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. 

Taking Motherhood for Granted

The other day Miles crawled up into my lap while I was feeding Nora and said, “Mama, you’ve got your big boy and you’ve got your sister.”  I smiled, knowing what he meant.  Sometimes, in the midst of wiping bottoms and cleaning up smoothies spilled all over the play mat and the baby and trying to stuff something edible in my mouth before the next crisis, I forget just how blessed I am.  For a moment, I held my baby girl and my “big” boy (who’s still a baby to me), and just soaked in the sweet little blessings that they are.
When I was pregnant with Miles, I couldn’t wait for all of the “mom” things that came with motherhood.  I couldn’t wait to be putting my son’s carseat in the cart at the grocery store, or picking him up from the nursery at church.  With two little ones, those things can become burdens rather than blessings.  Today, I’m going to view them as gifts once more.  
Here are a few more blessings that motherhood brings that I often take for granted:

Getting to run errands with my children and buckle them in car seats.  

Before Miles was born, I drove around with an empty car seat…I couldn’t wait until it was occupied with my own tiny baby.  I couldn’t wait for the challenge of learning to run errands and grocery shop with him.  When I was pregnant with Nora, I looked forward to the challenge of juggling two.  It’s still a challenge, and going anywhere is quite the ordeal, but those sweet chubby faces are so worth it.

Always being needed.  

It’s nice to be needed…it really is.  It’s nice to be the only one that can make that boo boo better…the one who they trust.  Puke and poop and pee are so much easier to clean up when you are needed.

Teddy Bear Picnic at the Park

Getting out of myself.  

It’s really hard to be selfish when you’re a mom.  You have to learn to deal with the sleepless nights and never sleeping in.  The needs of a tiny little person come before yours and even your plans revolve around the kind of day they’re having.  This is a wonderful thing.  Motherhood forces us to stop thinking about ourselves!

It makes you raw.  

Sure, hormones and lack of sleep and tiredness play a part, but being a mommy makes you emotional just by it’s very nature.  You suddenly see movies and events in a completely different light when you have your own little ones to think about losing or getting hurt.  Motherhood wears off the tough outer shell and makes you vulnerable…but it is through this vulnerability that you find the most amazing blessings.

Getting to dress your kids.  

I don’t spend a bunch of money on kids clothes, but it’s still fun for me.  When Miles has his little suspenders on, or I find the sweetest tiny bow for Nora, I am delighted.  Andy teases me…but he can’t help but pick out cute stuff too.  You can dress your kids however you cotton picking want…and that’s fun.

My Favorite “Dirty Laundry”

Seeing them grow and discover.  

The other day Miles and I watched the bees landing on my spring flowers.  He was fascinated with them…especially when I told him that the bees were collecting pollen to make honey.  My sweet little girl has started reaching for us when she wants to be picked up.  It never gets old.  It’s amazing to see their little eyes take in something new…like an amazingly absorbent sponge.

Giving them baths.  

Suggesting a bath to my son is like telling him he’s one the lottery.  The joy that comes from such a little thing is amazing.  Yesterday I set Nora’s bath tub in the big bath, so that my two munchkins could have a bath together.  They laughed and giggled the whole time.

Sibling interaction. 

Nora just adores her big brother and, while it’s taken some time, he adores her as well.  I can’t to watch their relationship grow and change.

What are some of your favorite “little” things about motherhood?   

What I Want My Son to Know

Today a beautiful package of flowers and chocolate was delivered to my door from my sweet man.  Miles, of course, being the curious 2-year-old that he is, was full of questions and wanted to know where his flowers and chocolate were.  I told him that Daddy only sent them to Mommy because I’m married to him (marriage being a concept he is just starting to grasp).  
He said, quite honestly, “You married?  Where your dress?”
I couldn’t help but laugh at his little brain trying to figure this whole situation out.  He’d looked at our wedding album the other day, so he knew that I had worn a wedding dress at some point…he just thought that I needed to be wearing it in order to be “married” to his daddy and receive that gift.  He didn’t understand that a wedding is a one-time thing, whereas marriage is lasting.

