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life

I’m Back! Kind of.

Aaaaaaaaaand just like that it’s been months since I’ve written. Does time seem like it’s flying for anyone else or is that just me?

Here’s the deal. Summer happened. And having an extra kid around means the tiny little window of time I was stealing to write in disappeared. Not to mention we have cut screen time WAAAAAAY down around here (watch for a post on that coming soon). So cutting screen time for little people naturally led to cutting it for me as well. Which leaves a tiny window of time in the evening for me to get caught up on all the household things that didn’t get done during the day, clean up the tornado path the kids created, shower, exercise, speak to my husband, relax, and read something before passing out. Ha.

Did I mention the baby still isn’t sleeping through the night? Yeah, more on that in a forthcoming post as well.

So what have we missed in the last several weeks? The oldest started piano lessons, performed in her first dance recital, “graduated” from first grade, took a round of swimming lessons, turned 7, and broke her arm. Good times.

The middle has cried through two gymnastics classes so far and has learned how to hit. And by hit I mean people. We are working on that. Her vocabulary is still developing but there are also still days where I wonder if we will ever communicate effectively. Ah the roller coaster of toddlerhood.

The youngest is finally eating baby food. And cheerios. She has four teeth and will do “sooooo big” with her arms when prompted. And occasionally patty cake. She likes to shake her head no, crawl all over the place, and pull her self up on the sharpest edge she can find.

The whole family traveled to Wisconsin for a week, which was mostly successful considering traveling with little people can be horrifying, and it was actually even somewhat relaxing.

I’m sure there are things I’m missing, but the baby is climbing all over me trying to push buttons and the toddler is trying to smother her with a blanket in the name of peekaboo so my brain isn’t working.

Which probably doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in the next part of this post where I promise I’m going to try to write more. But the truth is the posts are adding up in my head and I need to get them out to make space for sanity, because we all know the space for that is limited anyway.

So hopefully we will be seeing more of each other. Hope you all are having a great summer!

-M

The Things My Children Teach Me

At the risk of revealing too much of my crunchy side, one of the things you should know about me is that I believe people come into our lives for a reason. In fact, the lyrics of the song “For Good” from the musical “Wicked” say it best:

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return

When I think of some of the most significant people in my life, I can often guess what it is they have come into my life to teach me.

And even though our society doesn’t typically emphasize children as “teachers”, some of the biggest lessons of my life have come through my children.

My oldest is teaching me about authenticity and strength. At the time she was born, I was in a marriage that wasn’t healthy for either of us. But I stayed because it was what other people told me was the right thing to do. After she came along, I started thinking like a mother. I wanted to give her the world. I wanted her to be happy. Most of all, I wanted her to be herself. I didn’t want to change her, I wanted to discover her. Because I could see from the beginning that she was perfect exactly the way she was.

But how could I teach this tiny human to be true to herself if I wasn’t living that example?

It wasn’t an easy decision. And even after I finally decided it was, in fact, the right decision, it wasn’t easy to follow through with it. But I did. Because I wanted better for her. I didn’t ever want her to be unhappy because of someone else’s opinion about her life. I wanted her to learn to live a life that felt authentic to her, even if it didn’t align with the opinions of those around her. Wanting that for her gave me the strength to finally live my own life that way.

Now I am constantly striving to see and honor my children for the people they are without trying to turn them into what I (or society) thinks they should be. It’s a lesson I will be learning for the rest of my life.

My middle child is teaching me about love. Obviously all of my children have each taught me something about love. The middle child just has a certain unique way of stretching my heart in ways it hasn’t been stretched before.

I still remember the moment in the delivery room, the first time I laid eyes on her. It felt like gravity shifted beneath me. I was head over heels for her from the very beginning. Even through her challenging toddler behavior, I’m still mesmerized by her. The color of her eyes. The curls in her hair. Her fingers, her toes. I cherish every inch of this child for the miracle she is. She reminds me daily to slow down and notice these sacred moments with all my children. She reminds me not to take milestones for granted. She opens my heart in ways I didn’t even know I needed. She makes me a better mother, not just for her but for all my children.

