Having It All Together

Today is the second day in a row that I’ve gotten both kids to go down for a nap at the exact same time.  Today, I feel like Super Mom.  Today is not ordinary.

I’ve been juggling two kids now for 7 months.  It finally seems normal, but it never really gets any easier.  I remember the first time I went to the grocery store alone with both kids.  I thought I’d just have Miles ride in the cart while I carried Nora in the ring sling.  Only, I didn’t factor in Nora only wanting to be upright in the sling, thus requiring me to support her newborn head most of the time.  Nor did I factor in how hard it was to steer a cart one-handed…or keep a toddler happy while bouncing a baby constantly.  Thankfully, a very sympathetic mother from church with older children saw me coming out, trying to turn the cart with my foot while getting Miles to stop whining.  She pushed my cart all the way to my car for me.

I was grateful to her, but I couldn’t help feeling self-conscious…like I was woefully in over my head without any way to hide it.  I thought I was born to be a mom, but this two-kid thing was not second nature to me.  I felt anything but capable.

Since then, I’ve learned that I am decidedly not capable.  But I’ve also learned that that’s okay.  Sure, there are some days like today when I want to do a Rocky fist-pump because I am rocking it.  Yet, I know that tomorrow my son will probably yell out something very disrespectful to me in Walmart and every judging head in the store will turn to see how I react.  Meanwhile, Nora will be screeching and shoving her face into my chest wanting to nurse.  (Have I mentioned that we never left the house today?  Maybe that’s why I’m rocking it…).

At any rate, I know full well that I won’t feel like Super Mom every day.  Or even most days.  What I do know is three-fold.  1.) God promises to never give me more than I can handle with His Strength.  2.) As one of the dear “older” moms in my life likes to remind me, I will miss this one day.  3.) Super Mom or not, God entrusted me with these babies because He knew that I was the mom they needed.  Capable or not.  Rocking it or not.    IMG_5693

One day when my kids are all grown, it will matter little whether I had everything together or not when they were small.  What will matter is that they saw and felt and tasted Christ’s love overflowing out of me to them each and every day.

When the Greyness is Darker than the Dark

*I wrote this as I was coming out of PPD, and thought I’d share it with you all.

Dark times and trials are awful, don’t get me wrong.  But at least when you’re in them, you know they’re in them.  And you feel justified to be sad, upset, or at a loss to know what to do.

Those grey times can be so much harder.

You know those times.  Life is good, really it is.  You don’t have any big trials to get through or problems to solve.  Yet somewhere deep inside you just feel off.

On the outside, everything is good.  You put on a good facade.  Because times are relatively good, no one would have any reason to suspect that something was not right.  You hear of other people’s hard, awful trials, and you feel ashamed for the way you feel.  Almost like you have no right.

Know that there is no shame in the greyness.  It’s hard too.  I know.  Light shines clearly in the darkness.  But in the grey fog, it often gets muddled.

Yet, know this too: God’s light is not the kind of light we understand.  It doesn’t get muddled or lost in the grey.  It shines clearly and with warmth, dissipating it away…more like the sun than a lamp.

There is no shame in the greyness.  It is just as hard as the darkness.  Hold fast to the True Light that cuts through the fog.

The Bakers and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

*Disclaimer: This story is completely true and happened about a month ago.  It is not fabricated or elaborated upon.

When we went to bed last night, we were expecting a good nights sleep, but when we woke up this morning, we wondered if we’d even gone to bed.  The sometimes-amazing-usually-decent-sleeper was sick with a fever and was up every. Stinking. Hour.  The toddler played his normal game and climbed in bed with us at one point.  And we had a new puppy that needed to go to the bathroom. A lot.

