Monday, July 10, 2017

Traveling with Kids

How many of you take vacations with your kids? 


Want to know how I know? 

There's no such thing as a vacation with kids - you simply take trips with them. 

Vacation implies resting and happiness and relaxation. 

Trips with small children are not restful or relaxing and whether or not they're happy is a crap shoot. 

We travel quite a bit with our kids in the car. My parents live in Kansas City and we live outside of Chicago. The trek to my parent's house is 8 hours of driving. We make the trip probably every other month, usually more often in the summer. We recently got back from visiting my brother and sister-in-law in South Carolina. That's 13 hours of driving. The trip usually ends up being closer to 16 hours once everything is said and done. 

Our kids are actually decent travelers. I'm not giving them enough credit. They generally do great in the car. Sometimes, though, I have to help them along with a bag of tricks. 

So here are my tried-and-true, we're-all-stuck-in-the-car-and-trying-not-to-go-crazy, tips for a decently stress-free car ride.

Let's break these down a little more:

1. Have Reasonable Expectations - My OB was talking to me once at an appointment about getting ready to take her then-2 year old on a car trip. She knew I traveled in the car a lot with my kids and asked what I did to make it bearable. Honestly, sometimes it isn't bearable and that's okay. You're the adult. Suck it up, buttercup. Your kid is going to cry in the car because that's what kids do sometimes. It's just like at home, except in the car, you can't get away from it. But if you have those expectations going into the trip, it really isn't as bad as it seems. This, coming from an INTJ who absolutely loathes constant, repetitive, loud noises. You will survive. Because you're the adult and you have to.

2. Plan on Stopping - Okay, so I got the bad news out of the way first. Your child will cry at some point on your car trip. This second tip could be bad news or good news, depending on your personality. You will need to stop on your car trip. You will need to stop for either yourself because you'll have to pee, or your potty-trained child who has to pee, or your baby who has screamed themselves silly for the last hour. I hate stopping. I view it as an interruption to my goal (getting to wherever I'm going in one piece.) Some of you might like stopping and are relieved that I included this here. You need to plan for stops. I like to try to time my stops around meals. For instance, we try to leave for Kansas City really early in the morning when we go. We try to leave around 5 or 6 and then drive 2 or 3 hours and stop for breakfast. Then, we get back in the car and try to drive until lunch. We'll stop for lunch around 11 or 12, depending on how long we stopped for breakfast. I try to make stops as planned as possible. Sometimes, though you can't plan for them and that's okay. Things happen, which leads me to my next point.

3. Limit Water in the Car - So when we are at home, my kids drink several cups of water all day long. When we are in the car, I keep their cups and they get drinks as needed. I do not let them hold onto their cups because they tend to mindlessly drink in the car when they have their cups, which leads to lots more stopping. I do not tell them that they cannot have a drink. I simply keep their cup with me while we're driving so that they aren't just sipping on their cup just for something to do because they're bored. 

4. Pack a Lunch - The kids do get their cups when we stop. They know that's their chance to drink all the water they want. :) We also pack a lunch for them in their lunch boxes so that we can get while we keep on driving after a bathroom break around lunch time. I pack simple things that won't go bad in the car - peanut butter sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples, clementines, veggie chips, crackers. Those sorts of things - easy and no refrigeration required. Packing their lunch saves us some money, keeps us from having to get fast food a lot, and allows us to keep driving.

5. Ration Out Toys - This is a trick I came up with when Maggie was around 2 years old. I packed approximately 1 million books for her and she would look at them for exactly 3 seconds and say "done" and want a new book. Obviously I'd go through the books in about 2 hours this way, which was a problem because we had 6 more hours on the road. I eventually got smart and set a timer. I gave her one book and told her that when the timer went off, she could have a new book. We already used a timer around our home for different things and so she was used to hearing the timer and what it meant. I would always set the book timer for a reasonable amount of time. I didn't expect her to keep a board book for 10 minutes. That, for her, was unreasonable. Maybe it isn't for your child, though. That's the great thing about being a parent - you know what works for your kiddos. 

6. Let Big Kids Pack Their Own Toys - Having older kids has been the highlight of my life. I started letting my kids pack their own small backpack full of toys around the time my oldest was 4 and my middle was 2. I helped the 2-year-old and padded some of his selections (like the first time he did this, he only packed one car and then Batman slippers, soooo....) But my 4-year-old did this herself. She selected each item and she was told she was only allowed to bring what fit in her backpack. She was resourceful and had a Mary Poppins backpack. Whatever works. My kids also know that anything that they don't pack that they end up wanting is on them. This has revolutionized our situation of them throwing fits because I didn't pack their __________. Now, it's on them. And it's nice. 

7. Bring Snacks - Okay, so we're not big snackers here. My kids get maybe one snack after their nap/rest time. But I make sure I bring all.the.snacks. It's an event built into our trip - we have snack time because it breaks up the time in the car and can help snap a kid out of a funk. Do yourself a favor and bring the snacks.

8. Utilize Essential Oils - Okay, you know I'm oily, so I've gotta include this one. Oils work so incredibly well that I never leave home without them. Ever. I use Lavender and Orange in a roller bottle and apply it topically to the back of their necks, behind their ears, or on the wrists. This blend helps calm them down and banishes any bad mood attitude with it. I also use Stress Away - it's a blend of a lot of yummy goodness. Ya gotta getcha some if you don't already have some. Here's where you can get them. You can learn more about oils in the "Oils" tab at the top of my blog. 

9. Play Music That Everyone Enjoys - I don't listen to "kid music" in the car. I just refuse. I cannot. My kids listen to whatever I'm listening to and they like it. We listen to the Gettys, Rend Collective, I Am They, Heath McNease, Queen, and whatever assortment of music my husband has on his IPhone. Our kids listen to our music all the time, so it's not a departure for them to do it on a road trip. I think exposing kids to high quality music is important anyway - sometimes the kid music just stinks. Playing music that we all enjoy helps keep us all relaxed and it's another nice way to break up the trip. We usually start our day off with some music in the car. Once we listen all the way through a playlist, we usually bust out the toys then. Our kids really like to listen to music in the car and this is a good way to break up the car ride a little bit more. 