And some day she will teach me about loving and letting go. Perhaps it is because my oldest always went to daycare, so I was used to her having her own independence, and my middle is the first child I’ve stayed home with for her entire life. But I dread the days of being away from her. I dread her starting preschool and school. I don’t remember life without her by my side. But being her mother means it is up to me to help her learn how to be without me. So I will do what I need to for her, no matter how much it hurts.

Love is complicated like that. But that’s what she is here to help me learn.

My youngest baby is teaching me about humility. She’s showing me that I know less now, as I’m raising my third child, than I did when I started. She’s showing me that this parenting thing isn’t something that has a “right” or a “wrong” way to it. That every child is different and every parent is different with every child and that sometimes just doing the best you can is the best you can do.

She’s teaching me about asking for help. About not being ashamed when I can’t do it all. About not being ashamed to admit (often publicly on my blog) that I can’t do it all.

Humility may not sound like a complicated lesson to learn, but in many ways it is the most complicated of all the lessons I am learning. She’s pushing me to discover my own limitations, and helping me make peace with them. She’s helping me to be more graceful with myself and others. Lessons about love, patience, generosity and respect are all wrapped up in learning about humility. Lessons about peace. For being the smallest of my children, she appears to have brought with her some of the biggest lessons. Which isn’t surprising, considering what I know of her personality so far.

Even though we are still only just beginning this learning journey, the list of things my children have already taught me and will continue to teach me is more than I could ever capture in a simple blog post. And while I know the lessons won’t always come easy, I’m grateful for the privilege of learning.

Because I couldn’t have asked for better teachers.

 

It’s Harder for Her

Okay, friends. It’s real-talk time.

We are in the trenches with this baby. She still won’t sleep through the night. Which I could probably handle if that was the only thing, because she typically gets up only once. However, her new thing is to get up at 4 a.m. ish. And then after I feed her and get her laid back down, I lay back down and toss and turn, and about the time I start to fall back asleep shortly after 5 a.m., she wakes up AGAIN. And this time she stays up. Sometimes for several hours. Which means I basically start my day at 4 a.m.

Let’s just say, I have discovered there is a certain amount of sleep I need to be a decent parent (notice I said “decent”. I’m not even setting the bar that high here, people.) And getting up at 4 a.m. doesn’t give me that amount of sleep. On these days, survival depends on the husband letting me sneak a little morning nap before he goes to work.

Survival. That’s where we are at. Still. After nearly seven months, we are still in survival mode more day than I can count. I thought it was supposed to be easier by now. Or at least, I thought we would have short periods of relief here and there. But it seems like we jump back and forth between hard and harder.

After nearing two months of trying to feed her solids and her flat out refusing (clamping her mouth down, dodging away from the spoon), we are now seeing a therapist in hopes that will help. After going through a brief period of h-e double hockey sticks trying to get her to self-sooth so she could fall asleep on her own we are back to rocking her to sleep. She still doesn’t do that great in the carseat or at keeping a binkie in her mouth. It just feels like everything is hard with this child. Harder than it should be.

This morning was no different. The day started at 4 a.m. with a feeding, and after a failed attempt to fall back asleep I was up for the day at 5:30. After another feeding and then getting milk barfed all over me, I was in tears. Why is this so hard? It breaks my heart that I’m frustrated with my own baby. It breaks my heart that I’m not strong enough to handle this gracefully.

Luckily, the husband came to the rescue and I went back to bed for long enough that the desperate thoughts retreated back to their dark corners for the time being. Feeling slightly more ready to handle the day, the husband headed off to work.

Then the baby pooped and the toddler pooped and the toddler needed a snack and the baby started whining and I realized I hadn’t eaten breakfast. So I changed diapers and gave snacks and rocked the baby to sleep. I went to lay her down in her room so that I could finally get something to eat, and she woke up on the way there.

