The Unseen Life

Someone I love recently shared they're reading a book called Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed. She shared an excerpt of it via social media--the book title alone kind of rocks my world, and I've been thinking about it ever since.

Motherhood this summer has felt heavy, lonely, and hard. Thankfully I haven't felt the postpartum depression symptoms I felt after Archer was born and I can honestly say having four littles isn't as hard as I feared-- as long as a. Nobody is sick b. Everybody is fed c. There isn't anyone arguing d. We have something to keep us busy!

Mostly I still struggle with our location and my hubby's job. Location wise-- I feel like an extrovert trapped in the woods! As far as his job, Mike's hours have been craaaazy. I am used to being on my own with the kids sun up to sun down, Monday through Friday, but it is the loneliness and disconnect that really get to me. I also am starting to see how hard it is on him and the burden he bears being away from his kids, not seeing them during the week.

Neither are changing anytime soon and I am learning to embrace that. For me, this means no more Zillow searches on affordable beach towns, and not proposing a variety of career options to Mike the second he finishes dinner and sits down on the couch to relax. 

My life is my life, is my life, is my life... 

As in every season, I cannot imagine motherhood without clinging to my faith. All the self-sacrifice that raising kids can bring just requires something so much deeper than my own happiness and good attitude can muster up. Even a huge cup of coffee can't ignite in me a passion for finishing the mountain of laundry or dishes that seems to accumulate around this house every day around 11 am. The best conversation with the best friend cannot equip me to talk Emmy and Mack through yet another argument over squirt guns or lego towers. Listening to a podcast or reading an awesome book doesn't motivate me to get up from the couch to get the baby out of the crib that started crying the moment I finally sat down. Even a weekend away can't refresh my brain from the mental load of caring for little ones that instantly weighs on my mind each moment I'm in my home, loving these precious babes, keeping them safe, meeting their needs, protecting their hearts, shaping their character.

I cried really hard to Mike a few weeks ago. I had gone out after the kids went to bed to water the flowers and saw the prettiest sunset through the trees. It was my first time all day getting to really see the sky! I was already on edge and feeling melancholy-- earlier in the day, a friend had posted a picture on social media of himself with a big group of people eating at my favorite pizza place in Chicago. It wasn't the pizza that broke my heart, it was the memory of a big group of people sitting around the table, talking and laughing. It has been like literally years since I did that-- sat around the table with a big group of people I loved who really saw and knew me-- and I began to long for another life and another time. I am thankful for a husband that pursues and sees me and knows when I'm not doing well. He kept asking questions and of course I poured out all my feelings and absurd thoughts for him! I said things like-- "Why did I even go to college or grad school?! What was the point? Why did I even bother making friends if I was never going to see them again? What was the point of living for 27 years with an ACTUAL PERSONALITY if nobody cares about anything from me other than if I'm providing them with the proper snack that day? How can anyone thrive in life if they spend all day doing things they suck at, but then still feel guilty EVERY night that they didn't do enough!?"

I'm pretty sure at one point in my venting session I told him the old, fun me was dead and the kids killed her-- dramatic much?!

But I write all this to say that if you are living an "unseen life," I totally get it. There is no glamour, no pat on the back, no glory, not even anything to post about. The beauty is really behind the scenes-- it is hidden, happening in the hearts of my children and the rhythms of our home and I know I will someday look back and see the joyful family that each small, hard decision built. It is a little seed, planted beneath the surface in the dark dirt that may not bloom for years to come, perhaps not even in my lifetime, but it matters greatly to the One who makes all things grow, who makes all things new, who makes all things good.

God's word has seriously been my lifeline the last few months of parenting. There is such a pull to create a worldly life that ultimate will not matter. An internet life. A life of an empty shell- that is so pretty and perferectly crafted on the outside but inside is shallow and dull. Part of me believes that kind of life will make me happy! Maybe if I finally start to do something I love, I'll be happy! If we actually get time away for a vacation, I'll be happy! If I live near my family, I'll be happy! If I join this group or try this hobby, I'll be happy! If I had what she had-- I'd be happy! I feel the pull allllll the time. God's word grounds me back to reality, takes me back to what matters, what's lasting, and ultimately the only thing that can really satisfy my wild and searching heart.

