3 Things That Make Me More Productive

My firstborn was a really hard baby.  He was fussy, colicky, and clingy.  My house looked like a disaster for pretty much the first year and I hated it.  Surprisingly, 9 months into have two I actually feel way more productive and on-top of things.  Here are just 3 simple ways that have helped me come to this point:

1. The Motivated Moms app on my phone.  I’m a list maker.  So, it should come to no surprise to you that I’ve tried just about every home management tool out there, from creating my own lists on Evernote to Flylady.  The later just didn’t work for me.  There were elements I loved, but some of the main components just didn’t make sense in my life.  I don’t want to walk around the house with my shoes on, nor am I able to keep my sink clean constantly.  Then a Facebook friend suggested Motivated Moms…and I fell in love.  Even with being pregnant and working part-time, it worked for me.  Then Baby Girl came along and I quit for awhile, but that past few months I’ve been back at it.  I’ve customized it to work with my days and schedule, and I’m suddenly becoming way more productive…and my house is always in semi-decent shape.  Even with a 9-month-old who started crawling last week and is into EVERYTHING.

2. Updating the budget every. single. morning.  You already know how much I love YNAB.  The only problem is, you have to manually enter things, which takes some time.  Thankfully, however, I can update things quickly on my smartphone.  When I’m feeding the baby, I’m usually looking at my phone anyway…so why not use it for something productive?  Every morning I quickly pull up my various banking apps, as well as the YNAB app, and update and add things.  Sometimes I still need to look for a receipt or log onto the computer to actually update budget categories, but that work is a breeze when I’ve already got almost everything entered in.  It takes minutes, I stay on top of things, and I start every day knowing where our finances and budget stand.

3. Waiting to eat breakfast with Miles.  My children are typically early risers, but a couple of times a week I actually get up before them…or at least one of them.  ha!  My favorite way to spend that time used to be spending quiet time with God and then eating breakfast alone.  When my toddler got up, I’d feed him breakfast and try to get ready by myself.  Only, my son is one of the slowest eaters ever.  He gets every slower when nobody is sitting there eating with him.  So, I would find myself still sitting at the kitchen table in my bathrobe at 10 am with nothing to do.  Now, on those rare days, I do my quiet time and then take a shower or get ready.  On the really rare days that I still have extra time, I log onto the computer or do any number of tasks that are hard to do with my son around (read: trying to help and just making things harder!).  Whenever he gets up, I make breakfast for the both of us and we eat together.  My son eats faster, I’ve accomplished a lot more, and less time is wasted.  Problem solved!

What are some of your favorite productivity helpers?

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Just A Mom

I used to think it would be enough for me to be merely a stay-at-home mom.  I had grown up watching my intelligent, PhD holding mother spend her days folding laundry, cooking food, and bandaging scraped up knees.  For her, gone were the days of helping troubled families in the a116d-2013-03-15_11-15-22_890court system and bringing in decent money from her highly-esteemed career.  But she never seemed to mind.  In fact, she thrived and found the most purpose in those quiet days full of simple tasks.  I knew unwaveringly that I wanted to be just a mom…just like her.

The years passed and I became just that.  Yet, I was surrounded by friends and women who were more than just moms.  Women I respected.  Women I enjoyed being around.  Suddenly my confidence and surety wavered.  I began to feel less able and less important than these other women.  I felt like I could never join in and complain about having a messy house or not having enough hours to get everything done because, after all, they did what I did plus some.  They went to work all day and then had to deal with the laundry and cooking and housework.  Some even worked on schoolwork after their children went to bed.  I used to think I was smart, hard working, and highly educated, but amongst these busy, capable women I started to doubt myself.

There were women who talked about how they could never just sit home all day…how they had to be doing something.  And so I questioned myself.  Am I really that much of a homebody?  Do I really do so little?  Am I bored?  Couldn’t I juggle all of those things too?

But God.  Always but God.

That Still Small Voice began speaking to my heart.  I could do all those things…juggle all those things.  I am an intelligent, educated, hard-working woman.  I am just as capable, but in this season of life, I choose something different.  I choose to not juggle all those things and do all those things. Right now, I choose to be just a mommy and just a homemaker.

Mamas who are just mamas: don’t doubt yourselves.  Don’t question your worth or value or abilities.  Remember that, like me, you chose this path.  You chose to find your purpose and fulfillment in this season not in being able to do it all or be all things to all people, but instead in the small little tasks that come along with being “just a mom”.  I know that one day when our kids are all grown up and gone, we will be glad that we sacrificed so much for those extra minutes with our babes.  We will be thankful that we got the chance to be just moms…and that we took it.  

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

“Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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To the Mama Going from One to Two

IMG_6342bThe other day I ran into a friend who had just had her second child the month before.  In her eyes I saw the all-too-familiar stress and panic that adding a second child brings.  She spoke of the adjustment being hard, even though her second was a much easier baby.  She talked of going from being able to get out of the house in 15 minutes to it now taking an hour and a half…of trying to figure out how to be a mom to both kids.

Going from one kid to two kids isn’t easy.  I know I had the same look in my eyes those first few months.  No babywearing apparatus, freezer stocked full of meals, or Netflix subscription can really prepare you.  Getting out of the house alone with both children will most likely induce a stress-induced panic attack.  No matter how hard you plan, you will have those moments of chasing your toddler across the parking lot, forgetting to bring a change of clothes for both children, and having to drag both children out of somewhere because they are both crying (the baby because she’s had enough, the toddler because he wasn’t ready to go).  And don’t forget having to deal with your potty training toddler having an accident and your newborn having a blowout at the same exact time.

Staying at home isn’t much easier.  There will be nights where your children will literally just trade off which hour they wake you up with a need, and you’ll get up in the morning wondering if you ever actually fell asleep.  Your first child, whether accidentally or purposefully, will kick the baby in the head, try to feed the newborn a cracker, or eveIMG_5810n drag the baby 10 feet across the floor while you’re just trying to brush your teeth for once.  Your toddler will find the candy you have stashed in the cabinet when they know you are stuck nursing the baby.  There will be many, many times when you have to let one child cry while you tend to the other child’s needs…and picking which child to take care of first is never an easy choice.  You’ll be on the verge of a nervous breakdown and need to get out of the house…until you realize how stressful getting out of the house will be.

But, Mama, don’t lose hope.  The other day as I looked into my friends eyes it suddenly dawned on me that that look had begun to fade in my own eyes.  No, having two kids never really gets easier…just more normal.  Getting out of the house with my toddler and now eight-month-old no longer produces extreme anxiety.  I can even leave the house with both in under 20 minutes.  At home, I can actually clean up the house and make dinner most days.

It’s still hard.  I’m still constantly reminding my older child to be more gentle with the baby.  I still have mornings where I wonder if I actually got any sleep the night before, and now with the baby getting more mobile we’re entering into a basically constant lesson in sharing toys.  But trust me when I say that there are good times that will make all the hard times worth it.  There will be times that will fill your heart so full that you’ll feel like it just might burst.  There will come a time when you’ll hear your children blowing raspberries at each other and giggling in the back seat.  One morning you’ll awaken to hear your toddler over the baby monitor sweetly saying to his sister, “Did you wake up, Sister?  Did you wake up, Stinky Chunks?” You’ll watch your baby laugh and giggle because she thinks her big brother is the funniest, coolest person ever.  And your love for them will only grow and grow.

So, Mama, don’t worry.  Two will be hard…but it will be worth it.  

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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)