Ug.

So I tried laying her down awake, hoping that she was tired enough to fall back asleep.

She laid there for just long enough to get my hopes up and then started fussing. But we were already committed now and I wanted to follow through until she was asleep. So I went back, cuddled her until she was almost asleep again, and laid her back down.

Same thing. Back and forth between the baby upstairs and the toddler downstairs.

After several trips, I stood in the living room next to the monitor and the fussing started up again and I felt myself beginning to crumble. I pressed my hands to my eyes and I begged, “God, please. Please give me strength. Please help me be a better mom than this.”

And then I looked down at the monitor and she stopped crying, stroked her blankie and fell asleep. And in the relief of the silence, I thought, “This is harder for her than it is for me.”

Sometimes all I need is a change in perspective and everything feels different. This was one of those moments.

This is hard for me, but it is harder for her. Everything is new and she is figuring out how her body works and she doesn’t understand the waves of feelings that she can’t control. She doesn’t know what’s going on or what the point of the mushy baby food is or that car seat rides won’t last forever. She doesn’t understand why mom is so frustrated.

This is hard for her. And I’m the one who can help make it easier. But I’ve been too caught up in my own feelings to think about hers.

Sigh. Not my finest mama moment.

Luckily, it’s not even 10 a.m. I still have time to do better today.

I have time to be more patient at meal time when she refuses the spoon yet again.

I have time to be more patient when naps don’t go the way I wish they would.

I have time to be loving when the toddler throws a fit, because being a toddler is hard too.

I have time to be compassionate with the 1st grader when she tells me about her day, because being a 1st grader is hard.

I have time to do better.

These parenting face-palm moments, the ones where I am embarrassed to have needed to be reminded of something I already knew, the ones where I wish I had done better… these moments are not fun.

But I’m grateful for the reminder.

Because today I will do better.

 

 

The Best Last Baby

My third child is the best last baby I could have asked for. But probably not in the way you are imagining.

You see, somewhere along the line I got the impression that third babies are laid back, chill babies. They handle the chaos with grace and sleep through anything because they have to. They are born into a busy bustling family dynamic that is already firmly in place, so they don’t come along expecting to change anything. They just find their place in it.

So naturally, I expected a chill baby who slept through the night and smiled all the time and never fussed about anything. This misinformation probably contributed to my hesitation to officially call her our “last baby”. Deep down, the idea of having more than three made me gulp, for a variety of reasons. But when I felt her little kicks in my belly and imagined holding my sweet sleeping darling I couldn’t imagine closing the door on the stage of life.

Then she arrived.

And she is just as sweet and precious as I imagined she would be.

Aaaaand from day one she shattered my idea of what a third baby would be like. She didn’t slide quietly into our family dynamic. She marched in and dramatically planted her flag so that no one could possibly overlook her arrival.

And even though it was a shock to adjust my naive expectations to the new reality, as I sit here cradling her sleeping body on the six month anniversary of her birth, I can now see that she is the perfect last baby.

Because she has made it very clear to me that she is our last baby.

After two smooth pregnancies, hers came with complications, reminding me how nerve wracking growing a human can be.

After a night in the NICU for jaundice, she reminded me how heartbreakingly hard parenting can be when you have to watch your kids go through something difficult.

After six months of still not sleeping through the night she reminded me of the limitations of my own sanity.

After months of fussing every time I set her down she reminded me that my other children don’t stop needing me when a new one comes along.

After months of remembering how hard nursing is, after weeks of trying to convince her to eat baby food to no avail, after realizing she is going to start crawling soon in the midst of our lego-and-shopkins-and-Barbie-shoe infected living room, she reminded me that this parenting gig takes guts. Guts and heart and laundry detergent and wine.

After all this and more, I know in my gut that she is my last.

Sure, some of it has to do with finding my own personal limit to the number of children I can adequately parent. But actually, it’s more than that.

It’s about appreciating what I have.

