Tuesday, April 23, 2013

More Questions!

Did you work before you had kids? What did you do? Do you get your hair professionally colored or do you do it at home? If so what do you use?

As we are getting closer to thinking about starting a family, and eventually want 3 kids somewhat close in age (if we are so blessed), I am curious about your life as a SAHM :) Until recently, I had never considered staying at home with our (future) kids, even though that's what my mom did. Have you always wanted to stay at home, or if not how did you decide? And how do you know what to do with the kids every day? I feel like that is something that may just come naturally to some people, but do you have any sort of "curriculum" that you try to follow? If so, at what age do you start it? I think my future kids would be bored to death with me at home with them! ;)

I did work before I had kids! I worked at our church as a secretary (my degree is in Family and Human Services and God has given me really amazing non-paying opportunities to use it). I wore many hats, but, let's face it, most secretaries do! It was so much fun. I did weigh both options of working or staying home, simply because I loved my job and the people for whom I worked. But, staying home turned out to be the right choice, especially since two more kiddos showed up rather quickly and my whole crew definitely keeps me on my toes!

My Mom worked and I remember her saying that she wished she could have stayed home. She worked at our school so our hours were the same, but I do remember her repeating that sentiment throughout my childhood. I do not consider myself to be a "kid" person, but my Mom assured me that when I had my own kids, I would love them. Thankfully, she was right. ;) I am very thankful that I am able to stay home. I knew I wanted to, simply based on my discussions with my Mom. After Caleb was born, I was reaffirmed in that choice.

As far as the structure of our day, some days are organized and others are footloose and fancy-free. I do use curriculum on the organized days, mostly through www.starfall.com. We've also used "Little Hands to Heaven" as a pre-preschool curriculum. Cub was ready to learn letters and numbers around the time he turned two, whereas Naomi hasn't really shown an interest in any of that until now (she's almost three). Now that she's interested, we'll start doing some sort of curriculum every day. I don't stress over the curriculum (okay, maybe I stressed with poor firstborn Caleb a little) but I've learned that every kid is different. Naomi never really showed interest in learning letters, but she loves snuggling in my lap while I read to her. Bam! That's the best thing I can do for her. Lots of reading. She'll learn her letters when she's ready.

I do like to have a rough outline of what my day is going to look like. I kind of need a plan. I like to make lists of everything I want to do for the day and I especially enjoying crossing things off of that list! Even if it's something simple like reading to the kids or playing outside--everything we do with our kids matters and it's a good practice to write it down as a reminder to yourself that you did have a full day, even if you don't feel like you "got anything done". We do a lot, even if the state of our house doesn't show it. ;) Some days I feel the need for a very detailed list and get a lot of housework done, and other days I'm happy to relax with the kids and just play. Both are equally important. And, really, you'll find your groove. You'll learn what works for you and what works for the kids. Don't put too much pressure on yourself--I promise, it will come! But, on the days where you do feel disoriented, lists are a great way to get back on track.


I do get my hair professionally colored.

Wait, okay, let me clarify.

Barring no personal crises, I get my hair professionally colored. However, I have been known to color my hair with a box from Target in the midst of life-altering events, such as my Dad's cancer diagnosis, my pregnancies, my husband's job change, etc. Some people eat chocolate. Others paint. I dye my hair with cheap box dye. Go figure. I can't explain it, I just do. Each dye job is subsequently followed by a phone call involving me bawling to my friend/hairdresser, Connie, with me blubbering about What have I done? and Can you please fix it? She jokes that my life crises keep her in business. ;)

I love having my hair done. Bring on the blonde!

Even if it ends up in a ponytail almost every day. :)

Have a lovely day!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Still Here!

Hey friends!

I'm still here, I promise. This past week we hosted a sweet missionary family in our home during the missions conference at our church and needless to say, we're exhausted! There was a lot of good food, growing friendships, and lots and lots of laughter. We had five kids four and under running around the house and life was crazy! Lots of late nights and sweet memories made. We say goodbye today and we are truly sad to see them go. We are so thankful for the opportunity we had to host this precious family and we are excited for their ministry in Mongolia, spreading the love of Christ to the sweet people there.

After the clean-up and subsequent crash, I promise I will continue answering your good questions!

Have a lovely day, friends!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Love Story Question.