It seems like our time these days is full of Miles asking a million questions as his growing brain explodes with new knowledge and concepts.  It’s my responsibility to help him grow and teach him about this world.  Frankly, that scares me like crazy.  There’s so much I want to teach him and so little time to do it.  Being a woman, I also feel inept to teach him how to be a man.  Yet, I realize that, being a woman, I have a unique perspective on what it actually means to be a man.  Here’s what I want my son to know:  
  • You should do and be whatever God has called you to be.  Far be it from me to stand in your way.
  • Women should be treasured and treated with honor.  They are not for your personal pleasure.
  • Being obsessed with hunting, guns, and toughness isn’t what makes a real man.
  • A real man puts God before anything else.
  • A real man desires the responsibility and fulfillment that comes from marrying a good woman.
  • A real man puts his wife and his children before himself.
  • A real man has a tender heart for children.
  • A real man is not afraid to cry.
  • Being smart or intellectual doesn’t make you any less if a man’s man.
  • It’s okay to be different.

5 Things That Make Me a Better Mom

1. Being a stay-at-home mom.  I always knew that I wouldn’t want to work after my children were born.  While there have been times since I became a mom that I have worked (check out #2), I’m thankful that I haven’t had to work for the majority of the time.  I get to spend my days focusing on and pouring into my children’s lives, yet I also have the freedom to do some things that I’m interested in (gardening, writing, random Target day trips…).  I’m pretty sure I get more sleep that all the amazing working moms out there too.  I don’t have to get up early to rush out the door, after all.  Lots of sleep=happy mama.  

2. Having been a working mom.  For a time before Nora was born, I worked part-time.  I never thought I would work after I had children, but I did, and I learned a great deal through it.  First, how valuable my time is.  When you work outside the home, your time at home is precious.  You have to be incredibly diligent to keep your house running.  Second, how important it is to wake up and get going in the morning.  Even if I don’t have anywhere to be, my day is far more productive when I get up and going first thing.  Third, I have a new appreciation for working moms.  I realize how hard it is for them, even if they have to work or honestly enjoy their job.  As a stay-at-home mom once again, I’m much more productive and cognizant with my time.  In turn, I get a lot more done.  
3. Having a high-needs child.  I’ve talked about this before.  The gist is that I see my children for who they are instead of who I think they should be.  Most of the time, anyway.
4. Having a low-needs child.  My sweet, easy-going daughter has made it very obvious that my high-needs son was not my “fault”.  Each of my children simply has their own, unique personality.  I’m also thankful that she’s so laid-back because I would have probably lost my sanity otherwise.
5. MOPs.  I’ve been a part of our local MOPs group since Miles was just a few weeks old, and now I’m on the leadership team.  I love it and I have a huge heart for it.  In those early newborn days with Miles, and more recently as I’ve learned how to be a mom to two, my mom friends from MOPs were the support I needed.  I’ve gained some amazing friends through MOPS.  I also love the opportunity it presents to serve others right where I’m at…by letting motherhood be the common denominator.   
  

Shadow of the Past, Shadow of the Future

I hear it often enough.  I’m thin, as I always have been, and the scale balances a mere 10 lbs heavier than it did before my babies came.  “You look so good!” is common to my ears.  “You don’t look like you even had a baby!”
In many ways, I do look good for having two kids, one only three short months ago.  Yet, I remember well what my body was like.  These days when I look in the mirror I only see a shadow of what my body used to be.  Stretch marks dot my skin…scars from carrying new life within me and then bringing it into this world twice over.  Love handles that never used to be there, even after my first baby, hang over the top of my jeans.  My belly pooches out in a squishy mess of extra skin (thank you, Nora, for making my belly so stinking big!).  Things sag that didn’t used to and squish where there used to be firmness.
Then there’s the rest of my physical appearance.  My fingernails sit chipping and needing attention for weeks because I can never seem to find the time to paint them.  When I do finally paint them, invariably some child will unexpectedly need my attention and they’ll end up smudged and imperfect.  I usually manage to get makeup on, but by the end of the day it’s badly needing to be refreshed.  I tend to go one too many days without washing my hair, and my outfits are planned around nursing.  I never wear white because that would just be insane, plain and simple.
Yet, I’ve honestly never felt more beautiful.  I’m lucky enough to have a husband who thinks this post-baby me is more attractive than my pre-baby, skinny-as-a-rail self…and he makes sure I know it.  My children find comfort in my squishes and rolls.  My extra skin is Miles’ favorite place to snuggle when he’s sick or tired.  As I gradually transform my wardrobe to accommodate nursing and motherhood, I find myself discovering better my own personal styles and tastes and dressing accordingly.  Most importantly, I am proud of each stretch mark and roll.  They’re the lasting memorials of the two precious babies I bore…my two little blessings from God. 
Maybe, after all, my current body is not the shadow of its former self.  Maybe it’s the other way around.  

