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Showing posts with label motherhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motherhood. Show all posts

a word of encouragement for mothers

Recently my mom was telling me of a family friend who just had her second baby and is walking through a rough season of postpartum depression. She shared a few other details and I have been thinking about this young mom ever since. And here's what I want to say to her. I've written many of these things before, but here they are in one swoop.

I once read a blog post that talked about how each family has "a number." The number is the child that was born that threw you off of your feet and knocked the wind out of you real good. For many, their number is One. It is that first baby that takes them off their game and leaves them feeling humbled and fried and surprised that this who parenting thing is so hard. Every couple is going to have a different number though. I have a friend who recently said her number was Four. She felt like she was great at mothering until she had her Forth. And then she felt the humbling.

For us, our number is Two. I've shared this many times before, but number Two came and knocked us off our game. We had just moved, we were trying to find a church home, I was looking for friends, our marriage was about to get a good dose of life-changing counseling, our baby had a scream she used when upset and I wasn't sure I was good at mothering. I was supposed to be good at it, but I suddenly felt inept and lacking. Rory and I would have middle of the night fights "let her cry it out" "no! I can't do it!" "Just go to sleep" (And we took turns on both sides of that argument!) I was always falling short and the mom-boss inside of my head was a jerk. She was cruel and mean and if that voice had been an actual woman, I would have slapped her and walked off the job.

And here's the thing: I was supposed to be the best mom ever. And for those of us who love kids and always wanted to be a mother, I think motherhood is especially humbling. I started babysitting when I was in 5th grade, with my Red Cross First Aid card in hand. I babysat full summer weeks all through middle school for my next door neighbors. I taught Sunday school, spent my summers as a camp counselor, go my degree in elementary education, babysat throughout college, watched kids on a tour bus my first year out of college. I babysat while at the seminary and was basically the best aunt in the whole world. I had experience with every age, but mostly babies and toddlers. This was going to be my finest hour!

So then it really, really was a blow when I didn't feel like I was pulling off the one thing I was definitely supposed to excel at. I've always been an achiever, but I was so lost at figuring out what I was trying to achieve.

And I was fighting it every step of the way. I resented meal prep. I hated that breakfast, lunch and dinner were my daily responsibilities. Laundry was never ending and I never felt caught up. My kitchen floor was always an embarrassment with mud and grass and brown banana smear, raisins and cheerios. My bathrooms were in desperate need of a good scrubbing and I rarely got out of my black yoga pants/tshirt/hoodie ensemble. Most of all I was mad about my lot. This was supposed to be the dream, and yet I felt terrible at every part.

I now have two thoughts on this: 1) The world does not give any validation to these monotonous, tedious, self-sacrificing jobs. There are very few words of encouragement spoken in this season. The work is unseen and from the outside, you "just have a baby, so what do you do all day anyway?" It can feel very lonesome and mostly just hard. 2) Dying to yourself hurts because it includes dying. Our world does not celebrate self-sacrifice. It does not recognize a love that lays down her life (her personal ambitions) for a friend (her baby). When we are called to wash the feet of our neighbor, and those feet happen to be a wiggly baby who bathes you while you're trying to bathe it, you are rising to a very high calling. But it's so hard. It's so constant. It's so monotonous. But it's so good.

I can say that now, because I have had two babies since number Two and I am a completely different woman. The difference is that I died to my self. I really did. I used to fight so much of this. I used to resent so much. I used to be so frustrated. But the Lord used refining fire to burn away a lot of my pride, selfish ambitions and personal desires. And that burning burned. I felt it.

Now I can hear you. You're freaking out that I set aside my personal ambitions and decided to stay home with my kids. You're afraid I'm drinking some kool-aid that has me barefoot in the kitchen making breakfast, lunch and dinner for six humans every day.