How did you and your husband meet? What's your love story? :)

I have to admit, when I first read this question, I found myself fumbling for the right words to say. Our love story is fantastic because it is our own, but it doesn't necessarily come with the fireworks and whimsical fairies and woodland singing rabbits that one might expect from a love story. 

Each chapter has its own sweetness, but I do think that the sweetness gets, well, sweeter as the story continues to be written.

As far as the meeting and dating and marrying, we met in college. He was a sophomore, I was a freshman. We started dating my sophomore year, when he was a junior. What first attracted me to my husband was his calm confidence. I'm a bit ... high strung? at times, so his exceeding patience and steadiness was something that I found very comforting. And we both laughed really, really hard around each other. I knew he was the one for me. I don't know how, but I just knew.

And he was hot. That helps.

He proposed to me on New Year's Eve 2003 in a Cessna airplane, buzzing above his parents' house, with the words, "Katie, I Love You" written in Christmas lights on the ground. 

I'm not sure what I said, but I know we both cried profusely and were married the following year in 2005, after I graduated from college.

And this is really where the love story begins.

We were not your typical newlywed couple. Or, maybe we were, who knows. Either way, it was difficult for us to blend our two lives together. Our first year of marriage was actually one of our hardest. We knew we loved each other, but we both lacked good communication skills (for as much as I love to talk, I can be really, really terrible at effectively communicating how I feel about things) and it was hard. My husband was quiet and I interpreted that to mean he was un-romantic. We've never been exceedingly lovey-dovey, so our first year was really about working out the kinks and pushing away what we thought an "ideal" marriage should look like and focusing instead on what our marriage was supposed to look like. 

When we found out we were pregnant with Cub, we signed up for counseling with our pastor. We had miscarried a few months previously, and it brought us to our lowest point--the sadness was strong. We just had a really hard time talking about it. When we found out we were pregnant again, we knew we needed a tune-up. Again, we knew we loved each other. We've never doubted that. 

We just had to learn how to love each other. 

Kids can either make or break a marriage. Cub's birth was a beautiful blessing for us. It brought us together, the way that kids can, but it also made us love each other and appreciate each other in new ways. I knew my husband would be a good father, but seeing him in that role in real life is a really remarkable and beautiful thing. We enjoyed being a family together and got used to our fun routine!

And then we had another baby.

And then we had another baby.

And y'all, life got crazy

When you hear people say that empty-nesters can sometimes have a hard time relating to each other because all they've done for most of their marriage is raise kids, I have to say I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND how they could do that. I'm sure before I had kids I swore I would never let kids be the central focus of our lives. But good grief, three kids three and under? IT'S GOING TO BE THE CENTRAL FOCUS. It has to be. They need you to survive. That's kind of a big deal, since you brought them into the world and all.

But, what happened in the midst of that, was my husband and I started falling in love all over again. I mean, not just the "I know I love you" kind of love, but the sassy spark kind of love. In the midst of the chaos, we realized that it took a lot of hard work to be able to spend time together. We had to communicate. If we messed this up, we took three innocent bystanders down with us. I wrote a post about this a year ago. Read it. We started praying together more frequently. And y'all, we are not the couple who sweetly smiles at each other, bows, and begins beautiful prayers together. It mostly started with awkward hand-holding (do we have to hold hands when we pray? uh, you can put your hand on my head, maybe? my shoulder?) and a little fumbling. If we're praying alone, we're fine. But for all of the transparency that marriage has afforded us, praying together is still something that requires work and, bless our hearts, grace.

We get better at it every time. Like other things.

(I went there! I did!)

Most of all, we realized that we weren't willing to let this go. I love him too much. He loves me too much. And so we worked through it. We worked through Lydia's first year, even if we did feel like we were ships passing through the night. And you know what? Being on the other side of it now, we are joyfully, wonderfully reaping the benefits of that hard work. It's like a second honeymoon. The chaos of a newborn plus two toddlers has calmed immensely, and he and I look at each other and say, "We survived!" and we're so glad we survived not only the kids, but each other, too. He held on when my exhaustion brought me to tears. I held on when his old job kept him working late and oh, it made me angry. We forced conversations we didn't want to have. We brought things to light and allowed our honestly and vulnerability to bring us closer. We made time alone a priority, even if we didn't have a reason to celebrate. We're going to go out to dinner and not talk about the kids. We are going to find our common ground. I am going to flirt with you. I am going to hold back words that I know will only pull us apart and I'm going to find words that will bring us together. 