10. Sometimes, It's Going to Suck. Embrace It and Laugh - This goes back a little bit to my first point. There will be a point that you look at one another and think "why did we do this to ourselves?" It is normal to feel that way. Laugh about it and be thankful that you've chosen a partner that you can live these memories and crazy adventures with. Our kids needs to see us having a good time, especially with our spouses. It doesn't have to be perfect. You'll probably yell at someone at some point. Apologize and move on. You've got bigger fish to fry, like why in the world they won't go to sleep once you get to the hotel. 😬😂

What are some of your favorite, tried-and-true tips for traveling with kids?

Memes + Romans

As I've been reading through the book of Romans, I am struck by how diligent Paul is to communicate to the Roman Jews in ways that they can understand. He takes it back to Abraham. That's who the Jews identify as their "forefather according to the flesh" (Romans 4:1) 

Many Jews believed that because they were circumcised, they were justified (seen as sin-free by God) by keeping the Law. Paul speaks to them using their presuppositions about themselves and Abraham. He points out that they believe Abraham to be righteous. Then, he points out that God credited Abraham as righteous BEFORE his circumcision (Romans 4:10-11.) He uses the Pentateuch (the first five Old Testament books that contain Israel's history of the Exodus and God's covenant to them as well as the Law) to show this. He used the Pentateuch because they cherished it and they were familiar with it. 

I like to think of this as the meme usage of the New Testament. I, like any good Millennial, am obsessed with memes. A really good meme can be biting, cuts right to the heart of the issue, and evokes a familiar thought or feeling across a large variety of people. 

I know a lot of Gen Xers and Boomers do not get the phenomenon that is memes. But I would like to suggest that memes (really, any cultural phenomenon) holds untapped potential for relating to people in a way that they understand. When I see a good meme, I am instantly delighted. I've connected with something in it's message that has resonated about me. For instance: 

This is an easy connection for women especially to make in the days of Pinterest. The message here that I see and identify with is
 "Other moms have their ish together. They bake delicious, homemade everything and look perfect doing it. They, of course, never yell at their kids because that's not what good moms do. I am the mom on the right - kind of frumpy after a few kids, but still kind of trying? And obviously a dinosaur bearing teeth because I definitely yelled at 2/3 of my kids yesterday. But instead of feel bad about this, I'm going to embrace the weirdness that is myself and laugh about it because I know that this is relatable to other people too, no matter how they pretend to have their life together."

See how that goes? 

Yep. A meme told me all that. A cultural phenomenon told me something about myself and the way I relate to others. I think it's easy to get really stuck in religious terminology and phrases. I am so guilty of it. I like to learn big words! I like to learn the "-fications." I like to talk to people who know a lot about the Bible because it's fun and intellectually stimulating. But at the end of the day, talking to people about something they already know doesn't help others hear about something they've never heard about before. 

This is where being relevant comes in. I cringe typing that - I am a product of a movement in the church where they tried to be "relevant" and it was just a weird, Christianification of everything in the world. That's not what I'm talking about here. I don't want to just do bad art or bad music or bad culture in the name of Christ. I want to take what people already identify with in culture and use it to help them see their need for Christ. It's there if we have eyes to see and it's our responsibility to be able to communicate the Gospel in a relatable way. 

What are some of your favorite ways to communicate the Gospel using something in culture. Any ideas to share?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Who Am I?

Have you ever gotten to the point in your life where you looked at yourself in the mirror and didn't know who you were? I turned 30 last week. As I was driving with Matthew to my birthday lunch, I began musing that I wasn't the same person at 30 that I was at 20. At 20, I was skinny, tan (because I tanned in a tanning bed - I know!) miserable if I wasn't working, had just met Matthew a few months before, and was considering overhauling my life and moving 10 hours across the Midwest to attend a university with my best friends and my new boyfriend. I was mostly confident, sort of salty, and I definitely never wanted to be a mother to children.


Fast forward to my current life at 30 - I am not as skinny (thanks children!) I am not tan. I do not work outside the home. I have been married to Matthew for almost 8 years. I moved across the Midwest after I married him to live here. I am not as confident as I was, still salty, and I have three children that I never dreamed I could love as much as I do. 

My life circumstances look different, but I think at my core, I'm still the same. 

I am an INTJ - which I know annoys all of you who don't buy into the Myers-Briggs personality typing, but I seriously do not care what you think. Knowing my MBTI has helped me so much in figuring out who I am - what makes me tick, why I like the things I like, and why I do the things I do. I know there aren't very many female INTJs. INTJs only make up 2% of the population and of INTJs, only 0.8% are women. I frequently do not feel understood. I have wondered if this is because of my MBTI or is this just part of the human condition? 

Do you feel understood? 

As a teenager, if I had to type-cast myself, I was probably the worst portions of my personality type. I was arrogant, judgmental, clueless in romance, and seemed emotionally detached. 

As an adult, I am not totally different, but I've learned which portions of my personality aren't acceptable in society. You obviously don't have tons of friends if you are a judgmental, arrogant person - so you try to hide that part of your personality, or at least temper it. I don't think that this is bad. I think this is one of the marks of growth or maturity - recognizing which parts of your personality are not acceptable in relationships with others. 

Still, there are parts of my personality that seem impossible to change -
 "Smile more!" 
"You need to be friendly and give people hugs!" 
"Stop being friends with men - the only women who are good friends with men are the women who are trouble for other women."

I have heard all of these things in my 20s. Who knows what I'll hear in my 30s?

I'd really like to focus on the assets of my personality - 
I am goal-oriented and I get things done. 
What I lack in emotional availability, I make up for in problem solving skills.
I am good at thinking - I will never not have thoughts to express. 
I am good at looking towards and planning for the future.
I have infinite patience for ideas. I will think about and talk about ideas all day long.

Rediscovering who I am in my 30s is going to be enjoyable, I think. I am making it a priority this year because amidst the shuffle of adding people to our family, I've gotten lost. 

Who are you? What are you good at? Do you know? Are you willing to take the time to find out?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marshall's Birth Story

This is my account of Marshall's birth story for my records. I know I'll forget some of these details down the road and I want to have them recorded now.

