Category Archives: being a parent

When Things Don’t Go As Planned (aka Parenthood)

Let me tell you about a trip that didn’t go as planned. I believe this is what they call life.

Last week, our family packed up and headed to Memphis for a few days.

The hubs had a work training there, which meant all of his travel-related expenses work were compensated. And when we realized that my days off coincided with his training days, we thought we could take advantage of an opportunity for a cheap, mini-vacay.

I’d never been to Memphis, so I had fun looking into the free or cheap kid-friendly attractions. I was a little nervous about exploring a city with just myself and my two little ones, but I was getting excited about it. About a week before we were supposed to leave, we learned that his company paired him with a roommate–someone from a branch in Florida. Big bummer. The hotel was our largest expense. So, we debated it and decided we’d still go. I found a good deal on Hotwire.

We got there around 10pm on Monday night. The kids were in pretty good spirits, but a bit over tired seeing as it was hours after bed time. To make a long story short, the crib they promised us (twice) wasn’t available and the girl wouldn’t sleep. So, we packed up and moved hotels after midnight. It was about as much fun as it sounds.

Ellis slept pretty horribly for the majority of the trip. She was cutting a tooth. Our neighbors next door asked if we were the ones with the baby crying all night.

To make matters worse, I developed mastitis on Tuesday (uncommon at this point in the game, I know) and felt like I had the flu. I was definitely questioning if we made the “right” decision in coming.

I share all of this for two reasons. One, this is life with young kids (as every other parent can attest). I knew the trip wouldn’t be easy, but I underestimated how challenging it would be with two little wild cards. Everything is just a little trickier where kids are involved. After talking about it, we realize we need to adjust to the phase we’re in and see this trip as a way to pick up a few tricks for the next time around.

More importantly, though, this trip served as a microcosm of what parenthood is for me: learning to let go and trust Jesus. I’m not in control of my life the way I think I am. I like to stick to the plan and know the path ahead. But, there are so many extenuating circumstances over which I have no control. And in the midst of my stress and fear there is an invitation to be perfectly cared for and walk minute by minute, trusting. I am making progress. I’m not there yet.

Memphis wasn’t all bad. I think Liam had fun. The new hotel was a better location and fit for our time there. The kids slept beautifully the last night we were there. We had some great local food even though we didn’t manage to get to most of the places on my list. It was all provision for what we really needed.

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Pictures include our time at The Memphis Firehouse Museum, Shelby Farms Park, The Memphis Zoo, and some sweet sibling love 😉

 

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A Family Valentine Affair

{I’m a week late with this post, but I figure I’d still post–both for documenting reasons and to give ideas for those planning Valentine activities a year in advance 😉 }

This year was the first time we included the kiddos in our Valentine’s day plans. I don’t know whether it will become a tradition or not, but it seemed like a good choice given that it can be a difficult night to find a babysitter, most restaurants are booked up with reservations, and Liam’s interest in parties and holidays is piquing.

The beautiful flowers that Daddy and Liam picked out for their girls.

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I tried my hand at some heart-shaped food:

photo 1Homemade pizza with pepperoni cut in little hearts. The boy enjoyed decorating the pizza.

photo 2My heart carrots were pretty successful (using a vegetable peeler) but the hard boiled eggs didn’t quite work (I missed the point about folding the “mold” in half).
photo 4I can tell you that the highlight of someone’s night was heart-shaped Rice Krispy Treats. To be honest, this was Liam’s sole focus and it turned the dinner into a less-than-desirable event. Turns out, toddlers and sugar are not a great recipe!

The best part of the night was the impromptu dance party that followed dinner. For those of you with small kids, let me just tell you that the Raffi Pandora station makes for a fun time. 🙂

I’m not one for crafting all kinds of cutesy things, but I’m learning because it’s exciting to the little ones. All in all, a good first attempt, I think.

 

 

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A Few Things You Should Know About Post-Partum Depression

I have post-partum depression. This is actually my second time. I realize that being so public with it may invite some criticism, but I feel like sharing this is something I should do. My reason for blogging about this is two-fold: one, I don’t want social media to give anyone false ideas about what my (and the many women who suffer with this) life is really like; and, two, I think there is a lingering stigma attached to post-partum depression, and so many mamas suffer alone.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not an expert. I’m speaking strictly from my experience, though I would imagine my experience would have a lot of overlap with others who have dealt with this (possibly even depression in general).

Also, let me get this out of the way: my precious girl is now 3 1/2 months old, and I couldn’t love her more. This isn’t about if I’m grateful enough, a good enough mom, or even if I’m trusting Jesus enough. Post-partum depression turns you into a person that you don’t recognize, and it has become my belief that you need things like counselors, support groups, and medicines to help you to get through it.

As I said, this is my second go round. You would (or I did) think that I could do something to prevent it if I’ve been down that road before. It’s been very discouraging to feel like I can’t seem to have a baby without ending up here. But I know that I can’t trust that feeling.