And we are going to laugh together. I will call you if only to tell you a hilarious story I heard on the radio about someone who was selling ferrets as poodles. Because I know you will laugh as hard as I did.

It is, perhaps, ironic that it was the chaos of children that has helped us to see what it is we love about each other, without the children. We know there are more struggles that will come our way. And we know we can be stronger because of them.

So. The falling in love before we got married was wonderful. But the falling in love the longer we've been married is the part I never expected ... and the part I love the most. 

And my strong, quiet, "un-romantic" husband? He surprised me with a cruise for my thirtieth birthday.

I'm so glad I didn't let my insecurities at the beginning of our marriage to determine the outcome of it.

We work hard for the things we want. And we realized that what we really, really want, most of all, is each other.

Have a lovely day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Car Conversation.

Caleb: Mom, I think it's cool that rainbows are way up high in the sky.

Me: Yes, it's pretty amazing.

Caleb: Wouldn't it be cooler if the ENTIRE sky was a rainbow?

Me: Yes, that would be very cool.

Caleb: But, it would take a lot of water because rainbows come from water.

Naomi: Yes, and then I could put on my sparkly Angelina Ballerina slippers in my rainbow tutu and dance on the rainbow up high in the sky and it would be very, very beautiful and I would sing "la la la".


Caleb: Yes, Naomi. That would be very cool, too.

I would very much like to freeze this very entertaining age.

Have a lovely day.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Instruction, Consequence, and Bratz.

I feel like I could ask you a million things. Like, when your 2-and-a-half year old gets some attitude and says, "No!" to something you've said, what do you do? I feel like discipline is the area I've struggled the most with. And I don't *like* punishment, but sometimes I feel that positive reinforcement doesn't work 100% of the time. Any suggestions?

How did/do you handle eating time problems? Ex: dropping food on floor, refusing to eat what served. How did it change as they got older 1 and up?

Two similar questions, so I'm squeezing them into, once again, one long answer with much comma-splicing.

Ahhh, toddlerhood. The moment when all of that pride you accumulated whilst cradling your sleeping newborn, thinking you totally had it all together, goes flying out the window, along with your brain and, most often, your patience. 

So fun!

Okay. So, this is where parenting philosophies come into play. If we parent differently, then you probably won't like what I have to say. But, to me, discipline is a huge part of toddler development. Huge. Naturally, discipline gets a bad rap because it conjurs up images of that angry old principal paddling the heck out of an unruly student. And in a society that promotes lots of love-y feelings and participation awards, it's can be hard to imagine that you can discipline your child without completely ruining their self-esteem.

Let me tell you: You can discipline your child without completely ruining their self-esteem.

On the contrary, knowing the boundaries in which they can exist will actually make them more confident. You don't have to teach a two year old to be selfish. They naturally are. What you have to teach a two year old is boundaries. They need boundaries. They do not naturally have boundaries. If given the chance, Lydia would jump off a bridge without a second thought. We have to instill in them a healthy fear of things that are dangerous, and a healthy awareness of their own *gasp* sinfulness. 

(Again, the old principal and the paddle come into your mind. Push it out. OUT!)

There are two parts of discipline: Instruction and consequence. It can be just as tempting to respond in anger and only administer a consequence as it can be to only give them instruction, without a consequence. But, in my (very limited) experience, proper discipline takes both. They have to know why they are in trouble and they have to also experience a consequence for it. You can't really have one without the other (for more on this, read Ginger Plowman's Don't Make Me Count To Three). Why? Why can we not just praise our toddlers for every good thing they do and just kind of ignore it when they are disrespectful to us?

Because that's life. In the real world, bad choices come with bad consequences. 

Big consequences. 

And it's our job as parents to help them understand now where their bad behavior comes from (their hearts and the motivation behind it), how to handle the emotions that come with it, and how to respond accordingly. 

