Because I’ve Seen It

I’m going to nerd out on you for a moment. Hang with me. It’s worth it. I hope so, anyway.

So I’m a Harry Potter fan. And in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a really interesting scene happens that I think applies to parenting specifically and to life in general. There’s this whole time traveling element in which Harry Potter future is able to save Harry Potter past by using a really powerful bit of magic. When Hermione asks him how he did it he says something to the effect of, “I’d already seen myself do it (in the past, even though at the time he didn’t know it was himself), so I knew I could do it again (in the future).” So that’s probably a pretty rough description if you haven’t read the books or seen the movies, but the idea is interesting, isn’t it?

When we go through really hard things, the next time you have to go through something hard you have that past experience to help get you through. I think that’s why third time parenting has been easy for me. Birth? Been there. It’s no fun but I know I can do it because I’ve done it before. Post-partum body trauma and sleep deprivation and hormone surges? It’s going to be ok. It gets better. I’ve done this. I’ve seen myself make it through so I know I can do it again.

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Been doing a lot of resting this week through our illnesses.

This thought has been on replay in my mind this week. Christmas of 2012 was a rough health time for our family. It was two weeks straight of us all trading illnesses and I literally didn’t leave the house the entire time. Then last summer we had similar stretches of health problem after health problem. And these past three weeks we’ve been there again. All of us have had the stomach flu, some multiple times. I’ve had gallbladder problems. Nolan and Parker have had fevers and colds. Even sweet Avery has been fussier with something or other. And now I’m on day four since I last left the house and feeling kinda crazy.

20140321-101450.jpgSick day #4 in a row, after being up most the night with all three kids.

But you know what? I’ve done this. I survived. We eventually all got healthy again. There was a reprieve from middle of the night bed changes and a break from all the vomit and sickly children. We eventually didn’t have to cancel plans and got back into our routine. We all lived. And I atleast am stronger for it. Because now that I’ve seen that I can do it, I know that I can do it again. And hopefully, I can do it with a touch more grace and less complaining than last time.

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Poor sick Parker on the day he had a ridiculous fever and actually asked to stay home from the zoo.
I’ve never seen him this lethargic!

So, the next time you find yourself in a tough stretch in parenting or just in your personal life, think back on all the other times you made it. Maybe not with flying colors or with the best attitude — but you made it. And because you did it then, you can certainly do it again. I know you can. After all, Harry Potter told me so. :-)

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The Crook of my Arm

This spot, this corner of my body is where I have held all three of my babies. They have slept here, eaten here, cried, been rocked, smiled, cooed, and clinged to me. If there is anything I will miss about the baby stage it’s this. These sweet moments with a passed out babe. Staring at them as they sleep. Wondering who they will be. I don’t know if I’m raising a future president or teacher or poet — but whoever they become, they will have been nurtured in my arms.

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I used to feel frustrated and guilty when I let my babies sleep in my arms. “Put them down or they’ll never sleep on their own”. That’s just crap. And I don’t say that word often. Babies were made to be held. My arms were made to hold them. My body has been made soft and comfortable – just for them to snuggle in. I refuse to feel guilty the third time around. I relish these moments, sad when I have to put down my sleeping beauty to get something done. Because dishes are always going to be there, but she will not always fit in the crook of my arm.

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But she does today. And today I will stare at her, caress her fuzzy head, and snuggle with her chubby baby body. I will find rest in relishing her and who she is right now. She will rest securely and happily, being held close by the one person in the world who knows her inside and out and loves her. Mother / child relationships change over the years, but today I’m her everything. And I am perfectly okay with that.

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Valentine’s Day

We love holidays around here. Especially ones during these dark, cold, and snowy months of Midwestern winters. Especially this year, with the winter that nearly killed all the moms. So Valentine’s Day? We are kind of making a big deal about it. Because it’s warm, bright, and happy. Something we need a lot of to make it until spring.