So then the husband went to work and I (Mama) was left alone with a screaming, unhappy baby, a high energy little boy, and a brand new, not-potty-trained puppy.  
I tried to give the baby a bath to cool her fever down, but the cold water just got her mad.  I hate screaming.  And then I went to get her dressed again and the boy said “I stepped in poop”, and apparently the puppy had had an accident and Miles had stepped right in it.  I hate poop.  And the baby was still crying.  I hate crying.  Finally the puppy was put in a box, because I couldn’t find the dog crate and couldn’t handle her anymore.  But then she chewed a hole through it and ran downstairs and peed.  I hate dog pee.
I had to take the baby to the doctor and had no time to look for the puppy crate, so I locked the puppy in the laundry room with the box pushed against the baby gate at the top of the stairs.  The doctor said that Nora had an ear and eye infection.  Her eyes were crusty, her ears were hurting, and she was just plain unhappy.  
So then we ran into Walmart for puppy toys to kill time until the baby’s antibiotics were ready.  Only, when we came out, the pharmacy still didn’t have it ready, and I had to call the doctors office.  Again. 
And then I decided to go home, only to find the husband upset because the dog had pushed the box aside, squeezed through the baby gate, and ran downstairs and pooped and peed and ripped stuff up.  So I promptly found the crate.  
And the husband was even more grouchy because he had had a bad day at work and had to break up a fight.  Between grown men.
We had words.  But then we apologized and all drove into town for medicine and carpet remover and greasy fast food.  And Miles almost had an accident in the car, but thankfully he made it. 
It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  My mom says that all moms have them.  Do you? 

You Are My Greatest Adventure

To My People,

Recently we were hanging out with a group of married friends when it dawned on me that Daddy and I were the old-marrieds of the bunch.  Everyone else had been married two years or less…and here we are fast-approaching our 5th anniversary.  What the what???

I’m realizing more lately how quickly Daddy and I really did have kids.  Sure, we’d been married two years before Miles came along, but here we are five years and two kids into marriage, when some of our friends have been married five years and are still [purposefully] waiting.  My Instagram feed seems chock-full of childless married couples going on grand adventures together and living nomadic lifestyles.  Meanwhile, my personal Instagram feed is exploding with pictures of the cutest little chubby faces you’ve ever seen (yes, I’m biased).  And in case you didn’t get that, Little Munchkins, that would be you.

Settling down and having kids isn’t for everyone, I’ll give you that.  But for Daddy and I, it really was and is.  And really, the family life is a bigger challenge and adventure than any fast-paced action movie showing at the theatre.  What is an adventure after all?  It’s full of unknowns and fatigue and pushing you beyond what you thought possible.  It’s full of challenge and hurt and mistakes and worry.  What’s a bigger adventure than getting married and having kids?  I mean, the Fast and the Furious crew can’t hold a candle to me.  I’d like to see them navigate traffic with one hand holding a paci in the back seat and not be distracted by the loudest, most obnoxious screaming ever (again, a little biased).  Oh, and Jason Bourne?  I’ll bet I can function way better than you can on no sleep.  I’ve conditioned myself…I have babies.  Don’t get me started on kicking b*** with super human strength.  Have you ever tried to mess with mama’s babies?  And I’d like to see MacGyver figure out a way to hold a potty training toddler over a public potty while simultaneously holding a newborn as well as I can. (And Miles, I will be telling the pooping-on-my-foot story at your wedding someday because…you owe me.)

In all seriousness though, you all are the greatest, most fulfilling adventure I’ve ever been on…or probably ever will go on.  No, I don’t spend my days scaling mountains or living out of a station wagon, but my days are still incredibly rewarding.  We really try to keep traveling and going on spontaneous adventures with you little crazies in tow (#babywearing or #carrythemwithyou anyone???).  We throw in our fair share of crazy.  Think: flying cross-country with a two-year-old and an 8 week old, flying alone with a 23-month “lap” baby and an ever decreasing preggo lap, camping big and pregnant, camping with an 11-month old, or hiking with two kids on our back.  Yet, even on the days when I’m just home with you all day there are still challenges to overcome and new adventures to be had.  Although it may seem like it sometimes, being a wife and mom is not mundane.  It’s an adventure that’s not for the faint of heart.  It’s gritty and raw and revealing and strengthening all at the same time.  It’s one of the hardest and best things you’ll ever do.

Some days as parents, Daddy and I thrive.  Others, we just barely survive.  Yet, I know we wouldn’t trade the adventure of parenthood for a billion solo adventures out in the world.

