Monday, December 3, 2012

Good morning, little loves

I recently gave birth to another little beauty. I love this stage where they're still small and floppy and cross-eyed and perfect. 

The toddler years, on the other hand, challenge me on every. single. level.

Being a mother can be isolating. After a few rough days, I find myself thinking crazy things. Like that my kid is plotting against me, trying to push my buttons, that she's out to get me.

And then I take a deep breath, make a cup of tea and call someone who has more than 300 words in their vocabulary to try and undo the crazy I'm feeling. And I repeat to myself.....They're basically brand new to the world. They're still learning. I'm still learning. The way I respond to this behavior lays the groundwork for how they will learn to behave. Patience.

I was feeling guilty about this until recently when I read a blog post where a mom confessed that she doesn't really love babyhood, but is really enjoying her older children. Somehow just reading another mom's experience soothed my heart, reassured me that it's okay to feel this way. The fact that I struggle with a certain child's temperament or stage she is going through is not a reflection of how much I love her. 

What's important is the way I strive to grow personally so I can meet her where she's at in her little life. Is she frustrated? How can I demonstrate peace? Is she grumpy when things don't go her way? How can I exemplify joy in all situations?

The years go by so fast, but a mother's day is incredibly long. This song has given me so much encouragement and perspective this week. I've been singing it to my girls and dancing with them in the kitchen :) You can listen to it here.

Good morning
You and the sun are up before I'm ready
But ready or not, you need me
So here I am

I'm learning that in the long hard days

There is beauty
Do you know my favorite place to see it
It's when I look at you

And though I'm tired now

You're worth every sleepless night
You're worth it all, cause I know...


You're the best song I'll ever write
And we're humming and dancing through the years together
You're the best song I'll ever write
And I pray you'll hear Jesus in it when you're older


I remember when you were just a heartbeat that I heard
and now our eyes meet
Forever is not enough to love you

Thursday, April 26, 2012


We're expecting another little person. 20 months after the first one. We are overjoyed, but oh my, the reactions we've gotten.

But this isn't a post about how the only appropriate thing to say a pregnant woman is a heartfelt congratulations.

We hoped and planned for this baby and we've been so happy since we found out a few months ago. But I've been feeling guilty anyway. Guilty that I don't feel bewildered ecstasy ever time I think about the little life growing inside of me. With my first baby, all I could think about was that little person. 24 hours a day. I sang and talked to her constantly.

Now I'm in my second pregnancy with an energetic toddler underfoot at all times. To give an example of my mental state this time: Today around 4pm at the grocery, I looked down at my belly and noticed I looked particularly round. It was at this time that I remembered that I'm 15 weeks pregnant. How does one forget she is pregnant?

I've been worried so much that my divided attention means I love this baby less or that I won't be able to give my kids the attention they deserve. My heart doesn't soar for this baby constantly like it did when my daughter was in utero. I'm too exhausted to soar. I've been wondering when that moment would hit where I felt in love with this child and think of him (or her) as more than just my daughter's little sibling, but a piece of my own heart.

Last week I went in for a check up at the beginning of my second trimester. I had already heard the heartbeat and seen the first little tadpole ultrasound in my first trimester, so this visit was fairly routine. My husband I had refused early genetic testing since we're not high risk and abortion isn't an option for us. This midwife reviewed with me that if the baby showed abnormalities at the 20 week ultrasound, I could opt for genetic testing at that time even though I don't want to terminate (man, I dislike that word) but so I could prepare for the possibility of a kid with disabilities. It's a pretty routine conversation between health care providers and pregnant women, one I always dismiss by throwing around words like Catholic so they know I'm keeping my baby regardless.

The midwife moved the doppler along my belly and I held my breath for one doubtful moment waiting for that heartbeat. She found my heartbeat, moved a little to the left. Faintly, we heard the rapid heartbeat of the baby and she chased it with the doppler, commenting on how active the baby was already. I breathed a sigh of relief that the baby was still there, still healthy.