But what I want you to hear is that I had a choice if I was going to go about this work of motherhood and homemaking with a bitter and frustrated heart or if I was going to choose to do this refining work with a cheerful heart, with gratitude that I am able to stay home with my kids, with thanksgiving that my husband works so I can fill the fridge with food and then the table with meals. I had to decide if I was going to resent laying down my life for the sake of these beautiful babies God had entrusted to my care.

And though that all sounds nice and poetic written out, the truth is, it is a daily decision, a daily choice. The choice between defeated/bitter/exhausted and joyful/thankful/peaceful is a choice I make every day.

The truth is, I think it is helpful to know that there usually is one baby that takes you off your game and that there are lots of factors that can make that season particularly challenging. It may be the needs of the baby. Or it may be the state of your marriage. It may be a loneliness for friends in the same life stage. It may be a discontentment that God is working out in you. It may be a time when He is trying to grow and shape and mold you into something stronger and mightier than you ever were before. It may be that this trying season is all for his good purposes to shape your character to be more like His.

And it may be actual hormones. Oh the hormones! I didn't believe in hormones until number Two! I remember telling Rory, "Listen! I don't even like me!" My emotions were all over the place. It wasn't until I had Hattie that I believed hormones were all they were cracked up to be. Because with Hattie I had overloads of the happy hormone. I was perma-joyful. And then I was able to look back at my season of Two and see that I just had a different hormonal cocktail. All this to say, hormones are real.

I'm getting chatty now, so I'll tell you a few things I have learned that might be helpful for you:

1) First and foremost, I started speaking kindly to myself. I fired jerk-boss in my head and replaced her with kind-boss. She's gentle and encouraging. She sees the laundry that never gets folded and says to herself, "well, something had to give." The truth is, the words of encouragement are so few and far between that we ourselves must speak them to ourselves. Our husbands can say kind things, but sometimes it's hard to hear those thing in the midst of the stressful things. We have to say them. And then hear them.

2) This is totally a practical one: Vitamin B Complex is so important. If you're a new mom and not taking Vitamin B Complex, you have to start taking this. Over and over and over again, I hear moms say it changed their literal life. It changed mine. I also take iron, cod-liver oil capsules, a prenatal and D in the winter. We cannot run this race on fumes.

3) Diet really matters right now. It doesn't feel fair because you walk up and down the stairs and pick stuff up all day and it really should count, but I have found if I am bonkers emotionally when consuming sugar and grains. They make me irritable and snappy. I just finished a Whole30, and felt totally in control of my emotions. It was a wild experience to see how greatly I am affected by what I eat! Since getting back on sugar and carbs, I have absolutely noticed how impatient and short I can get.

4) Friends are so, so important. I found one of my best friends through a MOPS group. I met other best friends through a women's Bible study. To find a friend who has kids the same age as your own is really, really important. It seems silly, like it should work no matter how old their kids, but there is something about having someone in the exact life-stage that really feeds a mom's weary soul. You feel seen and understood without having to explain it all.

5) The Five Senses totally matter when you're home all day! Play worship and praise music. I remember a mom saying this just after I had Ivar. She said, "I have no idea what I'd do if I didn't have praise playing in my house all day long." I remember her saying it because it seemed so over-the-top to me. But now I'm with her. I don't play it all day, but when I can see that all of our spirits are sagging, I put on Bethel Worship or Hillsong or Andrew Peterson or instrumental worship and it changes the atmosphere in our home. Candles and Flowers are important for good scents. I take notice of it all. What am I wearing, what am I looking at (can we clean for 10 minutes so I don't have to stare at this living room all day?) What I'm eating. It all matters.

6) It's all just a season. You can't hardly believe that it in the moment. You think, "well, this is how it's going to be for. the. rest. of. my. life." But then something changes and you realize that hardship has ended. Another will come, but seasons change and it is so good to remember this. One day your baby will be able to put on their own crocs. And keep them on. And crawl into the car on their own. And buckle their own buckle. But you can hardly believe that in the moment.

