One Day I’ll Miss It, But Right Now I Welcome It.

Anyone who’s ever been to my house knows my young daughters are stage 400 clingers. They are mama’s girls. And physical space…well, I need some of it. Like one inch at least.

So when we were at the beach on vacation a few weeks ago and they were…OVER THERE…I sat wondering what to do with my hands. And my brain. And my chance to get a tan line that doesn’t involve an awkward formation from a child on my thighs. I felt this quick twinge of guilt because I should be sad that they’re growing up and onto new, bigger kid phases but I was not sad. Not in the least.

They were over there digging, building, throwing and riding waves. I was over here,  shouting “GO NOW!” when the wave was about to break. I got to watch their joy and experience it like I never have before. Of course, there was plenty of snack-fetching and seashell hunting on the mommy-do list (not to mention an infant still to care for) but it was more fun because I also got to…dare I say it..relax.

You see, the repercussions of having a child on you at all times can be monumental. If you know me, you also know that I am a do-er. Sitting still is not a strength. And when there are kids on your lap, it makes doing things harder.

I am also an empath—I take on the emotions of those around me in a deep, I-can-actually-feel-it kind of way. That gift/curse is not limited to the emotions of adults. Have you ever spent one hour with a toddler? The rollercoaster of emotions that they experience in impressively small amounts of time is emotionally and physically draining for me.

But…when they are over there, I don’t feel it as much. I don’t ride the wave of every sentence. Fetching snacks is no longer like a chore, because I have freedom to move my hands and my legs at will without moving, lifting or warding off a 30+ lb being.

Have I ever sat and cried with my baby in my arms knowing one day they won’t need me to hold them? Of course. Have I gotten a lump in my throat just thinking about how big they’re getting? Absolutely. But am I also thrilled that the end of that phase is getting near? Hell yes.

I am excited for the phase where my toddlers move onto kid-hood and claim their independence. I am excited to watch them grow and thrive. I am excited to resume doing things (I mean really, really, really basic things like grabbing the remote) without the weight of a human on me. I am thrilled to be over here, watching them over there. I am thankful for the stage of snuggles, and grateful for this newfound independence.

What 2:38am Feels Like When You’re a Mom

I am not new to this getting up in the middle of the night gig. My third child is almost one, and my kids have hit all the natural sleep regressions and then some. Being up in the middle of the night with a child is basically my natural body rhythm at this point.

Yet, there I was last week on vacation…laying outside the doorway to the office where my 1-year-old was (not) sleeping…near tears. It wasn’t worth it to walk 25 steps across the house (again) just to get back up in 4 minutes to put the binky in. There was nothing wrong with the baby. She was just in a strange place and couldn’t get re-settled. There was no reason for me to be worried for her, or myself.

It was in this moment that I tried to break down the emotion I was feeling—one I am familiar with. I feel it every time I’m up in the middle of the night alone. A sinking feeling in my gut. Sometimes it feels like frustration that this couldn’t be a magic night of sleep. Other times it feels like a jealous rage because I can hear my spouse sleeping soundly. (He’s had a nearly-fair share of up-all-nights, too). But I think when I really break it down…that pit in my stomach, and those wells in my eyes are the symptoms of loneliness.

I was surrounded by people—9 not including the two of us who were up—but no one saw me. I was sitting in a door jamb, half asleep, shivering on the cold tile floor. I was jumping up, putting the binky back in and gently scratching her back, macgyvering my way further and further from the pack ‘n’ play before carefully slipping back out of the room. On repeat. For two hours.

What’s lonelier than being surrounded by people and not being seen? Nothing.

Did I want to wake the whole house up? No way! Did I need help from anyone? Nope. Was there anything anyone could’ve done to make it better for me? Not a chance. The situation was textbook “it is what it is” parenting. We have all been there. But it doesn’t take away that sinking, exhausted, lonely feeling in the gut.