These are a few verses that have encouraged me lately. I downloaded this great app a few months ago called "She Reads Truth." Some of the reading plans are free, some are $1.99. If you don't have any experience reading the Bible, maybe this is a great place to start. They pull a few different passages together on a topic, then you can scroll right to read a quick, relevant devotion on that topic. Another good book to start with is Jesus Calling. The days I spend time reading, praying, and journaling are seriously dramatically different than the ones I don't. They are for sure NOT easier, but I have something fueling me that actually lasts longer than the little boost I get when I scroll through Instagram first thing (even though I still do!) Yes, Archer still climbs the pantry, pulling out bags of rice and dumping pasta in his wake... Emmy still blasts her favorite song Taylor Swift's "22" on repeat... Mack never stops talking, offering me a running commentary on all his trains, trucks, and planes... and sweet Charlie is basically perfect so he doesn't do much to get on my nerves (yet!)... these little ones need a lot from me these days and I'm so, so thankful to have something other than "myself" to give. 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
James 1:2-5

"Wonderful are your works! My soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written-- every one of them-- the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them"
Psalm 139:15-16

"Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up"
Galatians 6:9

" soul is downcast within me-- but this I call to mind, therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed. His compassions never fail-- they are new every morning."
Lamentations 3:22-23

Surviving Summer with a Newborn

4th time around, I have really learned to love and treasure the newborn stage. The first run left me confused, frazzled, and extremely exhausted. The second was mostly terrifying as I lived in this dark, dark mentality of: "This will never end. I will be picking up toys off the floor until I die. Nursing lasts forever and I'll never see the sun again." The third I definitely enjoyed more, having two "older" (um they were 2 and 3) kids and seeing how independent they can become gave me hope.

Now with Charlie, I really am soaking up these days and reminding myself often --basically every 5 minute-- that the hard things about having a newborn--weird sleep schedules, feeding drama--- (today our pediatrician told me he hadn't gained weight since his last appointment: cue the mama tears and driving to buy formula on the way home from the doctor), and just all the mental intensity of being someone's lifeline 24/7 all ends so, so quickly and you REALLY, TRULY do feel like "yourself" again, thank God...

Summers can be especially tricky with little babies as I find myself constantly walking the line back and forth between "Summer is amazing! Let's spend every day having popsicles by the pool and host backyard barbecues for the neighborhood and eat outside every night!" versus "I don't care how beautiful the weather is I am going to pretend like it's raining and spend all day watching movies with my kids and hiding under blankets because the AC is turned up too high and I am too lazy to get off the couch and adjust the thermostat."

I blame my fierce devotion to summer on my never-ending childhood nostalgia and there really is something so great about having kids to recreate those memories with. But because of a few things, most of them being "I, Me, and My-Runaway-Brain" I can start to feel the pressure mounting come the second or third week of June. Summers with a newborn are just a little trickier. This is your life, should you choose to accept it. And sometimes you gotta listen to that old lady at the CostCo check-out, buckle down, and remember "they grow up so fast, this isn't going to last forever (I promise!)"

Here are a few things that are helping me so far:

1. Set up a good outdoor space

Charlie has a nasty, hand-me-down bouncer that stays outside. I sometimes remember to put it under the porch before the end of the day. I also bring out his bumbo seat, a pile of baby toys, a pop-up-beach tent, the playmat, whatever feels right in the moment so I can spend 20 minutes moving him from place to place until he settles in and seems content. Then eventually I give up and take him in for a nap!