7) You have to let some things go. We arrive late to things. I try so hard and HATE being late, but sometimes all forces of the universe are against me and I could fight it and be a bear to all around me, or I could take a deep breath and let it go. Rory walks into my kitchen with his boots on eleven times a day. I just let it go. It seems each day there is an area calling out for Grace! Maybe it's the laundry, the dishes, suppertime, a tidy home, a dirty bathroom. Some tasks just have to take a number and get in line. And it's my job to just let it go.

8) It's really, truly hard to mother during the age of social media. There is always another woman out there who looks like she's pulling it all off picture-perfect with no drama, effort or tears. Social media can be a distraction to our worthy call, a time-suck of great proportions eating up our down time, leaving us feeling the opposite of refueled. I have found that I am most irritable when I'm scrolling and just want to get to the end of my feed. If my kids need me during that time, my fuse is so short. I can see it clearly, and it's why I take great chunks of time away from those platforms. I haven't been on IG or Facebook now for five months. I'm not trying to prove anything. I'm just more present and way more content with my little kids when I step away from those addictive outlets. And it forces me to call a friend to spend time together in the flesh.

Alright. I'll stop now because this is getting too long and you need to go to bed too. But I wanted to write this out for whatever mom is really, really struggling right now. Mostly so you know you're not alone. Motherhood is hard, especially for those of us who were going to be awesome at motherhood. Refining Fire does burn. Dying to yourself involves actually dying which goes against every fiber of your sweet living soul. But we have a choice each day to spend it resentful or grateful. And then to let God mold and shape your character into something more like His.

And that is the bottom line. It is only God who can change your heart and your attitude. He did a deal on mine! He is the one who entrusted these babies to our care and he wants them loved well. What a sweet gig: to raise children and care for their every need, to practice servant leadership right in our own homes, serving our families with joy and gladness. Thank you God for this good work before us.

Now go take your Vitamin B complex.

A day in the life of Alden

Hello! My name is Alden. One morning when my mom and dad were up watching the sunrise, I decided to wake up early and join them. My dad said, "Look at this kid! He is changing every day. Are we taking enough pictures of him?" My mom immediately felt guilty, but my dad said, "just grab the camera and take a picture now." And so Mom did, and then she got inspired to keep it out all day long. That's why they're good together. Dad thinks things are possible, and Mom is easily excitable.
After my alone time with Mom and Dad, Hattie woke up! She was a bit put out that I was already on Dad's lap and she usually wakes up first. But she let it slide because I am her favorite person.
Mom changed my diaper and my outfit and then Hattie came to join the photo.
And then Elsie woke up. You may notice I am not at a loss for love and affection.
My sisters did their morning chores which includes unloading the kids dishes and silverware. And sometimes Hattie sorts the kids dishes on the floor.
And Mom took a picture of her lovely Christmas cactus that is about to bloom.
And here's Hattie looking for a snack. She'll do this forty seven more times today. Also, note her new purse from Mimi. It has a puppy on it and she loves it. Mom has found crackers, cashews, pretzels and apple slices in her purse. She hoards her snacks in that hand bag! That Hattie is a smart one...
This was also the day I rolled over for the first time. No one saw me! They just found me on my belly and I was very proud. And then agitated.
Thankfully my big brother woke up and helped me roll back.
Everyone had peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast.
And then it was time for our big group chore. Tuesdays we all sort and fold and put the laundry away. No one is excited about this day and Mom is always going on and on about creating a work ethic and the importance of doing hard things and being a part of the family. And then she says, "I believe I am the only one sorting right now" like a thousand times while my brother and sister put underwear on their heads or pants on Hattie's head or socks on my ears.
When we were putting the laundry away Hattie found the polyfill and spread fluff all over the downstairs. After Mom picked up all the polyfill she decided she may as well vacuum.
Ivar draws pictures all day long. He loves to look at books and then draw his own scenes.
Then it was time for home school. I usually go down for a nap before school begins. It's helpful to have one baby down while Mom teaches.
Hattie is usually awake during home school and wants to be treated just like her big siblings. So Mom always has to tell her what she is to be doing during this time. It's very darling/challenging.
And then I woke up again! Did you miss me?!!
My mom is positively gourmet. What's that? She already served peanut butter and jelly toast today? This is totally different. It's a peanut butter and jelly ROLL UP!
After lunch I practiced my rolling. And Hattie caught up with Steven Curtis Chapman. Hattie is only interested in books with human faces. She has no time for cartoon drawings or animals or scenery. She just wants a magazine full of people. Or a photo album. That's actually her very favorite.
Oh and now this was sad. Very sad. Mom made herself an afternoon cup of coffee. She's super into putting her coffee in a blender with pumpkin puree, butter, coconut oil, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, a little vanilla and a dash of salt. She whips it up and believes it adds great value to her afternoons. Well, she made one pot of coffee and must have gotten distracted and turned the salt grinder way too many times into the blender and ruined the whole thing. So she brewed a whole new pot of coffee, put all the ingredients back into the clean blender and before she could hit blend the bottom of her blender just fell off. Listen. All the poor woman wanted was a cup of her pumpkin coffee! So she brewed her THIRD cup of coffee and just added maple syrup and milk to it. It was a bit of a downer, if you can imagine.