Some consequences are learned naturally. Like when I told Naomi the stovetop was hot and she still felt the need to touch it. Ouch. Of course I didn't punish her when she touched it--her hot hand made her learn the lesson. But there are other instances when she doesn't necessarily understand why some decisions are bad. This morning, for example, I asked her to please pick up her room before her friends came over. She looked at me and said, "No way!" 

Um, yeah. Not cute.

So, after telling her she was being disrespectful, she received a consequence. Do you like how I'm being vague with "consequence"? That's called I Don't Know Who's Reading My Blog So I Am Being Vague About Consequence. But the consequence needs to be something that makes her understand she was in the wrong. Really, each kid is different and you find what works. Anyway. 

Disrespect is a huge thing. Especially in a world that promotes dolls called "Bratz" and describes sassiness as something cute and funny. How many t-shirts do we see that essentially say, "I'm so cute because I'm obnoxious!" Gag. I remember asking a friend, "If I tell Naomi to not be 'disrespectful', how do I know if she even knows what that word means?" to which my friend replied, "She'll learn." It's true. Naomi now knows exactly what being disrespectful means. And she's learning, with some guidance, how to act accordingly.

And it's all a work in progress. One day she gets it, the next day she's telling me "No way" when I ask her to please pick up her toys. That's why it's called training. When I trained for my half-marathon, some runs were great and some were awful. But I kept running because I had an end goal. And that's how we have to think of parenting. There will be good days. There will be bad days. But we have to keep pressing on, keeping our eyes on the big picture: To train our children up in the way they should go.

As a Christian, I try to teach my kids that they can't be good all by themselves. They need help. Where does our help come from? From God. There are often times when, in the midst of a fight or a negative behavior, we'll push pause and pray. We pray that God will give us the strength to be kind to our brother/sister. I don't want them to think that it's all about good behavior--I don't want to raise little legalists--it's about the condition of their heart. How many times a day do I have to pause and say a quick prayer to change my attitude? I want to teach my kids the same thing and extend to them the same grace that God extends to me. 

I hope that makes sense.

And, as far as when kids throw food on the floor, it goes along with what I've been saying--instruction and consequence. You have to figure out how that should look. As far as food rules go in our home, they have to eat as much as we tell them. Typically, that's all of their veggies and half of the rest of their food. If they refuse, they sit there until it's finished. Yum. Cold meat. Last week Naomi broke the record with an hour and half. AN HOUR AND A HALF. But, she finally ate it. Or, I put the uneaten plate in the fridge and they get to eat it for their next meal. Yum! And, we try to limit snacks. Sometimes they really are full and it's my fault--maybe two cereal bars between meals was a little too much?? :) But, if they haven't had big snacks, they need to eat what we ask them to eat. Or ... they sit. Sometimes a consequence is administered and they still have to sit. They typically acquiesce when they see the other kids playing ... but again, Naomi did sit there for an hour and half. Which boggles my mind. Why is sitting at the table more appealing than just shoving down two more bites and getting to play? I do not know. 

I hope that helps. Toddlerhood is tricky because somewhere, right before our eyes, they switch from "cute baby" to "okay not everything is cute and you need to start obeying now". The transition can be a tough one. You don't want to over-parent and put unrealistic expectations on your kids, the same way you don't want to under-parent and allow your three year old to act like a baby. It can be tough.

Hang in there, friends! We are all in this together. :)

Have a lovely day!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Next Question ...

If money and time and rearing young children didn't stand in the way, what kind of ministry would you want to have? What would it look like? Who would you help? How would you help them? Why them?

You couldn't have asked about chickens, could you..?! Talk about a tough question! When I first read this, it was initially hard for me to put myself outside of my current situation and imagine things differently. If I were not rearing children (hmm), I would probably be working, so wrapping my mind around the "what if"'s in this question was tricky! But, I get what you are saying.

I have always had a heart for women. Okay, back up. If I look back on my life in college, for example, the jobs I took in the summer were always ministries for women or girls. I worked at a girls' home in Vermont after my freshman year of college and completed my internship at a crisis pregnancy center during my last year of college. My degree is in Family and Human Services, which focuses on helping the widows and orphans mentioned in the book of James, and my original plan was to proceed straight on to getting my Masters in family counseling, and to go from there. 

Naturally, that plan completely changed and I chose to have a family first, before getting a higher degree.

(No, I do not regret that decision, in case you are wondering. I feel, nay, I know that I am exactly where God wants me to be.)