The midwife slid the wand a little to the right. The doppler found a perfect spot where we could equally and clearly hear my strong, solid heartbeat and the baby's rapid one, beating together in harmony as one heartbeat.

And then I fell in love with this baby.

If the midwife would have had the same conversation about genetic testing with me after this experience, I would have responded differently. Being Catholic isn't my reason for keeping my baby. My initial answer shows that being prolife is a religious matter, which it isn't. It's a people matter. I would choose this life over my own because I could no sooner carve this little person out of my body than I could carve out my own heart.

I'm always baffled when people talk about aborting a child to save the life of a mother. How is this saving her life? A woman can't live without her heart.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Good Mom, "Bad" Mom

I just posted today on Facebook about how I'm so excited that my 1 year old really loves nutritious food. Here is a picture of her covered in black beans, one of her favorite foods:
We'll call this "Good Mom" picture. Not that it's necessarily a personal accomplishment that she loves foods that are good for her. Since people are quick to credit mothers with their children's bad behaviors, so I'm going to give myself as many points as possible.

I just want to point out in this next picture, she is at least eating chopped up organic pears.
But since she also has a black eye, we'll call this "Bad" Mom picture. Bad is in quotes because I know her black eye isn't my fault and that it happens to a lot of kids that are learning to walk. I know that she's got a lot of clumsy genes not working in her favor (maybe partially my fault). But I still feel so gosh darn bad about that eye. She looks like she's been boxing.

If I were to make a post called Good Dad, "Bad" Dad, I'd say how "Good Dad" got our child dressed in her pajamas so that I could have a few minutes of rest. 

But then I would post this picture to show how"Bad Dad" dressed her:
But I'm not going to post about that.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A year of growth

Our sweet little girl turned one this week. I haven't been able to blog in awhile because I'm so busy chasing her, tickling her, playing patty cake, reading books and laughing and laughing and laughing. I'm still wondering how this:
turned into this:

and then became this:
and then way too quickly became this:
and then I blinked for ONE SECOND and she became this:

Next thing I know, we're having her first birthday party and I'm smiling on the outside but freaking out on the inside thinking Where did that year go???

Pregnancy was so...stressful. Partly because I made it that way. Should we have waited longer to have a baby? Are we ready for this? Do I have enough clothes for her? Am I going to be a good parent? Everyone wants to give parenting advice and each person's advice was conflicted with the next person's and I read too many things about parenting and baby raising and took the advice/criticism of others WAY to heavily. Basically, when I went in to have the baby, I was a wreck.

Then that baby came out and they placed her on my chest and she opened her eyes and stared at me. My brain reset and my heart exploded and absolutely nothing that happened before that moment mattered. 

My husband and I talk often about how silly we were to wonder if we were ready for a baby. We weren't, but not in the way we originally thought. Nothing could have prepared us for such inexplicable love and joy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Working with it

I'm envious of how my husband can turn his brain into a complete blank. This is what my brain was thinking in its "relaxed" state this morning: almost walking toddler keeps rearranging all my kitchen furniture, phantom baby poop smell...where is it coming from? $1000 bucks to fix our car, ugly striped wall paper in the kitchen WON'T.COME.OFF, coffee not available in an IV, laundry up to my neck, pouring outside, negative groceries in the fridge - do I have time to go to the store, house is a mess. nothing prepared for first birthday, no prayer time, cat litter traveling all over laundry room, how do people save enough to maintain their home? i want to curl up in a ball with a blanket and a cup of tea and read a good book.

Sometimes I think that's just how women are designed. I can't control that I'm always thinking, but I can work with it and turn it into this: baby is almost walking so exciting, I'm so glad we have the money to fix our car, what a BLESSING that we finally got a nicer house than we ever dreamed of, i love cooking in this kitchen, I'm glad my herbs are getting water from the rain, Lord help me use the abundance in my life for others, let's see what i can whip up with the pantry items, one project at a time, i think we have too much stuff we should donate, i think i'll curl up with the baby and the very hungry caterpillar and read using silly voices.