Marshall's birth story actually has to begin at the beginning of my pregnancy with him. Actually, no. It should begin two years earlier with the birth of Maddux. I ended up having an emergency c-section with Maddux. His heart rate bottomed out and was not recovering and so the decision had to be made to get him out as quickly as possible. I have been asked if I felt any guilt about having a c-section and the answer is, unequivocally, "no." I made the decision that had to be made in that moment and I think I made the right one. I had a split second of guilt while in the shower after Maddux was born, but I told myself that I wasn't going to feel guilty about something I could not control and could not go back in time and change. And so that was that.


I still wanted to have a VBAC delivery for any subsequent babies. It was something I asked my doctor about at my 6-week postpartum checkup after Maddux was born. She agreed that I was a good candidate for a VBAC and that there was no reason she wouldn't encourage me to have a VBAC for subsequent deliveries. So that was the tentative plan all along. I knew that there were a lot of things that had to work out for me to try, though. I know some crunchy people who avoid medical intervention at all costs. I am not one of those people (crunchy or avoidant to medical interventions.) I was willing to abide by their standards for VBAC so that I could avoid any extra risks or complications.

My pregnancy with Marshall progressed fairly normally (for me.) I was sick the whole time and was actually convinced that Marshall was a girl. My appointments were good and fairly normal until my third trimester. In my third trimester (which is usually where it falls apart for me,) I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The concern with gestational diabetes is that the baby will become too big (macrosomia) and will complicate the delivery. This isn't a great situation for a VBAC. There are guidelines set forth by ACOG for VBACs and they state that a baby should not be macrosomatic for a VBAC delivery. I had several ultrasounds leading up to the delivery to check on the weight of the baby. I hate doing these ultrasounds because they're not very accurate and they can "sound the alarm" needlessly. But I jump through the hoops for my doctor.

I had an ultrasound on November 9th to estimate the weight of the baby and project what he/she might weigh at the time of my delivery. It was estimated that the baby would be about 9 lbs at the time of deliver. My doctor still felt comfortable proceeding with a VBAC. As my due date (December 5th) approached, things became a little more uncertain. Most VBACs are not inductions. The use of Pitocin can increase the risk of uterine rupture, so it typically isn't used. I started having my weekly appointments in my last month and I was 2 cm dilated at my 37 week appointment. That was encouraging! I thought to myself that maybe I really would get to have a VBAC delivery. I knew I would have to go into labor on my own (which I had never done.) I made no progress at my next 2 appointments. It was incredibly discouraging because I was walking miles everyday. I was eating all the foods that were supposed to induce labor. I was doing everything. All the old wives tales. And no progress!

I had an appointment 2 days before my due date and I discussed my options with my doctor. I had been told originally that she didn't want me going much past my due date. We had agreed mid-pregnancy that December 7th would be the last day she'd let me "go" on my own. I had a hunch that I wouldn't go into labor on my own before then, so I basically begged her for more time. She checked me and I was 2 cm dialated and about 50% effaced. Not great, but a little bit better than before. She agreed to let me go another week and then we'd have to talk options again. I had to go in on Monday, December 7th for another non-stress test. I would also have to have another ultrasound to check on the weight of the baby on Thursday, December 10th along with a non-stress test. If I had not gone into labor on my own, my c-section was scheduled for December 14th. I went home from my appointment on December 3rd not that optimistic. I knew everything basically had to be perfect for my VBAC to happen. My parents came on Friday, December 4th. I had some strong contractions in the evening on December 4th and then they stopped. I had a non-stress test on Monday, December 7th and I was having contractions the entire time I was on the monitor. Not strong enough to hurt, but a consistent pattern. My doctor said that she may or may not see me at my appointment on Thursday December 10th. She said a consistent contraction pattern was good, even if my contractions didn't hurt. I woke up on Tuesday, December 8th with pretty painful contractions. I also lost my mucous plug. I texted Matthew and told him that I thought there was a good chance I'd be having a baby in the next few days. Then, mid-morning, my contractions stopped. This has got to be the most frustrating thing about waiting for a baby to come! Do not psych me out, baby! Do not make me think today is the day! I decided to go on a walk around our subdivision to try to get the contractions going again. It worked, but the contractions weren't incredibly strong or consistent.

Matthew took Maggie to Awana that night and took Maddux with him. My mom was with me at home. I didn't eat much for dinner because I didn't feel that hungry. I actually told my mom that everything I ate, I wondered if I would see it again because I tend to throw up while I'm in labor. I worked to clean out the playroom with my mom and try to sort through and purge the toys. As I was sitting on the floor, sorting through toys, I was having a difficult time sitting on the floor because I was having some contractions. The baby's head was really low and the pressure it was putting on my lower back and pelvis was really uncomfortable. I really wanted to finish sorting the toys, though, so I kept working. Matthew and the kids came home and we put the kids in bed. After they were in bed, I went back to sorting the toys and finished up around 10 pm. I told my mom goodnight and that I'd let her know if we went to the hospital in the night.

I headed in to take a shower and realized that I was actually in some pain. I decided to take a shower to see if that would help the pain subside. As I went into the bathroom to take a shower, I told Matthew that he should probably go to bed because we'd be getting up in the night to go to the hospital. He ignored me of course. :) After my shower, my contractions weren't gone. They seemed stronger, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. I had been timing my contractions earlier in the day and decided to start timing them again. I got in bed around 11 to try to sleep and time my contractions and realized while I was timing them that they were pretty close together - 3-5 minutes apart. It finally got to the point that they were 3-5 minutes apart for an hour and I was in so much pain that I couldn't really lay still anymore. I got up to wake Matthew up and when I stood up, I was hoping my contractions would spread out a little bit. NOPE! Pretty suddenly, my contractions were 1-2 minutes apart and I was yelling at Matthew because he was ignoring my attempts to wake him up and I really didn't want to have a baby on the floor at home! He wasn't totally packed (?!?!), so he told me that he was going to "get some things together" while I went to tell my mom that we were going to the hospital. When we finally got in the car and drove down the street, Matthew realized that he had forgotten his driver's license. For some reason, I was adamant that he go back for it? So he did. And then we got back on the road and my contractions were anywhere from 1-4 minutes apart. He was driving pretty quickly and there wasn't any traffic since, at this point, it was about midnight.