She reminded me that pregnancy is hard, but she also reminded me that modern medicine is miraculous and that my own body is miraculous and that because of a combination of those miraculous things I have three beautiful healthy daughters.

She reminded me that parenting is sometimes so painfully hard that you can only survive it one hour at a time while you wait for the sun to come up after the longest night of your life. But she also reminded me what a blessing it is to love another human so much that it changes you.

She reminded me how much I need sleep to be a decent human but she also reminded me how beautiful the quiet night is.

She reminded me that children aren’t always what you expect them to be and that there’s a chance for me to grow from the things I can’t control.

She reminded me how hard the first few months of a new life can be. And she made sure that I slowed down and snuggled her long enough to see the beauty hidden in the struggle.

She is the perfect last baby because she reminded me why it is time for us to be done with this stage of life and she also reminded me of the beauty in being done with this stage of life.

Six months ago this tiny little five pound human showed up, planted her flag in my heart and woke me up in ways I didn’t even know I needed.

She’s been waking me up ever since.

(Literally. 😉 )

When You Can’t Have It All at Once

I wrote this whole post, and when I went back to re-read it, it sounded like a giant pity party. So this is take two.

Why the pity party, you ask?

Well for a the past couple of weeks, I was hopefully entertaining the very realistic possibility of having it all.

Having it all? Really?

Yep, that’s right. You see, it’s not too much of a stretch. I’m lucky enough (yes, even on the hard days) to be home with my sweet babies all day. I love this gig (yes, even on the hard days) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what more could you want?

Great question. I love being a mom, but part of being a mom is being a human. I love being there for my kids but I also want to set an example for them. For me, that involves being something in addition to being a mom.

So I spend a lot of time thinking about what that means for me. It’s a surprisingly hard question. There’s a lot of things I could do with my time outside of motherhood, some more practical than others. And for somebody who writes about authenticity, it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what my authentic path in this life is.

But a few weeks ago, I was pretty sure I had found it. An online masters degree in English with an emphasis in writing. I could finally check a masters degree off my bucket list, I could study the thing I’ve been most passionate about all along. I could suck it up and be brave enough to get serious about writing. And I could do it all online, meaning I wouldn’t have to put my kids in daycare to attend class.

I knew when I submitted my application that I was a few undergrad English credits short of the requirement, but I thought, “What the heck? Go for it.” Once they reviewed my transcripts then I would know how many I needed and could complete them. The previous graduate program I had been enrolled in just lumped all my required undergrad and grad work into my program plan.

Not the case with this one.

This morning I received a very nice email from the program director explaining that I was short the required credits. And this afternoon I received the standard “We regret to inform you…” letter.

Turns out, even though my logical brain knew that it was a possibility, a stamped and sealed rejection letter is still a blow to the ego. And the morale.

Thus, the pity party.

You may be thinking, it’s just a few undergrad classes. Just get them done and then enroll in the graduate program.

You’re right, it is just a few classes. Classes I would happily take.

Except they aren’t offered online. Which means time in class. Which means daycare. Which means giving up time with my kids.

Which means NOT “having it all”. At least not all at once.

So, quick u-turn before we end up back in pity party land, that is where I’m at. I’ll admit, I was majorly bummed to have felt like “having it all” was so close to possible, only to have the hope dashed. Mostly, I was excited about this new possibility.

And it’s not that it’s not possible. It definitely is. I have several different choices of ways to make it work.

But I’m not going to. At least, not right now.

Because the truth is, it isn’t about the details. It’s about a big picture choice I have to make. I can either make it work, which means making sacrifices, the biggest of which will be time with my kids. Or I can be patient. Waiting a few years until my children are in school means a lot more flexibility when it comes to pursuing my own educational goals.

For me, it’s an obvious choice.

I know this time with them is a gift. One that I’m not willing to sacrifice.

And just to be clear, it’s not because I feel obligated to stay with them. It’s because I want to. With all my heart. Even on the hardest days, this mom gig is my dream job.