I couldn't think of how to turn the baby poop one positive. I really need to find out where that smell is coming from.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Growing Pains

My baby brother is growing so fast. He went from diapers to size 13 shoes in what seems like an instant. Last year, he had such a massive growth spurt that he was in physical pain, causing him to don crutches for awhile.

Talk about growing pains.

My dear friend Emily posted an encouraging comment on a recent blog post of mine about how she's loved seeing me grow. I couldn't help but think, This is growth? Because it feels more like I'm bumbling along blindly. It takes all my courage to post my least embarrassing efforts on my blog. However, the next line of her comment struck me the most:
While I know it seems like there's always, always room for improvement - and that's true - we have to remember at all times that our Lord (mysteriously) takes DELIGHT in our efforts.
I'm always asking God to bring things to light that I may improve on, no matter how difficult, so that I can continually move closer to becoming who he created me to be. This prayer is so important to me that I named my blog after it. God has been faithful, gently bringing to light my struggles and flaws and giving me the grace to understand and alter them so that I constantly grow. In my silliness, I forgot to check in with Him for a progress report. I brought this to prayer and reflection. Do You really delight in my efforts? Is this possible?

I received a resounding YES. I allowed my own perfectionism and mental self-flogging to make me blind to the most basic understand of God - love. Although growth, especially of the spiritual nature, can be painful, it is fruitful. The only unfruitful pain I was experiencing was that which I was inflicting upon myself.

Refiners don't hone and shape with fluffy white clouds. They use fire to make something beautiful. God is the Great Refiner.
And yet, He is also our Father.
I've watched my husband in just his first year of being a daddy. He's swaddled, soothed, shushed and paced until his arms ached and his voice was hoarse. When all efforts failed to remedy her pain, he just cried along with her. As she is learning how to walk, he sets firm but tender boundaries. He's rejoiced at her growth, no matter how small, and encouraged her efforts.
How could I ever doubt that our perfect heavenly Father would do at least this?

I think I have subconsciously thought that my goal was to be more independent, only needing to turn to Christ when I was failing, but I was mistakenly viewing Heaven with earthly eyes. The pain of our growth comes not from learning how to be self sufficient, but learning how to hand over our will and become completely dependent on God.

Growing pains are inevitable. His grace is sufficient.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Don't kill the Time Sucker...repurpose it.

First Time Sucker: Television:
In the beginning of college, I didn't watch a lot of TV. I would occasionally indulge in a movie on a rainy day, but I spent most of the time hanging out with friends and exploring. Oh, and studying, of course. (my dad reads this blog, you know.)

But then I got married and had trouble finding a job and was home a lot. And then I got a newborn little baby who had a fondness for eating around the clock and a complete disregard for normal human waking hours.

And then my TV watching got plain dumb. You know what dumb TV is. Don't make me say it. It included reruns, infomercials and just plain silliness.

And it was not feeding my soul.

Second Time Sucker: The Internet

I don't spend longs periods of time online- which is bad.

It's five minutes here, 3 minutes there. I can fool myself into thinking I don't give a lot of my time to the computer. In reality, I am more comfortable being oblivious than tallying up my cumulative computer time. Although I'm almost always reading good stuff and not just facebook stalking, I find this time is out of balance with how much time I need to spend doing things that are higher on my priority list.

I've tried to limit my time doing these things. But I keep getting sucked in. I think our couch is too comfortable. I tried berating myself. You're lazy. Stop sitting there. SELF, WHY ARE YOU WASTING YOUR LIFE??

None of these things worked.

My husband recently had some training at his job that he brought home and shared with me. It's changing the way we talk to and understand each other and anyone we encounter whose behavior may be hard to understand. I'm using it to understand myself and try to change my own behaviors.