Then my dad came back home and took her picture. This proves that she does, in fact, exist. And that she chopped her hair off. She loves her hair short again.
The three of us had a meeting to talk about Dad's company. Mom and Dad are working together lately and it's been really good.
Hattie colored this turkey for a little while. Then she colored the window frame.
Mom went to find Ivar and Elsie to see what they were doing and they were playing legos. Like always.
And while she was up there, I had a blow out! Dad called up for her to bring down a new outfit for me.
And while they were changing me, Hattie found an orange pepper in the fridge and ate it like an apple.
Then it was dinnertime. I can't remember what they ate that night, but I'm glad to see the Sweet Baby Ray's because at least we can deduce that it was not peanut butter and jelly based.
After dinner, Ivar asked if he could snuggle with me. And then Mom went to the grocery store and Dad oversaw this couch cushion game. The pictures after this had everyone's shirts off, but Mom isn't going to include those. She'll end our day with everyone still clothed. But wow! What a day! Then we all went to bed, and I woke up every three hours to eat and  then we all woke up in the morning to do the whole thing over again.
Mom wants to add one final thought:

These pictures are beautiful and they should be. Motherhood is good and taking care of my kids is the best gig I've ever had. There is a lot out there telling me that I'm not doing enough by raising my kids, but I believe I am doing enough. And that it's very, very important.

That said, there is an audio track that is missing from these beautiful pictures. I told Rory just this morning that for a woman who doesn't love conflict, motherhood is a real challenge. Because no one particularly loves your ideas. Hey guys, you need to stop playing and come eat your breakfast. Have you done your chores? I need you to go brush your teeth. It's time to unload this dishwasher. These all need to be said and the trouble is that not one child will beam, "Mom! That's exactly what I wanted to do with my life right now! Work on my handwriting again! Thank you for thinking of it!" But that's my keep the train moving forward. And sometimes it is a heavy load. 

The true challenge in all of this is that I have to remain the adult and not fall to the level of weeping and gnashing of teeth. My prayer each morning is a sincere, "Lord, help me to keep my voice kind, to train and guide these kids so they learn to be helpful, obedient, kind and thoughtful." They will never learn those things from a mom who is angry, distracted, loud, bossy and always annoyed. 

The refining happening in this house is everywhere. The kids are being shaped and molded every single day. But so am I. Probably more than the kids. And I think that is God's hope in Motherhood. That we'd learn what it really means to be a servant. To lay down our lives for a friend. To be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. I wish these things came a bit easier, but they don't and God is patient and just and forgiving. Which is why I pray to him. I think that's his hope in motherhood too. That we would ask him for help and guidance to make it through our days. 