It is not fun to take babies to the pool. The cute swimsuits are super misleading. Don't give in to the pressure! If you're dying to put them in the swimsuit, do it in the front yard, snap a few pictures, and text them to your mom and best friend. Baby will not be impressed by the pool float you bought them and if they are young, they won't be able to even hold their head up so you will be pushing them around in their giant turtle, supporting their head, and then later you're going to have to peel all their bikini straps off their sweaty little bodies and it sucks. Trust me-- Emmy had 5 swimsuits her first summer and it took me a while to figure out that you bring your baby to the pool in a t-shirt onesie, splash their feet to cool them off, leave after 15 minutes so you don't even have to mess with the sunscreen, and call it good!

2. Early morning walks

It is sad but I am too out of shape to walk the hills in front of my house so I keep our double jogger in the trunk so we can drive to our neighbors' house. Even though I don't LOVE loading everyone and their gear in the hot car-- a change of scenery does us good! Mike works crazy hours this time of year so if we miss the early in the morning slot we go after dinner to kill time before bed.
Muslin blankets are my best friend to help protect him from the shade and we use those often to cover his carseat to block the sun (still applying an SPF just in case!)

3. Take the trip!

I love getting out of town with my people, I have super low expectations and even if it seems daunting, leaving the laundry and dishes behind for a few days are worth whatever drama your kid might bring to a weekend getaway. We recently drove to Colorado and to be honest, I thought it was going to suck, but it was awesome and felt so good to have a "win" under our belts during a stressful season of parenting. Getting a hotel room in a place that has suites is key (so you can keep the high maintenance sleepers on routine) and of course we set up a pack-and-play in the bathroom which is always our go-to (someone may have peed in the sink that night to avoid waking the baby so hey, count the cost).

4. Make the most of nap time

If it is above 60 degrees and the little boys are napping, 100% of the time you will find me sitting on a lawn chair in my driveway reading a book or magazine. Most of the time it doesn't last long, but I tell myself even the 5 minute break is refreshing enough. I like to save the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for around 5 pm when everyone is cranky and wanting to eat at the same time.

When Emmy was 1 and Mack was a newborn, we used to use his nap times to sit outside together in the kiddie pool or work in the little garden we planted. Taking a newborn outside felt too overwhelming back then and Mack was kind of a crotecty old man as a baby (my pediatrician often told me to leave him crying inside and go for a walk up and down our driveway just to get a break! The kid cried all day and never slept! Now he is the most easy-going person you'll meet so hang in there new mamas :)

5. Avoid Social Media (if necessary!)

Social media can be so wonderful when you have a new baby. I honestly dive in deep during the seasons I am nursing and feeling more isolated-- it is a fun way for me to connect and overshare pictures of my kiddos. But other days I will be walking around my house feeling crummy, snapping at people and if I am feeling reflective, I'll stop and wonder at what point in the day my attitude changed. Often I can trace it back to the Instastory I watched of another mama and her kids loving life at the pool (ironically I even posted one last week) or a husband and wife enjoying a mid-day lunch date (never gonna happen for me) and I'll start to take a trip down bitterness lane.

That is 100% my own insecurity and never a knock on the people posting, I am totally guilty of loving to share our family's high moments-- like a fab vacation versus our low moments-- like yesterday when Archer stuck his hand down the back of his dirty diaper and rubbed poop all over the house. Bless!

Some days I intentionally leave my phone out of reach for an entire day or decide to take a 9 am-5pm Facebook/Instagram fast. Others  I am feeling a little more lonely and it is glued to my hip-- that is when you usually find a dozen 12 second videos of Archie eating potato chips.

I am constantly evaluating whether or not social media is good for my family and I and right now, I deem it good! I love the friendships I get to "keep up with" even if some of it is a little bit pretend-- I need all the connections I can get out here in no man's land! Also, I have found endless encouragement following some blogs and people who I look up to in this parenting journey (cue: @thegraygang among others...) and am always thankful for YOUR feedback and friendship as well!