Waiting to start the program isn’t a sacrifice for me. Giving up time with my kids would be.

So the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this isn’t a simple rejection from a graduate committee. It’s actually a quiet little nudge from the universe. To stop trying so hard to move on to the next thing and just enjoy this thing. This time where I have the privilege of making motherhood my priority. This time where I don’t have to juggle all the things. I’m choosing to believe that someone up there is looking out for me and knows I need a little reminder to use this time wisely. There will be a time for classes and degrees. Right now is the time for little people. Because classes and degrees will always be there. Little people won’t.

Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed to have needed the reminder.

This is also a good time to mention that just because this particular path isn’t the right personal growth path for me right now doesn’t mean there isn’t a personal growth path for me right now. It’s just not one defined by a university.

Someone who inspires me recently wrote on her own blog (in reference to her music career) that if there isn’t a gig, create one. In other words, don’t wait for someone to offer you a path. Make your own.

Just because my current personal growth path isn’t nationally accredited doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. I have piles of books to read and mountains of ideas to write. I don’t need someone else to assign me work for me to do work of value. And the best part is, when I’m writing my own curriculum, I can make sure it never interferes with the real work of value, soaking up the beautiful madness of motherhood.

Not having plans work out the way you thought you wanted them to isn’t fun, even when you know deep down it’s for the best. I will own that. So tonight I have scheduled a real-life pity party with a good friend, complete with beer and possibly some form of nachos.

And then tomorrow I’ll get back to work.

Swimming in Paradise

Sunset in Key West

This weekend was a rough one on the baby sleep front. If you’ve read anything I’ve written lately (or read between the lines of what I haven’t had the energy to write), then you know we are in one of “those” phases of child rearing that feel extra hard.

Saturday night I had plans with friends at 7:30. The baby goes to bed at 7 (that’s the goal anyway), so this was somewhat ambitious. But I thought we could make it work. Of course, rather than fall asleep nursing like she will do on lucky occasions, she finished eating and was wired. So I decided to lay her down awake, since that’s the goal, and since it has been working pretty well at nap times. I stood outside the door of the room for a few minutes to make sure she would settle in.

But in her usual over-ambitious attempt to calm herself, she stuck her fingers in her mouth and gagged herself. My husband and I rushed back in and scooped her up to make sure she didn’t choke. She seemed fine, so I left her with my very capable husband and headed for the door, just in time to catch my ride.

At which point she threw up everything that she had just eaten. Into her bed. And her pajamas. And all over my husband.

SIGH.

So I helped change pajamas and sheets and dug out a new sleep sack and heated up a bottle and made escape attempt number two.

Which worked. My much-more-patient husband put her to bed and I had a wonderful, much-needed dinner with dear friends.

And the baby, who had slept through the night for the two previous nights, woke up when I went to crawl in bed at midnight. And stayed up until 1:30 a.m., something she hasn’t done for a long time. And then got up before 5 a.m.

And then decided to get up every couple of hours all night the next night as well, just to make her point.

Have I said SIGH yet? SIGH.

Okay so back to my point. During my friend dinner, we were talking about my situation, and parenting, and drowning, and life, and plans. At one point in the conversation, my friend asked if there was a part of the day I looked forward to every day.

And I had to think. I actually had to think about it.

(Face palm)

So I’m not making excuses or anything here. There are moments that are so overwhelming that I can’t see out of this hole I’m in. I think five months of exhaustion, three years of being pregnant or nursing, hormones, and possibly a touch of seasonal or postpartum depression are adding weight to an already heavy load.

And sometimes the stress feels so big that it’s all I can see. And when I do write, it’s all I can think to write about. And I don’t like that, because it doesn’t feel good to write (or live) all in the negative. I’d much rather create and share something positive. But I also want this to be a place where I share the real, authentic moments of parenting, and you can’t do that without telling the truth about the darkness.