We arrived at the hospital and had to go in the emergency room entrance because of the time. I told them that I was there for labor and delivery. The people working the ER desk were probably in their early 20s. Their eyes when I came in, obviously in labor, were huge. Ha. Poor kids. Don't have unprotected sex, kids, or this could be you. They got me a wheelchair and took me up to Labor and Delivery. Once I got up to Labor and Delivery, nobody was in a hurry. I had a scarf on and I was covering my mouth when I had contractions so I didn't scare anyone. I guess they assumed I was being dramatic? They slowly got my paperwork and put me in a triage room. When a nurse finally came into the triage room to check me I was having very strong contractions about 3 minutes apart. I'm not sure what she was expecting to find when she checked me, but her eyes got huge and she said, "WOW! You're 5-6 cm dilated. Did you want an epidural? We need to get you to a room."

Ummm yes to all. That's what I was trying to tell you when I came in at midnight in labor. This isn't my first rodeo, you know.

Suddenly, everyone was in a hurry. They got me to a room and called the anesthesiologist. They told him to hurry. He actually listened and was there within 10 minutes. They tried to get me to sign paperwork between contractions. The handwriting on that paperwork is the worst of my life, probably, and it drove me crazy then and drives me crazy now, thinking about it.

They checked me before the epidural and I was between 6 and 7 cm dilated. My contractions were terrible and I had stayed on top of them up until that point by using a contraction timer to distract myself. I am a task oriented person and the task of keeping track of my contractions kept my mind in a good place. But right before the epidural, I was loosing it. I wanted to chuck my phone across the room. I felt nauseous and asked for something to throw up in. Matthew had to leave during my epidural (per the hospital's policy) and the nurse stood in front of me, talking me through the process of what was happening.

The anesthesiologist told me to stay still (duh) and that I was going to feel a poke, a deep poke, and then a rush of fluid to the site. Cool. Just give me the dang epidural. I don't care what it feels like. Apparently, though, a lot of people have following instructions? After my epidural, I joked with the anesthesiologist and the nurse about having a low pain tolerance. They both looked at me with surprise and the anesthesiologist said, "Actually, you were the best patient I've had in a long time. Most women get epidurals at 4 cm and cannot stay still. I was really nervous to give you an epidural because of how far you are into labor. Most women cannot stay still the further they're dilated. I didn't think you'd be able to stay still, but I decided to try to give you an epidural because I saw you were a VBAC and thought it was probably important that you have one just in case. I'd say you have a high pain tolerance!"

Thanks, man. Just give me the pain relieving juice. 

I finally got to sleep. It was probably 2 at this point. I slept until about 3:30 and the nurse came in and checked me. Her eyes shot up and she said, "Do you feel like you need to push? You are completely dilated - 10 cm."

I didn't feel like I needed to push, so she graciously let me sleep. And sleep and sleep and sleep. It was about 8 am. The doctor doing rounds. She was worried that I didn't feel the urge to push. "We need to back off her epidural a bit," she said. "Well, let's try some practice pushes first. Why don't you push for a few contractions and I'll be back in a bit. How long did you push for your other two?"

"Over 2 hours for both and one ended in a c-section."

"Okay, just do some practice pushes for a few contractions and I'll be back."

So, with the nurse and Matthew, I pushed when I felt like it one time. And the nurse's eyes got HUGE.


She frantically called the doctor to come back. She called out into the hall for another nurse to help her.

At that point, I was just ready to be done, so I pushed when I wanted to (haha that poor nurse.) She was great and let me do whatever my body wanted to do. The doctor came on basically my last push. I pushed and Marshall came out.

"It's a BOY!"

"You're kidding! Are you serious!?"

"It's a boy! What's his name?"

Marshall Owen. 

I couldn't believe it was a "he." So much joy. Relief. Happiness. Satisfaction.

They put him on my chest and I held him while they cleaned things up. When they finally took him to be weighed, I was confident that he didn't weigh over 9 lbs. He didn't feel like he did and he didn't look like it either.

"9 lbs 3 oz."

"WHAT!?! THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE! He weighs MORE than Maddux did?"

But he did. And I had a VBAC. And he was fine. And I was fine.

Happy 1st Birthday, Marshall! I've enjoyed getting to know you this year.



Monday, October 31, 2016

New Room for Maggie

Lots of changes going on in our house this year ... 
New babies - going from 2 kids to 3 kids
New weekly commitments for me - facilitating a core group for a Community Bible Study
Home Renovations.

Bless. Matthew's. Heart.

He is a good man to put up with my shenanigans. 

Maggie and Maddux share a room. This has worked okay for over a year now, but we always knew that eventually, they were going to have to be separated. Marshall and Maddux will eventually share a room. For now, though, Marshall and Maddux are both too young to share a room with one another. The thought of Maddux "helping" and putting a pillow or blanket in Marshall's crib just about made me not able to sleep at night, so we had to think of other options. 

We originally were going to just put doors on the two doorways that were open. But after thinking through some logistics we realized that it would be better in the long run to enclose a doorway and make it a wall instead. My parents were here on Labor Day weekend and so the project began. 

Here are some pictures of the original room. Originally, when the house was built in the 60s, this was a dining room. It's right off the kitchen. Once we had kids, this became their play room. We have always had ample kitchen and dining space, so we could sacrifice the dining room in lieu of a playroom. We finally decided to put the kid's toys in their rooms and ditch the playroom as well. 

These pictures were taken as I was KonMari-ing the toys. So all of the toys were in one place. I love the results of KonMari, but I hate the process.

Eventually, Matthew framed the wall out. 

We were originally planning on putting down different flooring, but when we ripped up the carpet and realized the hardwoods weren't in THAT bad of shape, we decided to keep the hardwoods. 

I chose a paint color and Matthew painted. I will speak in my defense here and say that I offered to paint. I actually really love to paint. I find it very therapeutic. Matthew wanted to do it himself. :)

We chose trim and painted it as well as the shelves that were already in the room. 