Hope you enjoyed our day in the life. :)

Parenting Little Kids is like a trip to Panera

So we've been home a lot these past two weeks. Everyone has taken a turn getting sick and even though it's miserable to be sick, it's also shed some light on what is actually possible in my life with a 5 year old, 3 year old and 3 month old.

And I've come to realize something. At this season of time: YOU PICK TWO. Just like Panera gives you two items in an entree, any given day gives you two tasks to accomplish.

Each day it seems, between feeding the baby every three hours, feeding the family three times, and leaving room for all the surprises that are sure to surface, there is margin for just two more tasks:
-Fun Mom: This option includes a mom that makes play dough, helps build lego helicopters, puts her snow pants on, makes hopscotch out of masking tape on the carpet and bakes muffins with her children.
-Scratch Cook: Come dinnertime, this option ensures that there will be more than frozen pizza or fish sticks on the table. If not chosen, those items are completely acceptable.
-Play date Pal: A play date is good for everyone. But you can't do anything house-related when you're at another friend's house.
-Housekeeping: This option ensures the house looks generally tidy at the end of the day. Maybe even vacuumed...
-Laundry Lady: Washed, dried, put in the general right place (may still live in laundry baskets...) your husband will be glad he has clean socks and underwear again.
-Shower for the Mama: In the case that a mom is not actually able to rise before her children, this shower has to happen at another point during the day, and a shower takes time.
-Grocery Getter/Target Trip: This option has to happen at some point during the week. If it is not factored in there likely will be waffles for dinner with a side of fruit cocktail and canned corn.

So there it is. In this season of life, I can accomplish two of those tasks in any given day. And then it's up to me to assess my day accordingly. If I went grocery shopping and made a good meal in a day, then the fact that the house has gone to pot and the laundry is still strewn all around the house is okay. Maybe tomorrow will be their day.

I recently started reading Jen Hatmaker's For the Love on the recommendation of every living soul on planet earth. I'm not super far into it, but if I could xerox chapter one and hand it out on the street corner, I would. Next time you're in Target, take it off the shelf, stand by your cart and read that first chapter. And then you'll likely place the book in your cart to purchase making this perfectly legal. But man that first chapter is something special. All about how ridiculous our expectations are for being a woman and running a household with ridiculously high standards.

It got me thinking along these lines and then I decided my own measure would be the Panera Plan. I will evaluate myself on the two tasks I picked for the day and give myself all the grace in the world for the other tasks that were not picked and therefore exposing the reality that I cannot do it all. But I can pick two.

our growing family

babytres from Becca Groves on Vimeo.

We are overjoyed with this news. We are twelve weeks along as of today and due at the end of September. A few have asked if we were trying and yes, we were trying. :) When the baby comes Elsie with be 3 and Ivar will be almost 5.

About a year ago we were watching America's Funniest Home Videos (all four of us get a kick out of this show) and there was a clip of a daughter announcing her pregnancy this way to her parents, faking the picture and actually taking video. I filed it away for when the time came and I'm so glad I captured these reactions. Hilarious.

Another favorite moment was after I called to tell my brother and his family, I received an email from my nephew, Simon. He wrote, "Hi!!! Currently, I am very excited about the new baby." That's been my favorite line for weeks now. Currently, I am very excited, too.

We wanted to tell the Groves cousins when we were all together so that Ivar could share the news. The adults all knew but he was so excited to share. We hadn't prepped him at all on how to say it, he just stood up and told the room:

after the combines from Becca Groves on Vimeo.

Oh I laughed so hard. At some point I had given him the timeline that first the snow would melt, then the farmers would plant the corn and then the corn would grow over the summer and then the corn would turn yellow. And about the time the combines would come to harvest the corn the baby would come. But that was weeks earlier. And here, he had pieced it all together and made such a sweet and special announcement, "After the combines come out, we are going to have a new brother or sister baby." Hooray!