6. Accept your Limitations

Okay so you and I both know your baby is not an inconvenience. They are a precious little life that really needs nurturing right now. Use this season to slow down, find a new family rhythm, and enjoy the change in pace. You can't make all your summer dreams come true, but maybe there is a project you have been wanting to work on that you can start. When Emmy was a baby, I used to paint all the rooms in our house during her nap time, ha! It was a project I had been wanting to get to and it was something mindless that I could stop and start depending on how much (or little) she slept each day. I also briefly took up refinishing furniture and then later starting a few different direct sales businesses to pass the time! Right now, I am using our nights at home to binge watch the Office, learn to cross stitch, and drink an occasional vodka lemonade. And honestly, often I am just too tired so I lounge around chugging coffee and moving things from room to room pretending to "deep clean" while this book lays on my counter, taunting me at every turn:

My kids are keeping me b-u-s-y this summer and not in all the fun ways. Let's start with Mack, probably my most easy-going kid. This week I had to give him an impromptu hair cut-- "I wanted to see if the gum would stick to my forehead!" and on the same day, discipline him for peeing on the outdoor toys "But Mom, you said I could pee outside." True, but not on your brother's Little Tikes car!

Then there's Archer, few words are needed to explain the limitless number of catastrophes in this 25 lb, 30 inch frame. Last week he pulled a new one on me, hadn't seen this yet-- I walked into the bathroom to find him emptying a box of tampons, and dipping them one by one into the toilet, and licking toilet water off them like they were popsicles. This is not the first time I was so hurried to give him a shower, I went in with him still wearing all my clothes-- but it was definitely the grossest!

And then the other day I cried after losing my temper at the big kids, of course it was the same morning we had gone over the verse: "Love is patient and kind" so glad I can give them an unending example of what NOT to do ("you're sinning a LOT today Mommy!" they cried from the backseat), and now they'll have 100 reasons to get therapy some day.

I hope your crazy is bringing you joy. And if not, let's all pause and reflect on one of our favorite parts of parenting-- the little baby butts. I die!

Summer-ing Simply

This is always my favorite time of year!

For like, 5 minutes.

Then I realize I am the actual parent of real life little people and the seriousness of keeping them alive outdoors begins to sink in.Current fears: tics (lyme's disease) mosquitoes (ZIKA!), traffic (the youths are reckless in our neighborhood), wildlife (mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, oh my!), sunscreen (found out last week Mack breaks out in hives from paba), allergies (we got tested a few weeks ago and are of course allergic to ALL the things), and don't even mention my anxiety about bringing these people to the pool---

BUT, I still really love summer, And I have learned a few things in my short, poorly managed parenting years thus far. Most of them center around avoiding the stomach flu and mastering the art of clean-walking (where everytime you walk through a room you pick up a hundred things off the floor as you go)-- But other lessons have come from over and under scheduled summers, so I can't wait to see which category this one falls into...

1. Make Home your Hot Spot
At the top of my list of "summering simply" is to leave the house as little as possible. I love to get out but not as much as I hate buckling tiny sweaty people into carseats and hearing their pleas to "blast the cold air, mama" before I can even shut the van door.

I know our years ahead may be filled with baseball games, swim team, block parties, camping trips but I am owning the fact that while I have infants and toddlers, I am forgoing a lot of social things to stick to nap schedules-- and also, because I am a little selfish and want to make sure I'm home to put everyone in bed at 6:30 pm so I can watch trashy reality shows at night.

We got a blow-up pool, a water table, the freezer is full of homemade popsicles (canned pineapple tidbits and orange juice), and at any given moment my front yard is littered with scooters and bikes.

These are the days...

2. Letting my Chores Sliiiiiiiide
I used to be the first one to have laundry pile up or walk away from a sink full of dirty dishes, but some awful shift has taken place in my heart and I REALLY dislike my house being a disaster. It's because the people are so chaotic I cannot emotionally and physically handle the STUFF being chaotic too. I have to get rid of one or the other and because of personal convictions about the sanctity of life, I choose to keep the clutter to a minimum.

It makes me sad because I sacrifice the peace of our home to snip at everyone to help me clean throughout the day. Yes, there is totally a balance and my kids have their own responsibilities but since having Charlie, I feel like all I do in between nursing sessions is manage the house. Last week I told Mike I couldn't even remember the last time I sat and played on the floor with the big kids or held Archie in my lap to read him a book.