Andy, Miles, and Nora, you are my greatest adventure.

Love,

Caitlin (aka, Mommy)    

Dear Single a Girl: Don’t Waste Time; or How Who I Am Factors into being a Stay-at-Home Mom

Miles and I have started doing “school time” together a few days a week.  I know, I know…he’s only two.  Let me assure you…it’s really simple and laid back and only takes about 20 or 30 minutes.  And we’re both loving it.
Admittedly, I may be loving it slightly more than Miles.  For those of you don’t know, I’m actually a certified elementary school teacher.  I only substitute taught and never had a classroom of my own, but that background and training is there.  After a few years of mostly cleaning up messes and trying to keep a semblance of order to our house, and years before that working in a completely different field (accounting at a furniture manufacturer), I’d almost forgotten how much I really did enjoy teaching.  
You see, Miles’ school time is, for me, all of the things I loved about teaching without all of the things that made it hard and, on certain days, downright awful.  I love fueling his curiosity and seeing his mind expand and grow.  I love scouring the Internet for ideas.  I even really love planning out units and making lesson plans.  
I know, that’s all nice and everything, but what does that have to do with single girls?  I’ll tell you:
Recently, the idea came across my Facebook feed that if your dream is to be a wife and mother, then your days are best spent at home being a “homemaker” and helping with siblings. Essentially, practicing being a wife and mother.  Honestly, that saddens me.
You see, I am very blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom and homemaker.  I love what I do.  But there’s also so much more to me than just changing diapers and cleaning toilets.  I have specific interests, passions, and abilities that make me uniquely me.  Granted, there are seasons where there isn’t much room for all of those things.  But they’re still there inside of me, and at some point they have to be allowed to bloom or myself as a person will wilt inside.  
I’ve shared how I’ve struggled with some PPD.  Somewhere in the midst of that I lost my grip on my identity…who God created to me.  Yet, I’ve been watching myself come alive again planning and researching and teaching. I’ve been pulling out the stuff I learned in college, long since packed away.  I’ve been rediscovering and refining my “Philosophy of Education” (you education majors will know what I’m talking about).  In short, this one small thing of doing school with Miles has made me feel the most alive and like me that I have in awhile.  I no longer feel like just a mindless robot who cooks and cleans and changes diapers.  The most beautiful part about it is that I’m still doing all of those things.  I’m still a stay-at-home mom…only now what that looks like is altered by who I am as a woman.  And you know what?  I wouldn’t be able to say that if all I’d ever done before marriage and babies was cultivate the domestic arts.  
So, if you’re single and wondering what you should be doing with your time, I’d tell you to ask yourself these questions: What are you good at?  What would you like to improve at?  What makes you feel alive?  
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a wife and mother.  And there’s nothing wrong with learning to cook, clean, and take care of kids.  Yet, I’d venture a guess that there’s much more to you than just that.

Pursue your passions.  Work hard at something.  Stretch yourself.  Someday when you’re a wife and mom, you’ll be glad you did. 

MSOI: My New Favorite Budgeting Tool

Little confession here:  I enjoy money.  Not in a wealth-craving, materialistic way or anything.  I just really enjoy working with numbers and budgeting.  When I say I’m an on-again-off-again administrative assistant at Stone County Ironworks, what I really mean is that I enter endless invoices and bills into the accounting software…and thoroughly enjoy it.

Sometimes, though, life goes too fast and I don’t have the time to budget and track money and save like I want to.  Sometimes the checkbook goes unbalanced for an embarrassingly long amount of time.  And sometimes I overspend and then put off working on the budget or balancing the checkbook because not hitting my goals is just too dang depressing.

Enter my new favorite budgeting tool.  I have two crazy kids to keep up with and since this tool entered my life in December, I’ve still been able to keep up with the money amazingly well.

It’s actually a software called You Need a Budget.  Basically, it takes everything I’ve ever tried to make on my own with spreadsheets and online budgets, and boils it down into a simple, easy to use program that literally anyone could figure out.  It doesn’t hurt that they also have a 4-step plan to get your finances in order, plus a myriad of videos and webinars to help.