Now that I actually am a Mother, my heart is drawn to help other mothers, too. If time and money and child-rearing were not an issue, I would love to go overseas and spend some time working with women who have been rescued from the slavery of sex-trafficking. To see their daily lives, talk to them face-to-face about their story. I have no idea what my actual service would look like, but I know that I would want to just go. If only to gain a better perspective on how I can help, here. 

God has put the itch on my heart. And I'm inching closer to move from "waiting" to see what He has for me, to "doing" what I feel He is calling me to do. I don't think I am supposed to go overseas. Not right now, anyway. I think there are opportunities to serve all around me, I am simply blind to them sometimes because I am wrapped up in my own bubble of nap time and changing diapers. But the stirring is there inside of me and door by door, He is showing me small ways in which I can serve. I don't know what the bigger picture will look like, but I do know that I have leaned on the crutch of "I am tired and have young children" just a bit too long. I only have this one life, good grief, I may only have this one day, and I want to be sure I am at least seeking ways to help others. Preferably, other Moms. God has been faithful in keeping my heart open.

Hmm. Did any of that make sense? I guess I'm trying to say that if time and money and child-rearing were not an issue, I would want to go somewhere and serve. But because time and money and child-rearing are an issue, God is showing me very obvious and very important ways to serve here. I'm just bummed that I didn't seek these opportunities sooner!

Good question. Good, good question.

Have a lovely day!

Monday, April 1, 2013

First Questions!

These might be personal but I would love to hear more about you built your family, like child spacing, when you know your family is full, etc? I just had my first, an adorable guy, 3 months ago and constantly debate in my head waiting 9 months before trying again or waiting a few years. Or how families seem to know when they have the right number of kids for them, how do they know that number?

I've had people tell me it was harder going from 1 kid to 2 and some tell me it was harder going from 2 to 3. I have baby #3 on the way and am curious as to what you think? Was it harder for you to go from 1 to.2 or 2 or 3 and why?
Also, how did you prepare yourself and your family for the new addition?

These questions seemed to go hand-in-hand to me, so I decided to answer both at once. Bring on the run-on sentences and comma splicing!

Okay. Honesty here. When Cub was six months old, we stopped any precautions that could prevent us from getting pregnant. Yes, yes, when our first wee one was, well, wee, his father and I loved being parents so much that we decided to throw caution to the wind and allow the possibility of a subsequent pregnancy to be much more ... likely. However, since I was breastfeeding and I'm one of those gals who doesn't have a period while also lactating (oh hey there, world!), I therefore did not get pregnant while breastfeeding. Did you see that? Did you see how I threw that "I do not get pregnant while breastfeeding" statement out there, as if it were blatant fact? Well, in my case, it is. I simply don't ovulate while pregnant. 

(I am welcoming the onslaught of "YOU CAN TOTALLY GET PREGNANT WHILE BREASTFEEDING" comments with open arms. Hello, comments! So, I will also say, YOU MIGHT GET PREGNANT WHILE BREASTFEEDING. I simply never did.)

So, even though no contraception or protection was used starting when Cub turned six months, we did not conceive until after I had weaned him and had one period (oh hey there, world!). I found out I was pregnant with Naomi on Cub's first birthday. So! Child-spacing! We just always wanted our kids close together. Both of us come from families with only two kids, and at least three years difference between ourselves and our sibilings. I think part of our motivation was the hope that our kids would experience the same stages of life together. And, honestly, we just really loved having a family and wanted to add to it sooner than later.

However. That being said...

Only one of our children is planned (by us). One. Out of three. I think I just gave away which child that is, so DON'T TELL THE OTHER KIDS. I am always cautious when saying that we have children who were not planned (by us), because I know and love and mourn for those close to me who have trouble conceiving. I never want to come across as though having children for us was "no big deal" because it was. And it is. Remember, it was after eight months of "trying" and one miscarriage that we finally conceived Cub. That's my own small story. But, it can also be a little jarring to become pregnant when you weren't planning on it. So, I want to be honest about that, too.