Each time, it has been a LONG road of feeling overwhelmed at the littlest (and not-so-little) things, feeling completely spent physically and emotionally, and feeling trapped in a deep pit before I could admit that I needed something outside of me to help me. And while I could recognize the signs and symptoms as they were approaching, I felt the need to work harder at “pulling it together”. I would beat myself up for not having enough patience and for allowing myself to go on these emotional roller coaster rides. I would feel frustration when it was hard to bond (with my screaming, inconsolable infant). I would feel sadness and anger (at myself) if I perceived that others could. I would feel guilt when baby was actually happy, but I was still sad. I would feel guilt for having all of those feelings when I have such a fantastic support system.

I was recently talking to a friend who just had her third child about how I was doing…really. She offered sympathy and encouragement, saying that I would be surprised at how many mamas in our community have dealt with this and needed to go on an anti-depressant. And it made me think, How silly that we don’t talk about it! I’m not saying that anyone struggling with post-partum depression should walk around telling everyone they see. I don’t think that is helpful or healthy. And I have moments of actual happiness in the midst of this, but I have learned that it is not doing anyone (yourself, mainly) a favor to suffer in silence.

I know that many women feel shame. I must say that I don’t feel a whole lot of shame about it (when I’m thinking straight, anyway), but I still find it so hard to reach out for help. For starters, I have a complex about sounding like a complainer, and it’s hard to admit that things are still not going well. But mostly, it’s hard to have the energy to get help. When I’m in that crisis state, everything feels like a mountain that must be moved. It’s overwhelming. In all seriousness, please don’t ask me what I want to do for dinner. I feel panicky when trying to schedule appointments (especially because it means trying to coordinate child care). When I’m not in a crisis state, I believe I’m finally getting a handle on things, and I don’t need that other stuff (i.e. counseling, medicine). It’s hard for me to decide that I need help because I’m not in a state to make good decisions.

That is why I would say, to all those who know and love someone (who might be) facing post-partum depression, be patient (God bless you, husbands). Don’t expect much. Offering all kinds of well-intentioned (but unsolicited) advice can make things worse. Give clear and simple instructions if it’s necessary. Don’t avoid these women either. They need your love and support. Be supportive of the decisions that they make and acknowledge that what they are going through is just plain hard.

And to the mamas who are crying and feeling hopeless months after baby’s arrival, you aren’t alone. Having a baby can do a real number on your mental wellness. But it won’t be this way forever. I can say with confidence that, as much as there were moments in my depression that I thought would kill me, I am so amazed (on the other side of depression) at the beauty of their creation. He is so smart, so fantastic, so creative and joyful. She is so lovely and so uniquely her. That is why, for me, it is so worth it.

One of my first thoughts after finally starting an antidepressant with my firstborn was Oh my, why didn’t I do this sooner? I just want to encourage you (and I’m reminding myself as much as anything) that there is help, and you don’t have to feel miserable.

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First Bottle

In efforts to prepare Ellis for my return to work, we introduced her to the bottle last week.

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And as is becoming tradition, Daddy gives the first one. It took her a while to get the hang of it, but I think she’ll do just fine!

After I looked at this picture, I realized I’d seen one very much like it before. Totally unplanned (expression and all), this is the picture of Liam receiving his first bottle:

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The only real difference is that Jonathan looks a little more tired this time around 🙂

I’m sure with time, I’ll find it easier to be faithful with my blogging, and I will do my best to post adorable pictures of Ellis from time to time, but I have a feeling there won’t be as many pictures gracing the internet  as with our first-born (probably a good thing, when I put it that way). Life is just a little busier with two!

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Big Bed

Our big boy’s 2nd birthday marked another milestone…the transition out of his crib and into his big bed!

When we started changing things in Liam’s room, we brought in the twin bed that lived in our den once upon a time. We worked on talking up the graduation to a big boy bed on his 2nd birthday. Liam spent time jumping, playing, reading, and pretend sleeping on his new bed.

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Apparently, we were successful in communicating when he would sleep in his new bed! Every time we asked how old he was going to be on his birthday, he answered “big bed”. We decided to transition him the night of his party last weekend since he thought that was his actual birthday (which also happened to be daylight savings time).

We went through all the same routines and read a book about Elmo spending the night in his big boy bed. We told him how proud we were and put him down.

NOT. ONE. PEEP.

Can you believe it?!

When I came to get him the next morning, he was so happy and proud that he woke up in his bed!

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Nap time didn’t go quite as smoothly, but latching the door did the trick (since he hasn’t figured out how to open it yet). We’re about 4 or 5 days in now, and still…no tears! I’m so thankful…and proud. I think the Lord knew I don’t have the energy to battle right now. 🙂

 

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Way to go, big kid!!

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Toddlers in Tantrums

It’s true.

Even though the boy has yet to turn two, we are well within the tantrum phase. Thankfully, they are mostly when we are at home, but they are becoming more and more frequent in public. (Can you say yikes?!)