Family Meeting Agenda

Rory and I have added a weekly meeting into the mix, and folks, this is a game changer for us. Now that we have it, I have no idea how we were functioning without it. And actually, the answer is that we weren't really functioning! Too many things felt last minute, poorly planned and frustrated.

We started this at the beginning of October. We meet on Sunday afternoon when Elsie is napping and Ivar is having quiet play time. That is key. No kids are invited to our family meeting. One day when they are older, I'd love for them to be a part, but for now they are just too little. And this stuff is too important to wait to have our meeting after they go to bed at night. Rory and I are spent then, so we have to meet during the day.

We start by going over our Calendars. We look a month or two out going over big things that need to be discussed. We talk about things added to the calendar in the last week, or things we'd like to add. And we walk day by day through the week ahead. I keep a separate 'to do list' while we meet and Rory does too. We schedule in a date night if that feels needed and all the while I keep a running list of babysitter needs. For most of my motherhood I have been the mom who texts every girl in town with a 24 hour notice. I sound super desperate (because I am!) and it's embarrassing. This little part of the meeting has eliminated 90% of those desperate texts.

Then we talk about Projects we would like to see get done. THIS IS AMAZING. We used to bring these ideas up scattered throughout the week as we thought of them. And then weeks later we would be frustrated that no progress had been made. The first week we met I said I'd like curtains for our living room. Two weeks later, we had them hung because we were on the same page and had talked through why this was a priority. It only took us two years of living here and the two weeks of better communication to get it done!

We then talk about People in our lives we wish we saw more. And try to figure out how to see them. This takes intention! We realized quickly our life is way busier than we had thought. Because we have a running list but not a lot of open evenings. We want to change that.

Then it's General Concerns. Probably the most important part of the meeting. This is the time when something that happened during the week can come up, in a nice, civil, level-headed way. There was a Friday morning when I was on the phone for a good long while, contesting a bill with my doctors office. The kids were watching tv and Rory asked me, "what is the upper limit for tv watching for our kids?" Fresh off the phone with a crabby business lady at my obgyn, I flew off the handle at his question. "Upper Limit?!! However freakin long I want them to sit there so I can fight this bill!" That was my answer. But he really wanted to know. So we added this category to the Family Meeting Agenda. Because in the context of the family meeting, I don't have to get as defensive as I do in the moment. It's a fair question. We can talk about it like grown ups then.

Then it's on to Meal Planning. The best fix I have found to my lack of desire to ever do this on my own. With our calendars out we look at the week. If Rory is going to be gone we plan something very basic. If I am home all day, I plan a meal that involves more prep. If we have small group that night and bible study that morning we plan on having a frozen pizza. I write out our meal plan on a template I found online and I make the grocery list as we talk through menu items. Rory tells me what he's in the mood for, and I love the suggestions. And all week long I LOVE myself because there is a plan that has been thought out so that I don't have to think of something on the spot. It's amazing.

And finally we go over The Budget. And I'm not kidding that I pray before and after we talk through the budget. Because our budget conversations can get a little nit-picky. Rory asks me questions like, "do you remember what you bought at Target on 10/19 for $58.93?" And then he wants me to try to itemize what I bought. Oh Lord, I need you now. So we pray. I pray for patience. I pray thanksgiving for all that we have been given. I pray that we would always be wise with what God has given us. And then we talk through it and the whole time I know I have to pray after this conversation, so I better keep my words nice. And it works! (And I have started keeping an envelope in the jeep to hold my Target receipts so he can itemize to his hearts content.)

Overall Thoughts:
You know, every single business I have ever worked for has weekly meetings. How we were running a household without having one, with a set agenda, now blows my mind. We are running a machine here, keeping all the details of family life in order. And to have Rory's undivided attention for one hour, and for him to have mine, has made A WORLD of difference for us.