This is how the room looked this morning. 

Although it's difficult to tell from the dark pictures, the room really feels much brighter, lighter, and a lot more spacious with the trim lightened, the new paint color, and no more carpet on the floors. 

We're planning on moving her into this room sometime this week - before Daylight Savings Time ends, for sure! I'll have to post pictures once she's done and moved in. I'm looking forward to seeing her room come together.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Good Intentions and Resolutions

I realize that it's mid-February. A lot of people have already made and broken their New Year's resolutions. I've already broken one of mine too. My goal is to completely read one book a month. I didn't get through a whole book in the month of January. Life happens. A child of mine was hospitalized with RSV and pneumonia and while that should have made it seem like I would have had a lot of downtime to read, I was honestly just sleeping while I was not sitting up and nursing him around the clock in the hospital. I am certainly giving myself grace for something that was totally out of my control. 

I do better with big ideas in life. Finding one overarching theme and applying it to the practical things that I have to do everyday. I have goals under my theme, but for the most part I view my theme as a guidance for the decisions I make throughout my year. 

My theme this year?

I sometimes struggle with the motivation to do things. I know everyone struggles to find the motivation to do something. For some, it may be struggling to find the motivation to exercise. For others, it may be struggling to find the motivation to save money. I've found that in a lot of mom circles, we like to get pats on the back for our struggles. Affirmation that we are not alone. It goes beyond that sometimes and we receive affirmation for things that we really should be working to change. Receiving affirmation for poor eating habits is not helping you. It's actually hurting your body and health long term. The talking about knowing you need to eat healthier items with friends might provide you with accountability if you're serious about changing your eating habits, but it also might be a way to feel better about your lack of action that has been replaced by good intentions. 

I typically eat a low glycemic index diet. After I had gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with Maddux that was totally diet controlled, I decided I actually liked the way I felt when I wasn't eating sugar. Having gestational diabetes also increases your risk of Type 2 diabetes 10 years down the road. That would mean that there was a chance that I could have Type 2 diabetes at 35. 35 years old! Can you imagine being that young and diagnosed with something so potentially life-consuming? I couldn't, so I made some changes. Fast forward to present day. I ate low glycemic index through my pregnancy with Marshall as well, sometimes straying based on what I could keep down without vomiting. I had Marshall (VBAC!) and I firmly believe that a low glycemic index diet is what helped me be successful in accomplishing that goal. However, since I had him, Maggie's birthday happened. Christmas happened. New Year's happened. Now Valentine's Day is upon us. I had gone from eating very little to no sugar to eating at least 2-3 sweet things a day. That may not seem like a lot for some, but when you don't eat sugar regularly, it's a lot! I noticed one day in particular that I felt moody, grumpy, and shaky. And that was after eating lunch! I decided then that I needed to get back to my low glycemic index diet. However, supper time rolled around and there was a sweet treat and so I ate it. And then felt grumpy and told myself that I really needed to get back to the low glycemic index thing. But the next morning, my husband brought donuts. So I ate them. And felt moody and grumpy. And told myself that I really needed to get back to the low glycemic index thing. And then weeks had passed. I had even bought myself all the food I usually eat and cook with while eating low glycemic index. And I would eat that, but then still eat sweets. I would then talk about how I really needed to stop eating these sweet treats. They really weren't good for me and I didn't like the way I felt after I ate them. On and on this went until one day, frustrated by a lack of action by someone in my life, I texted to my husband, Good intentions are no better than doing nothing.

I realized that good intentions were what I had been living on. As long as I had good intentions, I excused myself from acting. They were there in the back of my mind, affirming my lack of action by making excuse for my behavior. "Well, I didn't intend to eat any more sweet treats, but my husband brought donuts home, so I just HAD to eat them. I already bought all the healthy stuff I usually eat, so I'm not going to worry about one donut." Doing this once in a while is really no big deal. I'm not so rigid in my life that I cannot enjoy a well-timed donut. It's making this a habit that causes problems. 

The habit of good intentions with no action in my life causes me to stall out. 

I don't ever really DO anything in my life because I don't have to. I've had the high of good intentions and plans, so I don't have to seek the high of actually completing a task. This seems to be a trend for me. I do get things done, but only after hours of planning. Planning for me can be the "good intentions" phase. Actually, I need to be proactive in finding ways to complete the tasks on my to-do list. I need to sit down and figure out what I need to do and what tools or people I need to accomplish my goal. But then, I need to actually DO the things on my goals list. My intentions are to offer to babysit for a mom who needs a morning alone? I need to ask her what day she needs a few hours to herself and then I need to actually clear my schedule and tell her, "I'm free to watch your kids." 

Doesn't that seem silly? Of course we have to act on our goals. But good intentions are so much easier than action. That's probably why people stop making New Year's resolutions. The resolutions are long on good intentions and short on action. Thinking about what I might gain from completeing the task vs. what might happen if I don't complete the task is a good exercise for me in making sure I'm working towards goals. I certainly don't have this perfectly figured out, but I'm taking proactive steps to make sure I am actually doing the things I intend to do. Let's be sure to put our good intentions to work!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On Finding Refreshment as a Mom

"The days are long, but the years are short."

"Enjoy EVERY SINGLE MINUTE you have with your kids. They'll be gone before you know it."

"Kids grow up so fast."

These platitudes and more will come your way if you are the parent to children. Especially, it seems, if these children are under the age of 5. While the people who say these things wax poetic about the wonderful days they had with their now older or grown children, a mom who is in the thick of it can easily begin to wonder if something is wrong with them if they're just surviving through most days. 

I think moms especially feel this unspoken burden placed on them. If you stay home with your kids, you had better be sooooooooo grateful that your husband is sacrificing to let you stay home with your precious treasures and raise them to have perfect manners, be perfectly obedient, and do all the sensory activities and Pinterest projects their hearts could desire. If you work outside the home, you should feel guilty that you're not spending every waking moment with your child. To make up for it, you should stress yourself out by cooking gourmet meals while you're home, make sure you're putting them  in the best childcare whether or not you can afford it, and buy them indulgent gifts because you feel guilty that you don't stay home with them all the live-long day. And you get to deal with the mom-shaming that comes from others who say, "Don't you WANT to stay at home with your kids?!?" I sometimes wonder why men don't feel this burden? I'm jealous. 