Don’t get me wrong. He is a wonderful kid who is really pretty well behaved, but…we have our moments.

It’s interesting, though, because I’m finding that I have two options when we’re out (or really anywhere):

1) I can give him what he’s begging/whining/screaming/crying for, or

2) I can hold my ground and cause his begging/whining/screaming/crying to be worse than if I gave in.

This topic has been weighing on me for a while (since it’s become more of a problem), and I decided I’d blog about my struggle when I recently read this post from When You Rise.

In the last few months, I’ve been tempted on more than one occasion to use the very thing that he’s crying for as a reward to encourage him to stop crying. I’ll give you an example. He’s got a real thing for fruit snacks (which he’s only had 3 or 4 times before anyway, but he is sure about what he likes!) and he will ask and beg incessantly until he buys himself a visit to time-out. Then, his crying will escalate over the next 20 minutes until I find myself wanting to bribe him with, “If you stop crying, you can have some fruit snacks!”

You see the problem, though? Wanting to eat fruit snacks is not the worst thing, but giving him some when I’ve already said no tells his little mind that if he acts out long enough or loud enough, then he can control me. And underneath that, it says that I care more about my comfort (having quiet) or my reputation (not having strangers stare at us in the grocery store) than about his obedience and his well being.

That may seem extreme, but I think it’s totally true. It’s hard work to be a caring parent. In those tedious, frustrating moments, I try to remind myself that I’m investing in the person he’s becoming. It’s not about the quick fixes to save face. Besides, I believe that time invested will make life easier at some point down the road, too. He’s so impressionable right now.

I’m reminded of another blog post I’ve read that convicts me of my tendencies to place too much importance on the things that don’t really matter (like keeping him from making messes) and not enough importance on the things that really matter (like pretending not to notice when he’s disobeying so that I can finish cooking dinner).

It’s all about perspective–but, like I said, it’s extremely difficult in the moment. I don’t want to feel judged from strangers or other moms we’re out with. And I certainly don’t want people to feel bothered by my son’s outbursts (you know we’ve all been that person). I’ve actually been working on some ideas to prevent the public tantrums when possible, but my goal is not to lose perspective of what’s really important when I get into those situations.

The whole topic says a lot about human nature. It’s completely natural for Liam to want what he wants, when he wants it. It’s natural that I don’t want people to think I’m a bad mother who makes her child cry. That stuff has to be worked out of us.

And that’s just what God is doing through Jonathan and me. We’re helping to set his little heart on the straight path to patience and selflessness. Though sometimes, it’s a long and bumpy road!

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Parenting

Jonathan and I are first time parents.

I can say without hesitation that last year and a half of our lives has started us on the most challenging and wonderful adventure of our lives. It really is such a joy and a privilege to be Liam’s mom. He’s an amazing kid.

We take our job very seriously, and it’s sobering to think about the impact you can have on a little life. Since we dreamt of having children, but particularly in recent months (as Liam is gaining independence and understanding), we’ve been discussing what sort of parents we want to be (a parenting model, of sorts) and have come across some fantastic resources (Including our own amazing parents!).

One blog that I have encountered is When You Rise. Even though I’m not a very arts-n-crafts kind of personality, she has a lot of great activity ideas to help your children comprehend what you’re saying. What I really love about her, though, is her Gospel-Centered Parenting concept. I knew I really liked this girl’s blog, but I decided I loved it, when I saw her response to this question.

She brings up some thought-provoking questions, like What is the difference between moral parenting and Christian parenting? And that has gotten us thinking, Is having obedient, well-mannered children our end goal?

For us, the answer is a resounding NO.

Do I want my child to be respectful and obedient? Absolutely. But I think if I’m not careful, I can teach my son that the outward appearance is more important than the heart motive. I don’t want him to learn to “pull himself up by his bootstraps”, look within himself, and do better next time. I want him to rely on the God who loves us, died for us, and creates real and lasting change from the inside. It’s subtle (especially in childhood situations), but there’s a difference. God is the One who does it. Not me. Not Daddy. Not Liam.

I’ve also been privileged to be a part of a Moms’ group that meets on a weekly basis. We’re studying a curriculum called Spiritual Parenting. We’re still early in the study, but I’m so encouraged to see a lot of similar themes to what Jonathan and I have been discussing at home.

One of the author’s points is that we should be praying that our children would learn  to 1) discern God’s voice among the many, 2) desire to obey that voice, and 3) do it in God’s power. The more I’ve thought about it, I really agree. God’s goals for Liam are consistent with (and better than!) my own. If my son learns to love God and wants to obey him, he will learn to obey his parents and respect others.

The amazing thing is, if I really let these things sink in, the pressure to be the perfect parent is off me! I just need to direct Liam to God (though that’s not always as simple as it sounds) so that he can experience Him for himself.

I also know that we have a lot more learning to do.

Let it be so.

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