Maybe you already do this. Maybe you do something similar. But if you don't do anything, I cannot recommend it enough. I even wish Rory and I had started this before we had kids. The routine of it is just as important as the actual communication that happens. I now keep a little list on the calendar of things to bring up. And I know that when I bring it up on Sunday we will be in our right minds.

And the meetings are getting shorter. Our first two were long, because there was so much to cover. But now we're in a groove, and even going over the budget is a lot faster, because it's only been seven days since we looked at it last.

Hope this is helpful. Here's to many more happy family meetings!

motherhood is a ride

Rory needed the house silent today while he took a few sales calls. And since we were still in our pajamas and couldn't really go out in public, I decided to take the kids on a country drive. I kept telling the kids, "oh that's a pretty picture!" and stopping the car to take the shot. Later they were telling me, "Pretty Picture! Mom, take that picture!"

We drove to a nearby town and got lunch at the meat locker. We played at the park and did a show for each other, showing our jumping jack skills, demonstrating our favorite give-me-five tricks and singing our favorite songs.

So here's what I was thinking about while on this super lovely outing: each day in motherhood feels like a bit of a crap-shoot. It's as if dice actually are rolled before I wake up, and the trajectory of our day greets me and asks me to adapt. It's why motherhood is the ultimate test in selflessness. Because some days require total selflessness. But other days are like today. They take you on adventures with your kids where you can't believe your life is this grand. Days when your heart is overflowing with gratitude for these two little lives who make for super fun company on these random outings.

And actually it's not days that are the crap-shoot... it's minutes. Everything changes in a matter of moments when little kids are involved.

So you end up with pictures like the one above where there are two happy and joyful kids, playing hard and life is awesome. But what I didn't know is that Elsie is running over to the swing to try to fly like superman. Except she's going to miss her fulcrum and tip forward, planting her face on the gravel below.  And this moment will be followed by screams and sobs until we pull ourselves together to go meet a dog and his old man owner who are walking through the park and distract us back to happiness.

Motherhood is a ride.

On the way home I turned down a new gravel road that, as it turns out, did not loop me back the way I thought it would. I was sincerely lost, scanning the horizon at every high point looking for a grain elevator that might point to some sort of town nearby. Eventually I spotted a tall elevator and found the town we had left about twenty minutes earlier.

And as it turns out, life is the ride.

glazed old fashioned donuts with chocolate drizzle

Last week Rory was out of town and I had a babysitter lined up so I could meet with a friend. Our plans changed, so that I had a babysitter coming, but nothing planned. I thought about cancelling the sitter, but then I came to my sweet senses.

There are many things a girl might do with three unexpected hours to herself. I thought hard about what I would most like to do with my time. And then it dawned on me: grocery shop without my kids. So I went and it was wonderful. (And while in the milk aisle I had the brilliant idea to schedule a pedicure, lest you think I'm super dumb with my sudden free evening.)

It was in the cereal aisle that I came upon the two-year-old that I had heard screaming most of the time I was shopping. The two-year-old sat in the front of the cart, and there was an infant in its carrier in the basket of the cart. The mom was pushing with a four-year-old walking behind. The two-year-old was not happy. At all.

I went to check out and as I stood in the long, long line, I could still hear this kiddo even though their check out lane was not close to mine. And then I heard that little newborn wake up and scream as if it was starving to death. Of course it wasn't, but it thought it was. The cries from that baby were so intense I was worried I was going to start producing milk again.

Out in the parking lot, I could still hear this family and just as I was about to sit down in my car, I opened the trunk again to get the donuts out so I could eat them on the way home. I looked three rows down and saw the mom, peeling bananas for her kids, loading the groceries in the back all while the baby screamed its sad story.