So I do. But I think it’s also worth saying, that just because sometimes the darkness is all I see doesn’t mean it’s all darkness. Sure there have been a lot of moments lately that feel like I can’t keep my head above water. But then suddenly I find a foothold and come up for air and realize that the water I was drowning in is this beautiful bay of crystal blue water with white sand beaches and dolphins and sunshine and palm treas.

I got so caught up in trying to keep my head above water that I didn’t (couldn’t) notice that I was swimming in paradise.

I thought back to my conversation with my friends and the question, what do I look forward to each day, and I had to smack myself and laugh. Every day I get to watch my toddler learn new words. Right now she has learned how to add “peas” (please) to her requests, which is about the most adorable thing ever and she pretty much gets whatever she wants when she says it. (Hey, it is the magic word.) I get to listen to her sweet little voice sing and see her mischievous smile when she sneaks up on me and tickles me. I get to watch her sit and pour through books and “read” them to herself. I get to sit and build legos with her.

I get to watch my baby smile. I get to hear her laugh because she is so ticklish that even changing her clothes makes her laugh. I get to watch her trying to sit up and trying to pull her knees up under her and soon I’ll get to see her succeed at all of these big brave things she is trying. I get to watch her eyes get heavy and I get to nurse her when she is hungry and hold her when she cries.

I get to pick the oldest up from school every day. I get to see what she’s working on in school, I get to help her make Valentines for her classmates and celebrate with her when she earns a certificate for “compassion”. I get to hear her reading harder books every day. I get to see her sisters’ faces light up when she walks in the room.

I get to be there when they don’t feel good and need extra love. I get to be there when they feel amazing and brave and full of life. I get to be there for it all.

The hard days are worth writing about because they are real. But so are all the other moments. There’s not just one thing I look forward to every day because my day is filled with beautiful moments, both good and bad, with the people I love most in the world.

Even on the days where swimming is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I’m still swimming in paradise.

 

 

Why is it so hard to write?

Some days (many days) I feel the urge to do something creative. Something outside of the everyday tasks of motherhood. For me, that something is almost always writing of some kind.

I see videos about the regrets dying people have, for not taking the leap, finding your purpose, being brave with your creativity. I read books and I dream about writing a novel or at least writing a blog post once a week and I think about the legacy I want to leave for my kids. I think about what it is I want to do once this phase is over. Will I go back to school? Will I get a job? Will I continue to stay home? I dream about possibilities that I’m not quite brave enough to admit.

And yet, days pass and nothing gets written.

And I feel like a part of me wants to feel something like remorse about it. Sure, I’d like to be writing more, creating something. Sure it doesn’t feel great to have the impulse to write and not follow through with it.

But the truth is, when it comes down to holding the sleeping baby or picking up the computer, I’ll pick the baby. When it comes down to playing the same game on the floor with the toddler for the tenth time today or writing a blog post, I’ll pick the toddler. When it comes to starting a project with the six year old or starting that novel, even if I’m exhausted and everything is a mess and I’m not sure how I feel about starting a project, I’ll pick the six year old.

And I don’t feel like I’m giving something up.

Because even though I have dreams and plans beyond motherhood, my greatest dream and plan still IS motherhood.

You see, I’m not staying at home because I’m being noble and giving up my career. I’m not even staying at home just because I think it’s what’s best for my kids.

I’m staying at home because it’s exactly what I want to do.

At this point in my life, motherhood IS my purpose, my dream. There is nowhere else I’d rather be. I’m not putting my life on hold to raise my kids. This IS my life. It’s a life I feel privileged to have, even on the hardest days.

It may be hard to write most days, but that’s only because the choice between writing and spending that time with my kids isn’t hard at all.

 

The F-Word Days of Motherhood

It started at 9 a.m.

The Fedex man had the audacity to ring the doorbell. The toddler, who usually ignores the doorbell, did not ignore the doorbell. Instead, she melted into a crying mess of temper tantrum.

That set the trend for the rest of the morning. She cried until I picked her up. And then she cried when I held her. Occasionally she took a short break to go check in with her toys. In fact, we even played cheerfully for a short spell with “Cinella” (Cinderella) and some of the other little people who were going for a “swim” in a cup.