The Grey Days of Motherhood, Outside Voices, and Joy

It’s late afternoon and I sit in my car on the side of the road overlooking a lake several hours from home.  We were supposed to be enjoying a rare, midweek getaway, but my husband had had some service calls to make and work to do, and I’d had to entertain the kids most of the day.  Both little ones were recovering from a nasty cold and were terribly overtired, and I finally just had to escape the room, thinking I’d get some peace and quiet.  But then the baby screamed in the car and wouldn’t fall asleep, and I couldn’t take it and had to pull over
So here I sit, parked in a dusty parking lot.  In the rearview mirror I watch the toddler’s head sag as he finally drifts off to sleep, and I look down to the fussy baby sitting on my lap.  The grey skies outside seem to reflect my heart all too well.  A hotel coffee mug with strong, black tea sits next to me, getting cold.  I decide to sit here until it’s gone, and then I turn up the music, heart weary.
“Messiah/You’re Beautiful” comes up on shuffle and peace immediately floods over me.

***

My head swirls with outside voices.  Voices proclaiming how strong and worthy working moms are.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, voices proclaiming how you should be able to handle baby after baby in succession and be happy about it.  And all I feel is failure in light of those voices.  Because I trudge away at home.  Because I don’t want to, or feel called to, have baby after baby for the rest of my childbearing years.  
I feel tired…so very tired.  And not just because of how little sleep I got the night before.  I feel soul tired.
Earlier that day I went to Target thinking I would be refreshed and instead spent the whole time bouncing and nursing a fussy baby, and wishing I just had a kid who’d fall asleep and stay asleep in their car seat.  Wishing, too, that I had more money to spend.  Wishing that the tall Starbucks coffee I’d bought wasn’t too small for the nifty coffee cup holder on the cart.  Wishing that I could just sit in a coffee shop for a couple of hours…with just quiet and coffee shop music to distract me.

***
The baby on my lap finally nurses.  I put her in her car seat and sing along to the music playing.  She rewards me with a big, toothless grin.  I realize that I wouldn’t trade a million quiet hours at a coffee shop for that one smile…that I wouldn’t trade a job or being super mom to a billion babies for that one sweet smile from my girl.
And I know that I won’t always be so tired.  That someday I’ll sit in a coffee shop, heart aching for the fussy baby smile.  
And I know that those voices are just voices.  They are not me and they are not God, and all they do is make me lose sight of what God has given me to do…and they steal from me the joy that is found in being exactly where God wants you.
And I know that my days will not always be easy.  Sometimes I may just want to scream and cry.  Some days may seem pointless and rote.  And that’s okay. That doesn’t make me a failure.  Even in those days, I am right where God wants me.  I know that He will give me the strength and wisdom to see them through.  

***
Later, I pause before going back in the hotel.  The sun is setting burning orange in a beautiful painting from the Lover of my soul…the perfect balm for my worn and weary heart.  And He knows it.  I am not alone.  He is what I need.  He is all I need.  
Both babies are napped and happier.  I think of the good food and good sleep that definitely hopefully awaits me inside.  Almost imperceptibly, joy creeps into my heart.  Joy that is only found in the center of His will…joy that cannot be quenched or lost, even on the greyest of days.  A smile creeps across my face.  And inside, I’m smiling too.