And something came over me and I knew what I had to do. I walked right through those three rows of cars with my donuts in hand and said to the mom, "It sounds like your kids are really hungry. I know because I have two little kids at home myself. But I bet you are hungry too. And I wondered if you wanted a donut for the ride home. I was about to eat one myself on my drive home and thought it sounded like you might want one too." She looked so stunned and said, "I do. I do want a donut." (Ha!) And then I looked in her minivan, right into the eyes of her children and told them, "This is your mom's donut. You guys have banana's, but this donut is just for your mom, okay?" And they nodded in terrified obedience.

I walked away back to my car, opened the box again and began to eat my own donut. Because moms deserve donuts.

on mothering a one and two year old

Oh man. I saw this book at the library, read the title and added it to the stack. I couldn't agree with the title more. I grew up babysitting. I used to call mom's and ask if I could come over and play with their kids. Ha! I worked as a nanny, babysat every day of the summer for families with working mom's. I took kids on bike rides, plane rides and entertained two sweet boys on a tour bus. I babysat all through college, seminary and even while married and living in Montana, I babysat.

So when we first got pregnant I didn't feel a bit apprehensive. I knew babies. I knew toddlers. I knew tantrums and bedtime routines and how to get herds out the door and into the car. I was ready.

But yesterday I called my mom bawling. I told her I just wasn't cut out for this. I have a cold, Elsie is so fussy lately and isn't sleeping. She was up all night the night before and I was running on no sleep. Ivar is testing, always testing. Trying to find every boundary. And yesterday I just couldn't see any relief. This is my every day. My weekends look no different than my weekdays. And it feels like I am on some perpetual crazy cycle of wiping noses and then wiping bottoms and then noses again and bottoms too.

Yesterday I took a phone call with a woman I really wanted to talk with. I had just made mini muffins (from a box) and as I tried to keep my kids quiet enough so I could really contribute to the conversation, I fed my children a dozen mini muffins. A dozen. Twelve! Mini muffins! Just to keep them quiet.

But thankfully, as happens with every day of motherhood, bedtime came and I got a good nights rest in me. And I woke up feeling ready for this day.

It makes me feel so manic, but I am starting to think that maybe motherhood is manic. My patience has never been tried like this before. I am finding my ugliest self inside of me, a sinful girl that I used to be really good at keeping at bay. But she's tired and irritable and impatient and hungry and selfish and sinful. And she's me. I'm trying to come to terms with that...the girl I thought I was, versus the girl I now know I am. Motherhood is a different kind of refiners fire. And I find myself humbled, aware of my weakness and able to see my inability to do it on my own more than ever before.

Elsie is 9 months old

Oh Elsie. I love you so much. You are a happy girl. Your personality is showing itself more and more. You started talking a lot more and you like to scream and screech. It is obvious you are proud that you can be loud. You talk in your crib for a long time before we come to get you, practicing your sounds. You now can crawl and sort of inch worm your body around the house. You are fast, and gates had to go up immediately once you learned you could move.

You smile a lot and often scrunch your nose and eyes when you're really happy. That's my favorite, because then we get to see all of your teeth. (all 4.5 of them.)

You say, "Mama" clear as a bell and I love it. You can pretty much get me to meet any of your needs with that magical word. It stops me in my tracks.

You do fine in the nursery at church, and fine when others hold you. But if you sniff out that I am about to leave you, you can get quite nervous. As in a big lower lip and crocodile tears ready to pour out. That's okay. I know we're good pals and it's hard to be apart.

You are a tremendous eater and love taking a bottle. I like giving you your bottle because we just stare at each other and smile. You put your fingers in my mouth and scratch my cheeks. When you're ready for sleep you are happy to be set in your crib. Your bear from Ruby and pink blanket from Mimi are your favorite things to snuggle with in your crib. 

When you're out of your crib you adore your baby doll and the monkey Katherine gave you. Both make you shriek with delight. 

Elsie, you are sunshine to me.
I am so pleased I get to be your mama.
And overwhelmingly grateful that you are my girl.
Mama ma mama