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?

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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When You Have a Sweet One

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My son is one of those uncommonly sweet people.  Every time I pick him up from Sunday school I hear, “Miles is so sweet!”.  And then almost every night I hear our doorknob rattle and turn, followed by tiny little tiptoes across our floor.  My almost-three-year-old then silently climbs into bed on my side and neatly tucks himself in next to me before drifting back to sleep.  It’s hard to say no to something so heart-melting.

He’s the type of little boy who tells his mama often that she looks pretty, and you know he means it.  When I was sick recently, he voluntarily would softly rub my back and say, “I’m sorry you’re not feeling good, Mommy.”

His sweetness goes beyond just loving his Mama, though.  He notices peoples emotions, and it bothers him when others are upset.  When we took him to see Big Hero 6 in theaters, we thought that the movie would mostly go over his head.  However, by the time the credits rolled we were left with a sobbing little boy quaveringly telling us that “Baymax fell into the water!”.  He may not have understood everything, but he understood that Baymax was gone (or had been), and was absolutely torn up about it.

As his mommy, I both cherish and fear his tender heart.  I cherish it because it is a gift, rare in this world, especially among males.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s all boy, from his ability to turn anything into a weapon to his obsession with sticks and rocks (especially the throwing of them).  Yet, he has a sensitive streak in him that not every boy has.

I fear his tender heart because I am his mom and I don’t ever want to see him hurt, and yet I know the heartache that this world holds for those sweet ones.  Often in the world we live in, the ability to emote and empathize is degraded and made fun of.  I know that there will be times that my precious boy won’t fit in because of it.  I know that there will be times that he will be misunderstood because of it.  I know that watching the suffering of others will just about break him apart.

I also know that God has gifted him with this heart for a reason.  

I may not know yet what that reason is, but I pray every day that God will give me the strength and wisdom to nurture this precious little heart that He has entrusted me with.  I can’t wait to see the man he becomes.

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.

When Plans Fail

I was so determined to be ready when Baby Girl Baker made her grand entrance into this world, somewhere around her due date.  Before she came, the house would be spotless, the freezer full, bags packed, and all arrangements made.  According to that plan, I’d be cleaning my house right now, waiting for my parents to arrive, and looking forward to the baby shower this Sunday and more relatives visiting this coming week.
Yesterday morning preterm labor sent me to the hospital where I spent a restless night tossing and turning, hooked up to monitors and IVs.  This morning the doctors let me go home with orders for strict bed rest.  I’m 35 weeks, 4 days pregnant, and we’re trying to get Baby Girl to at least 37 weeks.
So, instead of doing what I think I should be doing, I’m lying in my bed with instructions to only get up to use the bathroom.  I won’t even be able to make it to Baby Girl’s shower this Sunday.  There’s so much to be done, but nothing that I can do, and little chance that I’ll be able to before she makes her arrival.  Things like this, they can’t be planned for…or planned around.
Yet, I see God’s hand so clearly through all of this.  I see that He’s using this to whittle me away…to make me stop trusting in myself and my “plans” and to start trusting in Him.  I see that I need to stop thinking I can be Super Mommy all the time, with the perfect house and the perfect plan.  Because I can’t.  Expecting myself to be that way only sets me up to fail.  I see that His timing and His plans are always far better than ours in the end, even when we don’t understand why now.  I see that it’s going to be okay.
I just have to make it a week and a half.  I’m sure that the dust will sit, we’ll be eating out of pizza boxes, and my poor husband will be too tired for words…but we’ll make it.  And soon, one way or another, our precious baby girl will be in our arms and this will be all over it.  And it’ll all be worth it.