But as soon as I got up to walk away, more meltdown.

For lunch she ate only crackers and refused everything else.

She napped (THANK GOD) and then clung to my leg while I got everyone loaded for gymnastics. While we waited for sister to finish class, she semi-contentedly threw her toys all over the floor. But as soon as we were back in the car, the whining began again. And by the time we got home it had progressed to a full blown fit once again.

At dinner, she refused all her food while cry-yelling for crackers. Which I refused to give her because it was basically all she had eaten all day.

She is persistent so this continued until she was a blotchy blubbering mess. At which point I handed her off to her dad and said, “HANDLE THIS I’M DONE.” In exactly the kind of exhausted exasperated tone that you would expect.

Even when she kept crying and reached for me, I walked away and let him take her.

I fed the fussing baby while listening to the toddler crying in the bath and crying through getting her pajamas on.

And the image of her sad cry for “crackers” and her tear soaked cheeks as she reached her little arms for me kept tugging at me.

I’ve been a parent long enough to know how much it sucks to end a day like this. Especially a rough day. I battle through and get them to bed and then as soon as they are sleeping peacefully my heart starts to break over the time I “lost” with them (for lack of a better way to describe it). I’ve spent many a night crying into a glass of wine after bedtime for this exact reason. The phrase “Never go to bed angry,” always seemed a little cliche to me when it came to relationship advice. But when it comes to parenting? It’s a necessary law.

Which is why, even though I spent a good part of the day with the F-word flashing through my brain because of this child, I couldn’t stand the idea of ending our day like that. So I passed off the baby to her dad, took a sippy cup of milk and a tube of crackers, and scooped her up into the rocking chair. I snuggled her and ran my fingers through her hair and kissed her sweet toddler cheeks while she happily munched her crackers and drank her milk.

And then I held her for just a little longer than usual before I tucked her in to bed.

And then I came downstairs and snuggled with the six year old while her post-bath hair left a wet spot on my shoulder. And after she was tucked in, I held a fussy, gassy baby on my lap until she fell sound asleep.

And when it was all said and done, it was still everything I could do not to burst into tears.

These days are hard on a mama’s soul.

It’s hard to see our kids struggle. It’s hard to wonder what the right way to handle it is. Do I snuggle her all day because she so obviously needs me? Or is there a better way to handle her temper tantrums? Do I send her to bed with no supper when she refuses to eat or do I feed her crackers for the third meal in a row?

I don’t know the answers. I just know that I’m grateful they have no idea how many times I said the f-word in my head today.

And more importantly, I’m grateful that even on the days when I feel like I’m failing hard at this parenting thing, at least I know that the last thing they felt before they fell asleep was my arms around them.

Life With Three (Alternate Title: I Have No Clue What I’m Doing)

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We are three weeks in to life with three littles. Update: I have no clue what I’m doing.

Truth be told, I didn’t even before the third one came along. (How is there still no manual for this parenting thing??)

Anyway. If I didn’t know what I was doing before, it is even more obvious now. Juggling this many humans is HARD. Sure, I have moments in which I feel like I’m almost nailing it. The other day I got lunch ready for the toddler and fed her while wearing the baby in the carrier. (Listen. This may seem like a ridiculously small win, but I assure you, it is big.) One night the baby only got up once between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. (Have i mentioned how much I love my bed?) Today, we even tackled the pumpkin patch with minimal stress (definitely a win).

And don’t get me wrong, these wins are great. But there are still a lot of moments in between. I’m not kidding you guys, I literally googled, “Can my toddler’s temper tantrums traumatize my newborn?” this week. Because the toddler lost her s#%&t for thirty plus minutes the other day. While I was trying to feed the baby. And of course, I just got done reading somewhere (who can remember where) that hostility in tones of voices can impact a newborns brain development. (Maybe it was in my peaceful parenting audio book? I can work on being peaceful but who is going to get the memo to my toddler?!)