Having three little ones so close together is both completely chaotic and absolutely fun. This is my own experience: Going from 0 to 1 children completely changed our worlds. Postpartum anxiety, surviving solely on trail mix, and nightmares where I could hear Cub screaming but couldn't find him ... that defined the first three months of his life. And my first three months of Motherhood. It was such a dramatic and intense experience, but once the fog cleared and my hormones stabilized, I was fine. And,  so, for us, going from 1-2 kids was, in comparison, a breeze. My mind was clear and I knew what I was doing. And that's saying a lot, because Naomi was a tough baby. I mean, TOUGH. But the transition was very easy.

Two kids to three?


When you have two kids, Mom is outnumbered, but Mom and Dad as a team are not. When you have three kids, everyone is outnumbered and Mom is REALLY, REALLY outnumbered. Now, again, you have to remember that our kids are very close together--Cub and Naomi are 20 months apart and Naomi and Lydia are 18 months apart. Cub, our oldest, had just turned three years old in October when Lydia, our youngest, was born in January. That's a lot of kids really close together, which means that even the oldest still depends on Mom for his basic needs--food, clothing, etc. Thankfully, Cub was potty-trained, but that was about it. All three kids still needed me to help feed them, get them dressed, and things of that nature. Plus, none of them were in any kind of preschool or daycare program, so all three were home with me all of the time. It definitely got overwhelming at times! When Lydia was a newborn, before my husband started his business, his old job kept him late most of the time. So, I was alone with the kids from breakfast to bedtime. I know, again, everyone has a different story, and there are always Moms who have it harder than I do. But when you expect your husband's hours to be normal and they aren't, it can be really, really hard when your "normal" becomes "not having him around". It's a bummer for everyone. So, for us, those first few months were a whirlwind. It took a lot of getting used to. Thankfully, his new job has all kinds of awesome flexibility.

I didn't have postpartum anxiety, but I did have some low moments of not being able to see ten minutes ahead of me. Does that make sense? There were literally times when I couldn't imagine how I was going to get through the next ten minutes. Lydia needed to eat. Cub hit his head and was crying. Naomi just wet her pants. And I've had to go to the bathroom for three days. What do I do?! Nevermind the laundry creeping out of the laundry room and the dinner burning on the stove. Those were hard days!

But, there were a lot of good days, too. And the days have gotten so much easier since Lydia turned one. As she gets older, the other kids do, too, right? Naomi is potty-trained. Cub can almost totally take care of dressing and getting himself food for snacks and things like that. Lydia toddles around and no longer breastfeeds. With every month that passes, we gain more freedom in what we can do. 

Having three really close together is fun. Every day is a party. Lydia is learning to play with the older two. Cub and Naomi have a precious friendship and go on all kinds of adventures together. We love spending time together as a family. My husband and I laugh to tears at least once every day with the funny things our kids do and say. We are thoroughly enjoying and relishing this stage of life--our house is full of love. 

So. How do we know when we are done having kids? 

One thing I have learned about us: We don't

We had that "done" feeling once and our family continued to grow ... and we love it. I'm so glad we weren't actually done. I can pretty confidently say that we will not have any more biological children, but God could call us to adoption someday. We are totally open to that if He does. We could go from three kids to six--who knows. He has overwhelmingly taught us that His plans are best and we completely rest in that. If our family is done growing, great. If we have kids out there and don't know it yet, that's great, too. He keeps us on our toes, for sure, and our desire is to keep our hearts open to whatever (or whomever) He brings our way. We are absolutely confident that we have absolutely no idea where He will take us next and we are absolutely okay with that. So, are we done? Most definitely maybe.

See? I told you there would be lots of run-on sentences and comma splicing. My apologies. 

Oh, and lastly, as far as preparing our kids for a new arrival, we put the car seat in the van about a month before she was due, to get them used to it. We didn't really go overboard with me carrying a doll around or anything like that, but, when Lydia came along, Cub and Naomi had each other, so that made a difference. Cub was never jealous when Naomi was born (he just kind of went with it), and Naomi was rarely jealous because she had Cub to play with and distract her, if that makes sense. I always worried more than was necessary. Everybody adjusts. I did and still do make a point to spend one-on-one time with each child every day, whether it's reading a book or doing a craft or snuggling at nap time. They are each their own unique person and I love getting to know them as the little individual personalities that they are. If I keep their love tanks full, they're more likely to be loving to each other.

Good questions, friends! 

Have a lovely day!