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We started celebrating earlier in the week with a fun package from Gigi (my mom). In the package was a specially wrapped present for each person in our family. Fun!

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Then we had to make all of Parker’s Valentines for his class. I tried to pick something equal parts cute (for my sake) and fun (for Parker’s). There are 100 ideas on Pinterest for Valentines, but they mostly seem like they are fun for the mom and not so much for the kiddos. So we just colored and cut out hearts on fun paper. Simple, but he enjoyed it. He loved getting all the valentines from his classmates too. What fun.

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My gift to Brian was a photo book of last year’s Cruise, which took place over Valentine’s Day last year. It was such a sweet time and fun to remember with this book.

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My first Valentine’s Day with a girl means a cute dress, tights, and hair bows. Something I couldn’t have even imagined last year. My sweet, happy girl.

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I spent the entire morning at a friend’s house and doing the preschool drop-off/pick-up shuffle. I came home to find this nice surprise from the hubster. We are going out tomorrow night, but it was sweet that he still did something for today! Thanks, hunny!

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My friend Annie put together the most spectacular little V-Day party for our kids. There were five moms and 12 kids. They ate V-Day cookies, played with homemade playdough and made handprint momentos, made soft pretzel hearts, and had a lunch with heart shaped cucumbers, cheese, strawberries, and crackers. It was so very thoughtful and the kids all had a great time. And the moms even had a moment where everything was quiet and ate our yummy spinach salad in peace!

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I went pretty light on the decor this year, it’s just been too busy to do much. I did make this fun heart bunting from some old scrapbook paper and yarn. The boys love decorations and were very excited to see all the hearts. And yes, those are icicles out my window. They are getting downright scary. I wasn’t joking about the weather!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

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Beauty

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Having a baby girl is so very different from having boys. When Avery was just two weeks old, I found myself thinking about her junior high self. How will she perceive herself? Her appearance? How will her peers treat her? Will she be awkwardly tall like I was and cry when people make fun of her for it? Will that bald spot remain a problem area — will the girl’s at slumber parties make fun of it when they are braiding her hair?

She is now three months old. My happy, smiley, incredibly beautiful baby girl is growing so fast. I know that she will be a teenager in a blink of an eye and, already, I’m worried about how she will be perceived and want to make sure she knows she’s beautiful. I never thought like that with the boys. Of course they are adorable so maybe that helps. But I think mostly it’s the gender thing. Something that I thought I had a pretty good handle on as a some what secure adult woman. And yet there it is again. My own insecurities, my own tendencies, my own perceptions — all projected onto this innocent baby girl who can only comprehend the need for sleep, food, and her mommy.

I realize that beauty is awfully important to me. It’s embarrassing really. It’s something that I’ve always had to some extent. Not in a braggy way, but people have always told me that I’m beautiful. Since I was in sixth grade people asked me if I was a model. I don’t think I’m anything special, but I’ve always had an abundance of compliments. And now as my own beauty begins to fade with age, I find myself looking for compliments about my children. Do people think they are the cutest and sweetest things ever? It’s easy for me to see past superficial beauty in others. I’ve had a wide variety of friends in my day and I can honestly say looks have never been a determining factor in who I keep company with. It’s easy to find beauty in a person with a disability who has a kind heart. And yet when it comes to myself, I fear losing beauty. I fear my daughter won’t be beautiful. After all this time, is how I see beauty really only skin deep?

It’s been a good challenge for myself. A new way of looking at beauty. Of reminding me that it is more important for me to help Avery develop a kind and lovely spirit than to solve the random bald spot on her head. To teach her to love Jesus and care for others rather than spend my days figuring out how to dress her in a cute way and do her hair. It’s better to see her develop an independent and strong personality than to fret over her height possibilities. And if there are girls out there that will one day make fun of my perfectly beautiful daughter, well, she doesn’t need them anyway. And hopefully the things I’ve taught her in the meantime will allow her to respond with grace, walk away from hurtful friendships, and embrace the less cared for in the world. Now wouldn’t that be truly beautiful?