I am going to start cleaning up only at the end of the day (thanks Joanna Gaines, love this book) and we will do more deep cleaning JUST on Friday mornings (this was always my old schedule because Mike worked out of town and we'd clean the house REAL quick before he came home for the weekends!) These months seem to fly by and I want to enjoy my people in this phase of life!

3. Sticking to a One Camp Limit
I can't wait to put my kids in ALL the camps someday (my mom holds the record of having me in SEVEN one summer and was known to sign us up for Bible Camp at various churches we didn't even attend) but for this summer, we are just doing one local VBS. I felt SO tempted by the flashy flyer from a big church in Omaha that offered cooking camp for Emmy, the brochure from the children's museum offering a Superhero camp for Mack, and even a toddlers and tots camp at the local Y. But when I realllllly think about it, we all feel a little stressed to be rushed out of the house in the morning and it is nice to have a break before we start the rigidity of getting to school on time in the fall.

4. No Company Allowed
I looooove hosting friends and family most of the year, but I like to have the house just with the kids and I for the slower summer months. Thankfully with nobody in school, we have the excuse to go visit lots of people we love and have a few trips on the calendar.

BUT IF YOU WANT TO COME VISIT ME, I will make an exception for you!

5. Having a Loose Schedule
Lately I have been trying to pay attention to how my kids operate (when they get hungry, what time they need rest, and how they recharge: one likes to be alone and another with people) and have formed a loose summer schedule. Here it is for other mama's who might be curious!

5:30 am- wake and walk (my neighbor has been walking the hills with me in the mornings and it is the bessssst. Mike is already gone for work then, bless his heart, so her husband comes over and stays with my kids, CAN YOU EVEN???)
6:30 am- Time with God, I am rereading my favorite book of all time, Mere Christianity, and doing a devotional
7 am- Fold laundry and watch Today Show
7:30/8 Big kids wake up, put on a disk on cd, read books, color while I make breakfast
9 am- Archie takes nap, big kids go outside
11 am- everyone outside OR this is when we run errands
2 pm- everyone nap (big kids watch movie) I blog, prep dinner, spend more time with the Laundry Monster
4pm- worst. time. of. day-- chug coffee, crafts/playdough, back outside, have big kids play in their rooms if people are getting freaky on me, go for a walk, visit our neighbors (who doesn't love a surprise drop-in from the lady with 4 kids while they're probably starting to make dinner?!), clean crafts/playdough out of the carpet, drink more coffee
5:30- pour out coffee, switch to wine, eat dinner
6:30- start getting ready for bed
7:30- kids to sleep

I can anticipate 100 ways this won't work, but it is already our natural rhythm most days so we'll see how we do with cutting out our morning tv shows. Thankfully my kids L-O-V-E to be outside so that will be wonderful for 2 weeks before it gets too hot and buggy :)

6. Asking for Help
It is hard to be home with your kids all day without separating for a bit while they go to school. Sometimes I think to myself, "Why did I have all these babies if I just spend part of the day hoping everybody leaves me alone!" Many friends are in a similar position as me, living far from family with spouses who work a lot so we have to get creative with recharging our personal batteries.

This summer I am having a sitter come twice a week, once so I can run a few errands alone and again so I can take the big kids to the pool without the babies!

7. Repeating a Mama-Mantra!
Throughout the day, there are several things I say aloud to myself over and over again. This is a side-affect from living in the woods alone. It is also the only way I can keep my thoughts straight most of the time while people are asking for snacks/begging for snacks/screaming for snacks/crying for snacks-- one is "Do not feel guilty, Do not feel guilty, Do not feel guilty" another is "Find Archer, Find Archer, Find Archer" (lest I get distracted and forget he's missing and find him minutes later surrounded by 1,000 q-tips) but my favorite is: "Your only job is to Love God, and Love these Kids"

I constantly need to let myself off the hook. Summertime is not my kids only chance EVER to have fun. It's okay if this one I need a pass because we have a newborn and they miss out on all the activities I see other mamas post on social media. The best part is, they have nothing to compare their lives to and are clueless about all the fun the other kids may be having!

