and have the boys be two-year-olds, he would do it. And I believe him. Because all of the baby stuff - it's not his thing. He's more of a wrestling, swimming, bike-riding kind of dad. The other night at about two o'clock in the morning, he was burping Louie, and Louie was screaming. "He wants you to stand up," I said. But Andrew just sat there with his eyes closed and continued to burp him. After another fifteen seconds of screaming, Andrew stood up and Louie calmed right down. "I hate that he gets to pick," Andrew said. And I started to laugh. "He's a baby!" I said. "He always gets to pick! That's how it works!"


Another example - until recently, if the babies didn't need to be held, he probably wasn't holding them. This completely broke my heart in the beginning, but it's getting much better. Mostly because he's getting better about picking them up, especially when he can put them in the baby carriers and stay busy around the house. But I'm getting better too. I have stopped expecting him to approach parenthood the way that I do. I love the snuggling, blowing raspberries on their bellies, singing to them. And I want him to be just like me. But he's not. And in some ways, that's a very good thing. We went through these same issues with Harriet and I actually cried about it a lot. But this time around, I have a better perspective because I've seen him grow and come into his own as a dad with each month of Harriet's life. And seeing that happen reassures me that he will have a wonderful relationship with the boys as well. He may not be supermom when the boys wake up in the middle of the night, but he is certainly Harriet's superhero. Any time we encounter a broken toy, a burnt pancake or a heavy box, she looks to her dad for help. The other day while we were stuck in rush hour traffic, she said, "Mom, call Daddy and tell him to come and move all these cars." I love hearing that. I love that she thinks her dad can do anything. So I'll let him be the superhero, and I'll just be plain mom.

So if your baby is still tiny and you're heartbroken because your husband doesn't hold and stare at her for hours, take heart. Even without knowing your husband, I can almost guarantee - it will get so much better.

3) Get help.

If you have family or friends or anyone nearby who is willing to help, let them. Seriously...LET THEM. Resist the temptation to do it all alone because you will become tired and bitter and your kids will suffer. Here's an ugly truth about me - it's really easy for me to fall into the trap of playing the martyr. But when the boys were born, I forced myself to accept help from anyone who offered it. And I'm so glad I did. I'll admit - it can be tough to have people in your home all the time. It's embarrassing to have my dirty house exposed and have my laundry folded by someone else, especially because I still occasionally wear the massive underwear I was wearing at the end of my pregnancy, even though I'm now sixty-some pounds lighter. (Hey, they're comfortable.) But it's worth it. I have felt so blessed by those who have come over to my house, sat in the middle of the mess with me, and loved on my kids. Whether it's been a one time thing or a weekly commitment,  I couldn't be more grateful.

Do not be impressed. We literally use about four cloth diapers per week. 

4) Don't get help.

Sometimes, you just need to do it on your own. There's going to be crying and nothing will get done that isn't necessary for survival, but you have to do it anyway. When I take the kids out on my own, I often question why I'm doing it. It's usually a disaster. But I need that boost of confidence that comes from facing into the chaos and saying to myself, "I can do this."

5) Don't play the mom-olympics.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when we're out with our kids and somebody says, "Wow! Three kids two and under? You're sure busy!" I don't know why, but it just bugs me. I want to say back to them, "All parents are busy, whether they have one child or ten." Or when another mom starts to share some parenting struggle with me and then invalidates her own experience by saying something like, "Well, I'm sure I have nothing to complain about compared to the work/sleep deprivation/diapers/whatever that you handle on a daily basis." I find myself doing it too - minimizing my problems when talking to a mom who has more kids than me or whose kids are younger than mine. Especially in the multiples community, it's like you get extra points for having more kids or for having them close in age. It reminds me of the "degree of difficulty" component of gymnastics. You get more potential points based on how challenging the elements of your routine are. We act like motherhood works the same way. FYI - it doesn't. And when we think that way, it devalues the experiences of moms who have one child (or two) and are struggling to manage the day-to-day stuff.

So if you're tempted to measure a mom (yourself or somebody else) by how many kids they had in how many years, stop yourself. A woman may have one child and no partner, no friends, no nearby family, no savings account. Or a woman may have lots of kids and two full-time nannies. Thinking competitively makes us unapproachable and makes it very hard to support one another.

6) Don't miss Jesus.