The concept is easy: Every person has needs. Our actions are motivated by these needs. 

When we consciously think of people's actions as need-meeting, we find ourselves more understanding of other people.

I decided to try this on myself. What need is being met by watching television during the day? What need is being met by checking my email constantly or always reading blogs and news articles?

The need for Connection. Bingo.

My other methods for changing my behavior always failed because after removing the television and internet from my life, the need for connection still remained. This explained why after I stopped watching TV during the day, I had trouble turning it off. It gave me a shadow of a feeling of connection. I didn't want to close the laptop on the kitchen counter because I might miss an email - an opportunity for connection. I'm not attached to my phone at all, but I see why some people are. Constant connection.

The first question What need is being met? helped me identify my motivation. But the second question is the one that helped me make the actual change in behavior: Is my current way the best possible way to meet this need?

I took a good hard look at myself. I still felt lonely and more depressed after too much screen time.  My chores weren't getting done. The answer was painfully and honestly No.  It was also freeing to realize this because it gave me permission to change my behavior.

Turning the television off was one of the easiest things to change. It wasn't feeding me or really making me feel more connected, something I remind myself of every time I find myself reaching for the remote. After the first few days, I broke the habit of automatically sitting down to watch TV. If I need background, I listen to music and dance with my daughter in the kitchen.

The television isn't evil. It's didn't need to be thrown away - it needed to be re-purposed. I try and reserve it for true sick days or date nights with the hubby with a program we truly look forward to watching.

The computer wasn't quite so cut and dry. The needs were more complicated here. More than just connection, I needed of mental stimulation after changing diapers and endless games of peekaboo. I was getting a lot of encouragement from the blogs I was reading. There are so many good reads for stay at home mamas who are prone to feeling like they are in it all by themselves. So many words of wisdom, recipes, organization ideas- there is such a wealth of really good information out there. Except I had no time to put them into action because I spent all of my extra time reading about them.

1) I unsubscribed from just about every email subscription in my inbox that wasn't worth my time. Especially if it advertised "deals" and planted a seed in my mind that said "Buy more stuff", I said Buh-bye. That cuts in my email checking time in half.

2) I replaced A LOT of my online reading with podcasts. What a revelation! I can get all of my chores done while listening to some really thought provoking, soul-nurturing conversations. It fills my cup on days I don't have time for phone conversations or coffee dates with friends. Podcasts are like listening to someone else's coffee date. My favorites are Focus on the Family's 30 minute podcasts and the slightly longer and more casual The Simple Mom podcasts.

Most of all, I want set a precedent to my kids. If my daughter grows up in a home where the TV is always on, odds are she'll fall into the same habit. As parents, we can actively choose if we want to give our kids a blueprint for bad habits or good ones.

I want my daughter to automatically know that playing outside and planting things and spending time face to face and laughing are the best choices for her. It's time to make those the best choices for me.

How have you re-purposed your Time Suckers? Also, if you have any inspiring podcasts to share, please do!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's Revolution

Yes, revolution. It's not a typo.


rev·o·lu·tionA forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.

Not a resolution, which is supposed to be a commitment to betterment but really ends up being a lame "I wish I was better" with no plan to do so. 

A revolution is exactly what my household (and my life) need.

Every night when I reevaluate my day, I have this feeling I didn't make the best use of my time. I feel stressed and gross and disorganized and generally blah. I've been this way for years. My disorganization is my not-so-secret little secret. Every year I vow things will be different (make a "wish" really, because I have no plan) and every year I fall on my face.

The worst part: Since I've always failed, I have started to think that it's impossible to get my act together. Failure is my new norm.

But now it's different. I've got this great husband and this incredibly cool kid. In short, I'm no longer the center of my own universe. 

General Goal: To make the best of each day, especially my time.
...and the cute guy hiding behind her.