 

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Better than Imagined

There are very few things that live up to the hype. Whether it’s the latest blockbuster or your dream job or the next phase of life — so often all the waiting and anticipating doesn’t fully pay off. Unless we are talking about my sweet baby Avery. Because she is amazingly better than anything I imagined during those hard months of waiting. She’s sweeter and happier than any baby I’ve seen, filling my heart with a happiness I didn’t know possible. She was totally worth the wait. And the aches and pains. And the totally awful weeks of pre-term labor. I love her.

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There were a lot of months when we didn’t have a space for Avery. We tried to sell our house to hopefully find something bigger, but that wasn’t panning out in our time frame so we decided to stay here. I remember complaining to Brian and saying in my hormonally fragile state, “I’m afraid if we can’t find a place for her in our home that we won’t make space for her in our hearts. It’s like saying there is no room in our life for her.” Well, he graciously built a room in our home and reminded me that our hearts will just grow for this new little person. And they sure have! To see her giggling on the diaper pad that I made, on top of the drawers that I built — it’s such a happy thing. Clearly. I mean, isn’t she the happiest, smiliest, chunkiest baby you’ve ever seen?20140204-184421.jpg

So seeing her in her little room, the one I didn’t think would fit in our house, makes me so very happy. Seeing her playing on the quilt that I made when I desperately wanted to have something tangible for her — my heart is full. It’s moments like these that I need to hold on to. To remember that waiting is good and that love is bigger and fuller than we can understand.

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Seeing her happy face — it’s the sweetest. The fabric I searched and searched for on her closet. The blanket I knit while planning her room decor. The owl pillow that became the theme of her room. The rocking chair I sat in while hugely pregnant, chatting with my mom — just waiting to have a baby. This moment, it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. Avery Jean is already better than I could imagine, I can’t wait to see the little person she is going to become!

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Loving the Child You Have

If comparison is the thief of joy, then having demanding expectations for your child is the enemy of happy parenting. I spent a lot of years before becoming a parent imagining all the things we would do with kids. I would do puzzles with my well behaved children and spend afternoons laughing and joking over homemade play dough and water colors. My kids would love reading and often spend time on their own looking through books. They would love to sleep and jump into bed with us for a snuggle on weekend mornings. They’d be full of hilarious little kid sayings and essentially make our life happy and full.

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And then I had kids. Oh my, what an adjustment. I found out my kids didn’t like crafts. I realized that they would rather be loud, bang their toys on the table, throw their food, and eat the play dough. They would wake up with the sun and would start the day loud and needy. They would often make my day stressful and frustrating, not happy and fun. Reading blog after blog and seeing pin after pin of seemingly perfect children participating in every kind of crafty activity bewildered me. I spent a long time forcing my expectations on Parker, just wishing he would be like all of those children I saw on Facebook. He’d get mad at me and I’d get impatient with him. It was no good. My expectations of who he should be made every day frustrating because I couldn’t appreciate who he was.

IMG_8102I remember when my friend Sherah’s son learned his colors. He was a good 6 months younger than Parker and clearly pointing out all the colors of the rainbow, while Parker could care less about the subject. I remember when my friend Harper’s daughter potty-trained at a ridiculously early age and talked in complete sentences about meaningful things at 2, while I was battling my stubborn 3 year old who just repeated the same words over and over again. I remember watching my friend Annie bake and craft with her children, something they apparently enjoyed doing together, so unlike my experiences at home. My friend Julie’s son was playing sports and cracking jokes at a young age, when my kids were still clueless about what kind of ball was what. My friend Beth’s son was spelling his name and organizing things in intricate patterns, while Parker couldn’t even sing the ABCs or sit still long enough to do a puzzle. So many of my friends with multiple kids would post pictures of how sweet their children were together, while I spent my day separating two little boys who fought over everything. I’d hang out with my friends and hear them tell me that their kids were stubborn or hard or loud, and yet they were quiet and obedient (in front of me at least) compared to my give-everything-your-all boy. Each one of these comparisons caused me to be dissatisfied with my kids. It either made me jealous or feel like I was doing something wrong. It made me wish that my kids were something or someone other than who they were.