For the record, google was not that helpful. Nor was it particularly helpful in answering how to stop the toddler from screaming her bloody head off or why my baby gets restless at night only AFTER my husband goes to bed. I didn’t bother asking it my sleep deprivation questions. (How did people parent before google??)

I know this is normal (at least I assume it is).  So much of parenting (and adulting?) is just making it up as you go. Maybe there will come a time where I’m more confident in my ability to spontaneously handle everything parenthood throws at me.

But for now, I feel like I’m hanging on to a spinning merry-go-round, balancing somewhere between an exhilarating adrenaline rush and debilitating fear.

I have no idea how to handle the toddler’s temper tantrums. I don’t remember this stage with my oldest (though I have vague memories of worrying that the neighbors would think I was beating her because of how loud she would scream so we must have gone through this). I have no idea how to load and unload an infant AND a toddler from the car by myself. I have no idea how to begin to piece together a manageable bedtime routine. Or meal time routine. Or morning routine. I have no idea how to chase a toddler around a park with a newborn in tow. I have no idea how to go about feeling like I’ve given each of them the attention they deserve. I’m barely pulling off the “shower daily” thing, and quite frankly I’m sucking pretty bad at the “sleep” and “eat healthy” things.

But maybe figuring out all the answers is overrated.

Because even if I did, it would only last a moment before everything changed and I’d have to figure it out all over again.

Maybe the best thing we can do is just be clueless and keep showing up anyway.

 

 

Re-Puzzling

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-23-53-pmAdding another human to a family is like blowing up a five thousand piece puzzle that had already been put together and reassembling it all over again (but with new, extra pieces).

We start with the basics. Find our four corners. For us, that means holding on to each other. The house may be a disaster, we may not have accomplished a single thing, but everyone in our little circle is being fiercely loved. And sometimes that’s enough.

Then we sort out our edge pieces. Sleeping. Doing laundry. Dishes. Showering. Cooking a meal. (Okay, maybe cooking is a stretch. 😉 KIDDING.)

Getting kids to school on time. Reading every night before bed. Making doctor appointments.

The pieces come back together slowly. We are unlearning and relearning how to do everything. I’m trying to wrap my head around how to get a kid ready and to school in the morning while still feeding a toddler, all with a newborn attached to me. (To be honest, I’m still figuring out how to feed a toddler with a newborn attached to me.) And we are still trying to figure out a bedtime routine where everyone gets the end-of-the-day attention they need. The picture is the same but the pieces are different. Many days, it’s a win simply because everyone brushed their teeth.

Only after you find your corners and reconstruct your edges can you start to fill in the big picture details. Playdates. Trips to the park. Reading a book for fun. Coffee with a friend.

Writing on a blog.

Confession time: We don’t have all our edges in place. The house is bordering on being a disaster and I haven’t actually cooked a meal yet. The oldest two are both on antibiotics because why wouldn’t they get sick the MINUTE we bring a newborn home. Sick kids mean more attention, more medicine schedules to remember, more disinfecting and quarantine-ing, less sleep. It’s like working on the puzzle in the dark for a little while.

So what am I doing hanging out in blog land when I don’t have my edges together?

Who knows. I guess I got a little impatient.

Don’t get me wrong. I know there’s something beautiful about starting from the beginning and re-puzzling our world. I know that there is magic in these moments that feel like chaos, where we are stripped down to the bare basics. I’m not trying to skip this part, even when it feels hard.

But sometimes I just need a reminder that I’m not just building a frame, I’m building a masterpiece. And I need that little rush that comes from seeing a little piece of the bigger picture fall into place.

Translation: I miss writing. In this stage, it won’t often make the cut when it comes to the list of things I can accomplish in the day. That won’t always be true. But for now, it is. And that’s okay.

Because some day all of the pieces will fall back into place. And writing will be one of those pieces in a rich and beautiful picture.

And then one day we will tear the puzzle apart again.