Maybe I am just egotistical—wishing to be seen and feeling all alone. But just in case it’s not just me, know that I see you. It might be 2am and I may not actually be there, but I SEE you. I see you with your littles at the store, showing up to meetings, staying awake in church, and at school functions with your bigs. I see you standing tall and can almost hear your mind racing, “I can do hard things, tonight will be better, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” You are not alone. In fact, you’re in the best kind of company—with moms all around the world.

A Mom’s Farewell to 2018

As far as life goes, this was a pretty low-key year for us, thank the good Lord. We didn’t move or change jobs, deal with major illness or grieve loss. Life is busy enough without any big stuff going on, so I am grateful to 2018 for time to hunker down, deepen our roots and focus on our family.

As far as parenting goes, though, this was a pretty big year for us. We had a new baby. Our oldest started kindergarten. We switched preschools. It was a year of transition for us as parents, and for our daughters as siblings.

Here are a few things I learned, for better or for worse.

Sleep is not necessary for survival.
I’m no doctor, but if it were I’d be gone by now. 2018 was a year of so much love, and very, very, very little sleep—the least amount of sleep so far in my parenting career. Between a newborn and a three year old with sleep issues I can probably count the number of nights with more than three consecutive hours on my 10 tired fingers.

Finding patience is like finding a binky in the middle of the night.
I have always prided myself on my patience with my kids, but this year schooled me in humility in a big way. I’m not sure if it was the addition of a third person to juggle, the challenges of a rather wild three year old or the lack of sleep, but my patience was virtually nonexistent this year. It makes me really, really sad when I snap at the kids or yell and see their little heads hang in defeat or eyes pop open with fear. I am slowly finding ways to remove stress from my life and rebuild my patience to maintain a peaceful home.

Kids are the most forgiving of all humankind.
So many bedtime routines started off great, and ended with, “GET IN YOUR BED AND STAY THERE OR ELSE!” and I would rest my head on my pillow in total defeat and sadness. But guess what? The kids would still crawl in my bed in the middle of the night, or pop in at 5:30 am with a smile and, “Good morning mommy! I want to snuggle.” I would think…What? Why? Aren’t you mad about last night? Do you remember how I yelled and then you cried yourself to sleep? But they didn’t…or at least they didn’t care. Every single day is a fresh start to them, as it should be for all of us. Noted!

When the kids get easier, the schedule gets harder.
Brynlee, our 6 year old, was the “easy” child this year. She adapted to Kindergarten without so much as a single tearful night or call from the teacher. She helped with her sisters and self-entertained like a champ. She was hardly ever the source of sleep deprivation or worries this year. However, she was the source of the logistical challenges, and evenings spent on-the-run instead of at home. PSR, gymnastics, girl scouts, playdates, etc.. I am starting to see how each stage of parenthood brings its own set of challenges, not easier or harder than the last, just different.

The simplest moments brought the most joy.
Card games with Brynlee while the little ones rested. Muffins at Panera. Movie night in mom and dad’s bed. Making hot cocoa. Playing with the neighbor kids. These are the highlights of 2018—the moments that felt like I was giving up turned out to be the most special of all. When I said screw it, everyone get outside for the rest of the day! When I gave up on cooking and let everyone get muffins for dinner out. When we were too tired to move after long days of work and turned on the screen while we all laid in bed. Those are the moments that turned out to be the most special.

2018 will always hold a special place in my heart. While I never imagined my life with three children, now I can’t imagine it any other way. Sweet little P changed our family for the better. It was a challenging year in all the ways that parenthood is supposed to be challenging. It was a blessed year in ways we could have never imagined.

Thank you 2018 for health, happiness and important lessons. Next!

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…with 3 Kids

Reading the classic, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore remains a favorite holiday tradition of mine. As I was flipping through the pages the other day, it inspired a mom-adapted version which is in no way meant to undermine the beauty of this original poem, and in every way meant to make you smile. It’s the most wonderful and tiring time of the year, mamas. Cheers!