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You remember that my goal is to be happy this year, right? Well, loving the children that I have (not the one my friend’s have or the one I see on Pinterest or the one I imagined I’d have) is a HUGE part of that. Figuring out who my little people are and allowing them to blossom into their own individual personalities is essential to their happiness. And stopping the comparison, jealousy, and competition is essential to mine. It is a great and wonderful thing to parent in alongside other parents. I’m so grateful for all the little people in my life, all offspring of some of my dearest friends. But I need to love them for who they are and then leave it at that. I don’t get to bring my desires or baggage back home from a playdate and force it on my children.

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And remembering that the small pieces that I see of everyone else’s life — that isn’t the whole story. We’ve all got the good, the bad, and the ugly. Facebook or a playdate tend to only show a one-sided view of our lives. That’s why really living in community is such a good thing for us. The more time I parent alongside other moms, the more I see the hard parts of their days and the hard things that their children do. We’re all in this together, desperately trying to love little people who are often demanding and needy. The best gift we can give to them is our love and acceptance of who they are, and help develop them into people who are secure and happy. And loving the child (or children, in my case) we’ve been given is key to being a truly happy parent.

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Nolan’s 2nd Birthday

It’s been a looong winter folks. I’m sure you are just as tired of it as I am if you live in the Midwest and just as sick of hearing about it if you live some where else. But seriously, midwestern winters are bad enough, but this year has been something else. Truly mind-numbing. And cold. Dang cold. So, I decided to throw a party. Because that’s what you do when you’ve been trapped inside too long and are missing all of your friends. Winter doesn’t usually affect how often I get out, but this year we’ve had to alter our activities because it’s just plain dangerous to be out when it is this bad. And with a newborn. Yeah, not gonna happen. So, I used Nolan’s 2nd birthday on January 13th as an excuse for a get together. And it was wonderful. A nice bright and warm patch in a bleak month.

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The 2 year old is still above average in size, which surprises no one considering the height of his parents and grandparents, but seems small to us compared to Parker. He is 31 lbs and 4 oz, and 36.5″ tall. He’s got a huge (sometimes mischievous) smile and the sweetest dimples. Light brown hair and hazel-green eyes. He looks exactly like my baby pictures! He just moved into the big boy bed on the bottom bunk (hello, alliteration!) and is doing surprisingly well. He’s still a thumb-sucker but is starting to talk up a storm too. Although we don’t understand half of what he says. He’s still in speech therapy but is in the normal range for his age which is encouraging. He’s fairly happy, but not as easy going as he used to be. He is easily frustrated and cries a lot. Especially during diaper changes and clothing changes. It’s like I’m torturing him or something. But he’s got a great laugh and loves his siblings. He is Parker’s shadow and playmate, sometimes his adversary. He is a wonderful big brother to Avery and is very nurturing. We love our little guy!

So how did we celebrate the boy? Well, Nolan is a very cuddly boy. He loves trains just like Parker did, but he has a quiet sweetness to him (when he’s not copying Parker and running around like a maniac and squealing) that is all his own. He’s a cuddler, for sure. He’ll go up to complete strangers and lean against their legs, sucking his thumb and laying his head on them. It’s cute, and terrifying. To celebrate the cuddly boy we had a puppy party. Because what is cuddlier than a puppy?

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I made bunting and signs and used fabric for decor.

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We printed pictures of our big boy and gave away puppies as party gifts.

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The guest of honor wore a mama-made puppy t-shirt with the number 2.