All this to say, motherhood in the 21st century can involve loads of stress and loads of guilt. For the first time in history, Millennials and younger Generation Xers have access to information about what mothers all over the world are doing. Instead of just having the "norm" for your local demographic of mothers, you have access to the Interwebs and all the wonderful and weird mothering practices. You want to find justification for cry-it-out? Easy. You'd rather justify your co-sleeping? Yep, easy to find that too. All this can make it easy for information overload. There is simply too much information to sort through all of it. The wealth of information can leave a mom feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, bogged down by the guilt of having possibly made the wrong parenting decision, but not knowing it because there is entirely too much information to sort through. 

The age of rest this is not. However, it's important as a mom to find ways to do things that refresh you. This takes conscious effort. A purposeful time set aside to do what makes your soul come alive. My husband recently told me after I had been telling him about a particularly overwhelming day, "You need to find something to do." I suppose a lot of women could be insulted by this. I have 3 children, 4 and under. It's not like I'm ever at a loss for tasks to do. However, it's no secret that I like to work. To do tasks that are completed and not undone in a short amount of time.To complete a to-do list and have it stay completed. Even to just unplug my brain for a moment to think about something other than my kids. However, when he told me that I needed to find something to do, my immediate response was, "I don't even know what I like to do anymore." It has been so long since I had serious time to myself that I wasn't even able to nail down what it was I wanted to do if given some time alone. 

If you're like me and need some recommendations for things to refresh your soul, here are some low-tech options:

1. Read books. This one is obvious, but often overlooked. I love the "task" of completing a book. I especially love that after I'm finished with the book, it's finished. There is no child to come and undo what I've finished. :) I make it my goal to read one book a month. 

2. Study God's Word. There are so many great Bible studies that there's no excuse to not. She Reads Truth is a great online resource that's free!

3. Start and complete Pinterest projects. I don't know about you, but I tend to pin things and never do them. My goal this year is to change that. I'm working on a heart made out of buttons on a canvas, currently. 

4. Think. Seriously. Thinking alone and uninterrupted is such a luxury for me these days. I like to think about lots of things. Like why is Donald Trump doing well in the polls? 

5. Enjoy a meal with a friend. Alone. Not having to worry about cutting up anyone's food but your own. 

All of these things could be free. The time spent away will pay dividends when you're able to keep your stuff together when your children are sick or have suddenly decided that it's perfectly acceptable to put a whole box of tissues into the dog's water bowl. You don't have to spend loads of money or take loads of time away from your kids to be refreshed. Even an hour is useful for refreshment. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to care for your marriage and your kids. Do your family a favor and take time to refresh your soul regularly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

January Happenings

I'm going to try to keep up with some sort of documenting of the kid's life and days this year. I'm going to combine kids into one post and do it on a monthly basis. That seems the most reasonable right now.

Maddux is at a point in his life that he takes forever to eat breakfast sometimes. He just eats and eats and eats. Generally, his breakfast is oatmeal with blueberries. I still have to feed him anything that's not finger food. He's showing very little interest in learning how to use a spoon. 

After going to Kansas City for Christmas we returned to find winter in full force in Chicagoland. It's always so disappointing to me to feel the first few cold days. We decided to stay in and make Valentines. Maggie was sporting a black eye this day because she ran face-first into a table. 

 Maggie is at a really great age to have a conversation. 50% of the time what she says makes perfect sense and 50% of the time none of what she says makes sense. She is especially fond of this Hello Kitty ViewFinder that she got for Christmas. "Mama, Hello Kitty is goin' to da zoo! Can we go dere too?"

This was before her nap one afternoon. She had been begging me to go outside to shovel with her little shovel. It was finally warm enough this day to go out without freezing, so we bundled up and shoveled off the deck and sidewalk. Maggie is still at the point in her life that she thinks almost every kind of work is fun.

Now that Maddux is only taking one nap, he goes down for his afternoon nap sooner than Maggie does. This gives Maggie and I some time to play by ourselves. She gets to pick what we do. This day, she chose Play-Doh. 

The kiddies are getting to the point that they play together fine, but both are relieved to have moments without the other to play with their toys however they want. Maddux enjoys playing by himself with me while Maggie watches Sesame Street.

From time to time, I ask Maggie what she thinks she's good at. I really enjoy hearing her answers. This time she said, "Umm... Tools, books, princesses, and Hello Kitty pudding." 

And this sweet baby is basically a toddler now. I am in denial and enjoying that his hands still look babyish. 

Daily Schedule for Maggie and Maddux
8:30 or 9:00 am - Kids wake up. Generally, I get Maggie up and dressed first, then I get Maddux up.
9:00 am - While I get Maddux up, Maggie starts her breakfast at the table. She usually has Greek yogurt. She will eat it while I go into Maddux's room to get his clothes on and get him to the table.
9:15 am - Feed Maddux his breakfast. Maggie has usually eaten all her breakfast at this point and gets down to play in the playroom. 
9:45 am - Maddux is finished with his breakfast. He gets down and goes into the playroom to play.
10:20 am - Maggie watches Sesame Street. It's on for a full hour, but Maggie only watches about 35-40 minutes of it. I kind of think an hour stretch of TV at a time for her is too overstimulating. Maddux continues to play in the playroom while Maggie watches Sesame Street. This is typically when he and I have our one-on-one play time. We play cars or read books, usually. He also likes to play with the play kitchen. 
11:00 am - Sesame Street is over and the kids head to their rooms for independent play. 
12:00 pm - Independent play is over. We clean up the toys and get ready for lunch. 
12:15 pm - Lunch time
12:45 pm - Both kids done with lunch. Get down and play in the playroom.
1:00 pm- Maddux down for his afternoon nap. After I lay
Maddux down, Maggie and I have about 30-40 minutes that we play. We do whatever Maggie wants (within reason, obviously.) We generally rotate between making "craffs" (crafts,) playing Play-Doh, reading books, coloring in a coloring book, and playing with her babies and kitchen. 
1:30-1:45 pm- Maggie goes down for a nap.
4:00 pm - I wake Maggie up from her nap. Maggie is a lot like me when she wakes up. She is very unamused to have her sleep disturbed. I would prefer to let her sleep until she wakes up, but if we let her sleep any longer than this, she typically has a difficult time falling asleep at night.
4:30-5:00 - Maddux up from his nap. 
5:00 pm - The kids play in the playroom while I makes supper. 
6:00 pm- Matthew home. Eat supper.
6:45 pm - Finished eating supper. If it's a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, I go and start the kids' bath. If not, they get down from the table to play. If it is bath night, they sit at the table with Matthew and wait until I come back from getting their bath ready. 
7:00 pm - Both kids are in the tub. 
7:20 pm - We try to be done with baths by this time so that the kids can play in their playroom with Matthew before it's time for them to go to bed. 
7:30 pm- Play in the playroom with Matthew.
7:45 pm - Bed time routine started. 
8:00 pm - In bed.