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
All the kids were still stirring, maybe even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
and rehung 628 times before good ol’ St. Nick ever got there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While bedtime excuses danced in their heads;
And mamma in her leggings, with wine for a nightcap,
Had just prepared her brain for a full night to wrap,
When up from the bedrooms there arose such a clatter,
She took a long sip and didn’t care what was the matter.
Away to the basement she flew like a flash,
Tore through the paper to find the holiday stash.
The dim light on the breast of the tape and the bows,
Gave lustre of hope to her tired-mom woes.
When what to her wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature human and two tiny stuffed reindeer.
With so many packages with bows left to stick,
She knew in a moment the kids must get to bed quick;
More rapid than eagles the other children they came,
Mamma whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Peyton!, now, Brynlee!, now Aubrey! and Blankie!
On, Hilda! on, Una! on, Peppa and Snoopy!
To the top of the stairs! To the beds you must fall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
So up to the bedrooms the children they flew
With arms full of stuffed animals, and blankies too.
And then, in a twinkling, mamma heard up the stairs,
The sweet, quiet twirling of little girls’ hairs.
As she grabbed her supplies, and was turning around,
There went her wine, spilling with a bound.
She was dressed all in cotton, from her head to her foot,
And now her clothes were tarnished with wine, spit-up and soot;
A bundle of toys she had flung in a pile,
She cut open Amazon boxes for quite a long while.
Her eyes—how they drooped! her dimples, how weary!
Her cheeks were like roses, her nose like a cherry!
The Scotch tape and the pen she held tight in her teeth,
And the ribbon, it encircled her head like a wreath;
She had a broad face and a squishy round belly
That shook when she laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
She was chubby and plump, a right jolly young elf,
And she laughed when she caught a quick glimpse of herself;
A snip of the scissors and a twist of her head,
Soon gave her to know she would soon be in bed;
She spoke not a word, but went straight to her work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
After cleaning the mess she left under her nose,
And giving a nod, up the staircase she rose;
She sprang to her bed, to her spouse gave a whistle,
And to sleep they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard her exclaim, ere she snuggled up tight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

To My Daughters: We Need All Types of Leaders

A common scene for me: baby on my hip, an obedient 6-year-old standing quietly at my side and the wild one over there refusing to leave, laying on the ground screaming, “NO!!”

A common response from kind moms taking pity on me: You know that just means one day, she’ll be a leader.

While I’ll take all the sympathy I can get for the defiant three-year-old over there making things really challenging, I am starting to worry for my six-year-old. Will she hear that comment about her rambunctious sister so often that she’ll believe it’s true? That to lead you must be the loudest? Or break the most rules? Or be the most stubborn?

My six-year-old is none of those things, but she is so many things that will make her an equally effective leader one day. She is kind and empathetic. She’s curious. She’s ridiculously creative.

I think somewhere along the way, the leadership message for young girls has been boiled down so far that it’s now casually defined as: Defiance = Independence = Leader. But I’d like to propose that we focus on this instead:

All Girls Can.

My daughters have shirts with that saying, and it’s my favorite. (Thanks Cat & Jack). I believe in all three of my daughters’ abilities to be leaders one day. I think despite vastly different personalities and strengths, they will be equally effective in the right roles. Their inherent characteristics will be their greatest tools—all of which need embraced and nurtured.

For my six-year-old it’s empathy, creativity and compassion. (much like her mama)
For my three-year-old it’s humor, decisiveness and passion. (much like her daddy)
For my nine-month-old, it’s TBD. (but whatever it is, it will be just what she needs)

So while I love you, mama, for trying to bring me comfort (and I so appreciate the only nice comment you could possibly make about my daughter over there standing her ground). Next time I will point to the six-year-old at my side and gently remind you (and her) that she’ll be a leader one day, too.