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We ate hot dogs (Guys!! For a crowd, use the crockpot to serve hotdogs! It’s amazing!), chips n’ dip, fruit, veggies, and strawberry lemonade.

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We had pup-cakes, puppy chow, and chew sticks
(chocolate covered pretzels) for desserts.

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I made a dog house from a cardboard box,
Snoopy and Woodstock occupied it until the kiddos came to play.

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We had puppy coloring stations and balls to fetch. Better than all the stuff — it was so fun to have friends in our home and celebrating our boy together. Happy 2 years to my darling baby boy. You are so precious to us!

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Being a Happy Mom

Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t make a New Year’s Resolution of blogging regularly! I do hope to get back in the swing of things, but when life demands me to be present, I don’t feel too bad about taking a blogging break. And life has been rather demanding lately. Something about three kids four and under and a newborn. :-) I’m sure you all understand! I have made some goals for the New Year, though, and I’m happy to say that I’ve stuck to them. (My hilarious friend Alyssa says she likes to start new things in February to avoid the pressure of Resolutions. Then it’s just a new thing you tried in February rather than a resolution that you might fail at.) My main goal for this year is sort of intangible, but it can make a world of difference in my home. My main goal is to be a happy mom.

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I’m not a naturally happy person (I wrote about that here), and I’ve found myself struggling more than ever in the past two years of motherhood. Being a stay at home mom can be a lonely, challenging, and frustrating experience. I’ve never been an angry person and yet I’ve scared myself at how angry I can be towards these little people who I supposedly love so much. I’ve dreaded the days and weeks that roll out before me, wishing them away and counting the days until the kids are old enough to be in school. I’ve wanted to have my own life back, but mostly I just wanted my kids to fit into my life the way I wanted them to. I didn’t want them to be themselves, but rather my idealized version of what kids should be. My unhappiness at home has affected everyone around me. My sweet husband has had to come home to a grumpy wife and hear her complain about her day. My eldest son has felt the brunt of my attitude. He’s the one who gets snapped at and shushed away. I’ve seen his eyes get sad and sometimes even scared when he knows I’m not in a good mood. Nolan is still young enough to have escaped most of my bad attitudes, but I can already see my shortness transferring to him now that he’s a whiny toddler most of the time. It’s even affected some friendships and other family relationships from a distance. Let’s just say it hasn’t been that much fun to be around me for a long time.

So this year? I’m going to be a happy mom. I don’t care if I’m naturally happy or particularly cut out to be a stay at home mom. It’s the life I’m in and I’m determined to enjoy it. I’m determined to sing away bad attitudes, take time outs for myself when I need them, bite my critical tongue, and remember that they are just kids. They aren’t trying to ruin my life or stress me out. They are just kids. They aren’t deliberately trying to frustrate me or get in the way. They are just kids. Kids who desperately need a mommy who is in control of her emotions. A mommy who can help them learn new things without sighing every time they make a mess. A mommy who patiently disciplines and lovingly corrects them. A mommy who lets them be who they are and doesn’t force them into a mold she has created. That’s the mommy I’m trying to be this year. It’s a hard task, but so incredibly worth it.

When I’m choosing to be happy, the days move more quickly, I laugh more easily, and the trials don’t seem so tough. I remember that this is a temporary stage of life and that I will most likely miss it later. I focus on the sweetness in each day rather than the hard parts. And amazingly, I find my attitude reflected in my kids. When I can laugh off spilt milk, they know that everything is ok and we can still have a good day together. They stop shrinking in fear and start blossoming, wanting to share each accomplishment with me and relishing in my smile. There are still plenty of hard days. I get to the end of the day and sigh a heavy sigh, worn out from the effort of the day. But it’s also a happy sigh. A content sigh. A sigh that shows that I’ve worked hard but with purpose and joy. And I start the next day, preparing for battle with myself and my attitudes, choosing to be a happy mom.

 

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