My life is a lot easier now than it was a year ago. It's nice to have kids on basically the same schedule.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Jesus, Lent, & Diet Coke

 I didn't grow up observing Lent. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church and Lent was "WHAT THE CATHOLICS DID." I went away to college and began to study church history (my degree is actually in History, so this wasn't just a passing freshman history class.) I realized that the church fathers observed Lent as a preparation for Easter much like Advent was for Christmas. It didn't become a means of grace to some until much later. 

So about eight years ago, I began to observe Lent. I've had a few people (okay, lots) ask me what I mean by "observe Lent." As in, what do I do? I haven't always done the same thing. There were many (misguided) years that I simply abstained from something that I liked. The usual suspects - sweet treats, Diet Coke, caffeine, health food. Not true to that last one. I think one year I even gave up lip gloss? I mean, like I said, I didn't always observe Lent in the most meaningful way. I've grown as my understanding of Lent has grown. 

I now choose to abstain from something that I like, as well as do a Lent devotional (I have enjoyed using this one.) My goal in abstaining from something I like is to remind myself of my weak will apart from Christ. The last two years, I have abstained from Diet Coke. (As an aside, please do not send me links about how bad aspartame and Diet Coke are for my health. I realize this. But I like it. So I do not stop. Heaven help me.) I don't drink coffee, except recreationally. My main source of caffeine is Diet Coke. So at some point during the day, I generally drink it. It gets rid of any headaches, as well as puts a little pep in my step. So giving up Diet Coke for Lent doesn't just involve not drinking pop while I'm out to eat at a restaurant. It also means forgoing my daily allotment that makes my world go 'round. 

I'm still in the throes of withdraw. I actually muttered to myself yesterday, "Jesus isn't better than Diet Coke." Yikes. Heart condition, people. I'm not going to pretend like I'm a super-Christian who never struggles with an addiction (yikes!) That is not true. I am a weak-willed individual. I can't make myself be good enough. Jesus took the punishment for my inability to be perfectly righteous. 

It's at this point that I have had people ask me, "so if you believe that Jesus took the punishment for your sin and inability to be perfectly righteous, why do you observe Lent? It's not a means of grace, so why not enjoy the freedom you have in Christ?" 

As Easter approaches, and the Church celebrates Christ's resurrection from the dead, I have been helped in my appreciation of Christ's sacrifice by realizing my own weakness and insufficiency. I generally do not make it through Lent without partaking in whatever I said I'd give up. And to me, that's the point. I couldn't ever be "good enough" to go to heaven. I cannot even abstain from something for 40 days without "cheating."

I needed Jesus. Me. Not just you- me. I haven't always owned my need for a savior. I spent a lot of (self-righteous) years like the Pharisees. Everyone else was the problem. Everyone else needed Jesus. 

No. I needed Jesus to deliver me, even from that self-righteousness. 

And He did. 

So Lent is a time of reflection on that for me. A time to remember a deliverance from self-righteousness and arrogance. A humbling of sorts, when I realize how weak my will to "be good, do better, try harder" really is. 

Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of his good pleasure – is God.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Photos for January, February, & March

Being super behind on blog posts, I will simply post pictures from the last several months with a few comments on a some of the pictures. Vague, I know.

 Maggie loves to watch Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. 

 Maddux was four months old on February 8th. 

 Maggie ate some bok choy at my parent's house for the first time and loved it. Up until this point, she loved pureed spinach, but had never liked it in it's whole leaf form. I think it had a lot to do with texture. There wasn't much to chew in whole leaf form. She decided to get over it after eating this bok choy. 

 We ended January visiting my parent's house and ended our trip there snowed in and unable to fly out until the next day. This was Maggie's second time flying and Maddux's first. They both did well. Maggie cried quite a bit before the flight to KC. She calmed down once the airplane was taxiing and taking off. She did great on the flight home. 

 We celebrated Valentine's Day with heart-shaped pancakes.

 We celebrated Matthew's birthday with barbeque at Famous Dave's. 

 Maddux turned five months old on March 8th. 

 Maggie is ready to watch the Jayhawks during March Madness! 

 Maddux really started to enjoy his exersaucer. He liked to sit in it while we ate breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Because of his allergy issues, he had not had any solids at this point, so he wasn't sitting at the table with us to eat. Sitting in his exersaucer in the kitchen was a good alternative to him sitting in a high chair.

 In March, Matthew and I went to Houston to visit friends. We spent one of our days together in San Antonio. We went to the Alamo and walked along the San Antonio Riverwalk. 

 When we returned from Houston, my tiny baby had grown up into a toddler. It was the most depressing thing ever. She would no longer cuddle with me while she watched Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

  Giving this guy a bath never gets old. He has chins for days. He also peed on me while I took this picture. 

After a particularly rough morning, I decreed that we were going on a walk. So I busted out the double jogging stroller and away we went. A few minutes into our walk, I looked down to see Maggie holding Maddux's hand. Maggie told me, "Maggie likes bein' wif Brother. Maggie likes bein' wif Mama, too!"