My favorite part about the program is that, instead of working off of your expected income for the month, it goes off of what you already have in the bank account.  You’ll never wonder if you have enough money to cover a bill again, because you’ll only budget the money that you have.

Unfortunately, this neat aspect can also be a caveat.  One of the steps in their 4-steps is to create a buffer so that you’re literally a month ahead on spending and bills.  For instance, if you budget $2000 for expenses in a month, you’d ideally already have $2000 in the bank at the beginning of the month for them.  Then, any income from the current month is set aside for next month.  If you’ve already got a buffer, then no problem, but if you don’t then you’ll find yourself only able to budget parts of the month at a time (usually budgeting more each time you get paid).  While this can be a pain, it can also be very beneficial, because you obviously won’t have $2000 available to you to spend on the 1st of the month if you get paid $500 each week.  So, if you only have $500 in the bank, you only budget $500 and wait until the next paycheck to budget in more.  For any Dave Ramsey fans out there, it literally gives “every dollar a name”…and only the dollars you already have.  However, unless you have that buffer already, you will have to have a basic budget figured out so you’ll know what to fill in.

Another feature I like about You Need a Budget is that it gives me to ability to have an array of things I’m saving for, from vacation to just setting aside a certain amount each month for our yearly Amazon Prime subscription.  I can keep all of the savings in one savings account, but easily see how much I have saved for each thing.  Goodbye annoying spreadsheets that I used to try to do this with, but never really succeeded.

Credit card debt is also handled excellently with this software.  Once you’ve paid any existing debt off (the software really helps you do this), anything you spend on the credit cards is automatically taken out of the cash you have available.  So, swiping that credit card is basically the same as paying for it with cash, and money is already set aside to pay it off at the end of the month.  Easy as pie!

Previously, I used mint.com because it was free and connected to all of my accounts automatically.  You Need a Budget doesn’t do that.  You can download transactions (a bit of a pain), or enter them manually.  Surprisingly, this hasn’t been a big deal for me.  I usually try to enter transactions on the nifty smartphone app as they happen.  But even if I get behind, it’s pretty easy to catch up.  PLUS, entering the transactions manually really keeps me accountable.

I could say a lot more, but I’ll leave you with that for now.  Go to the website, watch a few videos, and download the free month trial.  Unlike mint.com, the software costs some money ($60), but it is so, SO worth the money.  If you get a referral from someone who has the software (you can email me at thelifenotmyown@gmail.com and I’ll send you mine) you get $5 off, plus the person who refers you gets $5 too.

Disclaimer: I’m not getting paid or anything to write this.  I’m just really passionate about budgeting and saving, and this software has been so hugely beneficial to me that I just couldn’t keep it to myself.  Check it out…I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Blessings,

Caitlin

Dear Single Girl: Think Outside the Box

As long as I could remember, I was encouraged by youth leaders and well-meaning mentors to make a list of what I “wanted” in a husband and to stick to my standards.  While some of the things on my list were good, like “Christian” or “honest”, I’ve come to believe that we girls all too often put our future husband in a box.

If you want to homeschool, you look for someone who was homeschooled.  If you don’t want to homeschool, you look specifically for someone who wasn’t.  If you’re Baptist you look for a Baptist.  If you come from a stable family, you look for someone who comes from the same background.  We assume that a guy meeting these criteria will mean he’s a good fit for us.

The only problem is, all of those things are outward.  God doesn’t look at the outward appearance…He looks at the heart.  Marriage is meant to balance us out.  The perfect person for you may have an opposite personality or come from a completely different background.  Also, having the same background as you doesn’t ensure that they’ll have the same convictions…or the same heart.  I’d venture to guess that not every homeschooled guy wants to homeschool, or that every public schooler doesn’t want to homeschool his kids.

I believe that girls limit the pool of potential husbands too much by assuming that the guy for them fits in a certain box.  I’m not saying you should settle or throw all caution to the wind and get rid of all your standards.  Know your convictions and your standards…just don’t write off a guy just because he’s not who you pictured marrying.  Sometimes the best diamonds come from the roughest places.