For instance today, I let them eat lunch (frozen pizza) on the screened in porch without plates. I just left the pizza on the cardboard tray-- to which Mack yelled, "this is the Best! Day! Ever!" Then when Emmy asked me for Sprite and I said yes, she told me I was "fantastic" so these people have some seriously low expectations.

7. Fighting the PostPartum Blues  
Thanks everyone who sent me messages after I shared a little on Instagram a few weeks ago about my struggle post Archer's birth and during my pregnancy with Charlie. I definitely didn't share it to get attention, and that's why I waited so long to say anything. I tend to be private about my own health and personal struggles but have heard too many moms say they feel isolated, depressed, anxious, and/or ashamed of their experience with the PostPartum blues. I have written literally 10 blog posts about this in the past year and maybe soon I will have the courage to publish one and share!

Thankfully a few of the things I have tried over the last year are really bringing me joy and relief. A few of those are: talking about it more often with my husband/a few close friends, taking Vitamin D (I swear by it!), doing things that are refreshing to my soul, seeing a Christian Counselor when I need to, and starting an exercise regimen.

Lots more to say but not enough time. It's almost the 4 o'clock hour in Summertime Land and that usually equals Major Suckfest at my house so I'm going to brew a third pot of coffee.

One Choice That Helped Me Love (ish) Motherhood

A year ago I started doing something totally counterintuitive for me, making a choice that goes against every extrovert bone in my body— I started staying home.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for four years now so that’s not what I mean, I am talking about actually being inside the house. Denying my pull toward playdates, children’s museums, zoos, quick service restaurants, and elaborate outdoor adventures we mostly stay home during the week.

I cannot convey how much this goes against how I am wired or would naturally spend my time if I didn't have kids! It is on my bucket list to live in a dorm again someday, or in some kind of Super Commune where everybody shares everything (like Sister Wives without the sex part). I told Michal last weekend that I would love to live in an apartment building if we could find one with 3-4 bedrooms and he looked at me like I was crazy. I would be a great target for any up and coming cults that are recruiting in the area and might have actually liked living in Communist Russia. 

Honestly staying home almost every day came about not by choice but by circumstance (we live in a rural town far enough from things that going places is a whole process + now that we have 4 kids I don't have the patience to strap everybody into their carseats more than once a day, so how would we get home?!) and I have been surprised to find I love it. I never would’ve chosen this way to raise my kids but I can say it brings me so much more peace and joy in my motherhood than I had when we lived in a big suburb and I took my kids out every day.

But if you offered me a move to the suburbs or the big city I would pack my bags in a hot second! 

During our busier season in Des Moines, I had two kids and felt like I could revolve our schedule around my plans since both weren’t in school and didn’t have any activities. So every day we ate where I wanted to, shopped for what I needed, and hung out with the friends that I loved. I am thankful for the deep friendships I formed but I can look back and see all the ways my kids were exhausted. 

You see, I was giving all my energy to getting them out of the house, making it through our activities without them having a breakdown, rushing them back home in time for naps or dinner, and then I was so exhausted by our outing I wanted some “me time.” I gave the best part of my self to the outing and by the time we got home I didn’t have much left over for the kids. 

Also, this:

Now that we go out so rarely, I can tell my kids are happiest the days we stay home (my daughter still goes to preschool so we get our booties out the door to run her down the road). My older two are extraverts like their mama, thankfully they have each other and pretty wild imaginations. They rotate between crafts, toys, running around outside, and reading. In the winter I let them watch tv on the days they don’t nap and first thing in the morning so I can stay in bed longer and so I don't have to talk to anybody before 9 am.

It wasn’t always this way either! I think all of us had to “learn” to stay home. In the beginning, we could barely make it a day. By 5 o’clock everyone started fighting, I literally felt trapped and suffocated by the walls of my home, and I was already planning at least three places we would go to the next day. Eventually we were able to stretch our days at home into two in a row, and now we are up to three! 