Sometimes motherhood feels really, really hard. Like when I've only had maybe three hours of sleep broken up in four chunks and I realize that the sun is rising and I have a whole day ahead of me. Or when a baby just won't stop crying. Or the toddler seems incapable of obedience. Or when I'm adding things to my to do list with the full knowledge that they will never, ever get done. Those are the times that I can start to feel stuck, almost claustrophobic. But that's where He is. Jesus is right there in the midst of those moments and I have noticed that the more my day-to-day life seems to fall apart, the more I need to lean on Him. I've started to recognize those moments of defeat as gifts because they bring me to my knees in humility and prayer. The opposite is true too...

Two Sundays ago, I got the kids to church on time all by myself. Andrew was up north for the weekend and was meeting us there. To be completely truthful, I got lucky. The boys slept in so that I had time to shower, do my makeup and hair, pack the diaper bag, and dress and feed Harriet. Plus, Harriet watched TV for about an hour. When the boys woke up, I had bottles ready and was able to feed them, dress them and get them into the car in about twenty minutes. We literally hit every green light on the way there and we found a great parking spot. Harriet cooperated like a little angel (an extremely rare occurrence) and neither of the boys cried when I put them in their carseats. I checked the kids into their rooms and met Andrew in the sanctuary. He was impressed and told me how pretty I looked. He couldn't believe I did it all by myself and got us there on time. But as the music started and those around me entered into worship, I had such a hard time finding that place of communion and friendship with God. I was still pretty impressed with myself. And I realized how hard it is to have a worshipful heart when we feel like we have it all together. For me that Sunday, it was impossible. I had to spend the worship portion of the service asking God to humble my heart and remind me to rely on Him. All it took was one "successful" morning to turn me from someone who gropes for Jesus hour by hour into someone who is patting herself on the back while those around her worship. So bring on the tough days, bring on the failures, bring on the train wrecks. I'm not interested in perfection if the cost is that high.

So don't miss Jesus. Look for Him in the most impossible, frustrating, defeating moments and He will always be found. Even better than that? He will give you the strength that you need to face into each and every day, no matter how tired you are, how emotional you feel, or how much you need a vacation.

Every single day, He will renew your strength.

So that's the advice I give myself. Well, some of it. I have a sign on my wall that says "we can do hard things." I intended to use it as a reminder for my kids when homework assignments get tough or when they have to wake up early or face an especially mean kid at school. But I'm finding that I'm the one that needs that reminder on an hourly basis these days.



Hard things...but good things. So, so good.

I'll end by throwing in a few pictures we've taken this summer, in totally random order.

Meeting my grandparents for the first time...my grandpa is over 100 years older than Gus and Louie! Read their story here







impromptu picnic at the park

proud girl right after catching her first fish 
Gus looks teeny in this picture but it's just the camera angle. 




Monday, August 4, 2014

strike a pose

I said I'd never do it again...too much stress, too much time, too much baby poop everywhere...but we did it anyways. Newborn pictures. It was messy and chaotic and loud. Harriet toppled off the chair that the photographer warned her to get off of. Andrew had to drive the boys around in the car for twenty minutes half-way through the shoot to get them to stop screaming. We got a fair amount of poop on the beautiful quilt my mother-in-law made. We shoveled endless amounts of candy into Harriet's mouth in an attempt to get her to smile. Andrew's hair was like something out of The Lion King...or Cats. Harriet got a red stain right on the front of her dress. Andrew and I had a huge fight about something ridiculous on the way home...

Oh, and I looked like crap. Please avoid commenting something nice about how I look because I'll know you're full of it. I was super, super pale with anemia. None of my clothes fit. My hair was incredibly flat. And I was wearing something that looks more like pajamas than my pajamas do. My mom told me to wear tons of makeup because I was so pasty, so I slapped coat after coat of foundation, blush, eye shadow and mascara on my face...and it looks like I'm wearing no makeup at all. Right now, my inlaws have one of these pictures of our whole family up in their house and I'm pretty sure they're doing it as payback for something I did because there's no way they like looking at that picture every day!

Anyways, they're called "newborn pictures," not "new mama pictures," so I'm going to move on and let it go.

Check out my darlings...



































I have to give major props to the photographer. She handled this ridiculous scene with such grace and patience…even though she had a broken leg and had to scoot around on a stool during the shoot. 


I’ll soon be posting more recent pictures of the boys, plus words of some sort. I have several posts started in my head, on my phone, and in random Word documents. I have so much to write about, but as usual, so little time to actually write it. Missing this space and missing my blogging friends.
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