Friday, February 7, 2014

Maddux : Newborn Summary - 3 Months

Maddux was 3 months old on January 8th. This is a summary of his second month (from 2-3 months old.) It's his last newborn summary! :(

3 Months Old

This month of Maddux’s eating was the most challenging one yet. He can’t eat more than 4 ounces at a time (although it’s usually closer to 3 ounces,) which makes it impossible to move him to a 3.5 hour schedule. He would sleep long enough to wait 3.5 hours for most feedings, but he would end up cutting a feeding out of his day and since he can’t compensate for the dropped feeding by eating more at each feeding, I've been waking him up and feeding him every 3 hours. In case you’re wondering if I tried moving him to a 3.5 hour schedule, yes, I did. He still only ate 4 ounces, dropped a feeding, and then wasn't having the appropriate number of wet diapers (meaning he wasn't drinking enough.) I only did one day of that before I went back to waking him after 3 hours.

Acid Reflux:
He began arching his back during feedings as well. He had his 2 month check-up and I asked his pediatrician about acid reflux. He had a cough as well, which I suspected was a result of reflux because I could smell acid on his breath. He also had a very pronounced stridor (basically, a really loud, honking noise every time he inhales.) The pediatrician agreed with me about the acid reflux (he actually has GERD, although he isn't emaciated like a lot of GERD babies are. The cough and stridor place him in the GERD category.) The pediatrician prescribed Ranitidine (Zantac.) After a few days on it, his cough was gone, and the arching during feedings was diminished as well. The stridor was better after a few weeks. It still wasn't gone by the end of the month. Maddux hasn't been a great eater since right before we figured out that he had a milk protein allergy. I think it’s probably compounded by the fact that the current formula that he’s on (Elecare) is absolutely disgusting. I've had to tell myself when it’s been particularly difficult to get him to eat that it would be like eating my least favorite meal every day, for every meal. It helps put the situation in perspective for me. It still takes him close to 45 minutes to eat. I am encouraged that he is gaining weight, though, because a lot of babies who have the digestive problems that he has are totally emaciated and don’t gain weight. The pediatrician said that most moms aren't as persistent as I am about getting their babies to eat. I’m nothing if not persistent. The pediatrician also said that this second month of the milk protein allergy and the acid reflux is the worst around the 2 month mark, so we should expect some improvement in him in the next few months.

Maddux naps well most days. There are a few naps here and there that he doesn't sleep well for, but for the most part, he goes to sleep on his own and stays asleep.  He is still swaddled for naps and nighttime. For the naps that he doesn't sleep well for, I put him in the bouncy seat and turn the vibration on. He eventually falls asleep.

Sleeping through the Night: 
Maddux started sleeping through the night some nights. Other nights he didn't. On the nights he woke up, I waited a few minutes to see if he would go back to sleep. When he didn't, I got up and fed him. Because he is a bigger baby, but still can’t eat a lot during the day because he can’t handle a large amount at each feeding, if he wakes up in the night, I feed him. He finally began consistently sleeping through the night around 12 weeks. This is on the later end of the spectrum for Babywise babies, but with all of his health issues, there’s no way I could force my desire for him to sleep through the night on him. I’m not saying Babywise advocates that (because it doesn't, which is a common misconception.) But I know a lot of moms who do a modified version of Babywise who let their children cry during the night until they fall back asleep, because they think it’s what Babywise says to do. It’s not. Babywise gives me the freedom to make the decisions I need to make for my child – while still working towards certain goals.

Christmas was this month – Maddux did well. He stayed up a lot later at night and missed naps and he either slept in his carseat, someone’s arms, or not at all. This is another disturbing thing I notice about Babywise moms. They are sometimes ridiculous about taking their children places. They won’t do anything to disrupt their child’s sleep schedule. They skip family Christmas (!?!), don’t go to church every week because it will fall during their child’s nap, don’t go on vacation as a family because it could mess up their child’s sleep schedule. Ugh. Let me be clear – If families decide that doing that is best for their family then that is their prerogative. That isn't, however, what Babywise advocates. I have had a child who will not sleep in my arms (Maggie.) It was pretty unpleasant to take her anywhere when she was really small because she would not sleep in anyone’s arms. She wasn't always happily awake either. She screamed and screamed and screamed until she finally exhausted herself (hours later) and fell asleep for a half hour before she would wake up and start all over again. Sometimes, it’s not worth the inconvenience of going somewhere. I get that. But other things are non-negotiable. Everyone’s non-negotiable, must-dos are different, but everyone should have some non-negotiable, must-dos. We have gone on many road trips with Maggie to Kansas City where she has not slept and has cried much of the way there. Still, if I hadn't taken her, we probably would've only been to Kansas City 4 or 5 times. That is just not an option. All that to say – if you do Babywise and you choose to be crazed about your child’s sleep schedule, please know that you’re not doing it because you’re following what Babywise says. You’re not. You’re choosing legalism over using common sense. 

This was a rough month for emotions. Not in a feeling depressed way, but in a, “I’m so tired of having a baby who screams instead of eats” way. Having the pediatrician tell me that this was the worst of it was encouraging.

Reflection on Newborn Period:
I really can't believe that I made it! The newborn age isn't all that enjoyable to me, but this went by so fast. I've loved getting to know Maddux better as the days go on and I'm excited to see the person he is becoming! It has been a fairly smooth transition from one child to two, which helps. 

Schedule (more of a routine, really. I’m not rigid about this):
7:45 am – wake to eat, play
8:35 am – nap
10:45 am – wake to eat, play
11:35 am – nap
1:45 pm – wake to eat, play
2:35 pm – nap
4:45 pm – wake to eat, play
5:35 pm – nap
7:30 pm – wake, bath, and eat
8:15 pm – bed
10:45 pm – dream feed

5:00 am (on nights that he didn't sleep through the night) – eat and then right back to sleep. 

So happy that his arms are flapping :)

First time in the Bumbo seat. Maddux has an interesting problem with sitting in this seat - he is too tall! His back goes quite a bit above the back of the seat, which causes the whole concept of the seat not to really work with him. I will be trying again next month.

He discovered his hands this month, too!

They provided him with quite a bit of entertainment. I'm also so glad I got a picture of his cute baby feet in this picture. 

He is a pretty serious baby.

The end. :)