Those first few months learning to stay home I honestly would walk from room to room with my cup of coffee bored out of my mind. ALSO, it was so much easier just to clean the house and then leave it for the day— or who I am kidding, we would trash the house in our hurry to get out the door, leaving diapers and spilled coffee in our wake but at least I didn’t have to look at the mess all day while we were at the zoo or the mall! 

While we're home, I actually try to get a few chores done but don't compare yourself to me-- my housekeeping style is half-hearted at best. Each day I do the same things— rotating the laundry, unloading the dishes, picking up the living areas/kitchen, cooking our meals and some days I add in extras like vacuuming/dusting or cleaning the playroom. Does that sound exciting or what?! And that is just how I spend my “free” time when I don’t have to hold two babies at once and can strap one on my back! 

I honestly get super lonely. That is one of the reasons I blog! My saving graces are music on Pandora, phone calls, my favorite podcast, and watching the opening monologues of Ellen or The Tonight Show. By the end of the day I will sometimes be so over all of it I will park myself on the couch and make that my parenting “command station,” yelling orders and staring at the clock until Mike gets home. 

Exhibit A, a text to Mike last week-- he doesn't answer my phone calls unless they are preceded by a text that reads"S.O.S," which makes me confused because why wouldn't he want to know how many glasses of water Archer dumped on the floor or what I ate for lunch that day? 

All of this has made our transition into having four babies relatively “peaceful” (I clearly have super lower standards for peace or a weird definition of it!) and very, very joyous. People often say, “I don’t know how you do it!” I think to myself, well I really don’t have to go anywhere and my kids aren’t in a lot of activities yet so instead of being stressful, this season is really sweet. The slow pace of life used to feel so monotonous but I think I have gotten used to it for now. I am no longer surprised by the fact that everything is the same, day after day… after day… after day. And I always remember that these years will be gone before I know it and I will be missing our simple schedule big time!

If you are an on-the-go-mama, please don’t feel guilty! I really think if I had the option available I would still be that way. But if you are considering trying to stay home more, I can say the benefits for us have been saving money, less temper tantrums, and a slower pace of life that has helped me enjoy my kids far more than I did a few years ago.

Don’t get me wrong— I cannot WAIT for the day that I shlep my yelling big kids around in a minivan, eat meals on the run, and sit next to other mamas at practices talking their ears off, but for now it’s me and these little people and all my coping mechanisms— best friends to call all day long, a stash of cupcakes in the freezer, and the coffee maker on constant drip.

*EDITORS NOTE** I almost didn't publish this. I wrote it two days ago. Yesterday was AWFUL. Everything went wrong! I had to add the "ish" to the title of this post! 

These are just a few examples but I think there are seriously hundreds. Don't read if you don't have kids or are pregnant with your first:

Archer dumped 2 boxes of spaghetti on the floor, the thin kind that is impossible to sweep up so you have to pick each piece up with your hands
Emmy and Mack got into my essential oils and I found them vigorously washing eucalyptus off their hands and our whole lower level smells like an Altoid
Emmy cried for 30 minutes because Mack chucked a sippy cup down the hallway and it drilled her in the nose, Emmy cried for 30 minutes because she fell off the table, Emmy cried for 30 minutes because I disciplined her for the oil incident, Emmy cried for 30 minutes because SHE STABBED HERSELF IN THE EYE WITH A TOOTHBRUSH?
Archer spent the morning substituting talking with a super high pitched shriek, prompting me to say: "What fresh hell is this?!" the first time I heard it
Nobody napped (love you, Daylight Savings Time)
Charlie spit up so much on me it soaked through my underwear (of course this happened IMMEDIATELY after I FINALLY got dressed at 2 pm and FINALLY bathed him for the first time in 2 days)
By the time Mike got home at 8pm I silently handed him the baby and went to take a bath with a plate of chicken nuggets (it was the first thing I ate since breakfast) 
I ran out of hot water because I did a dozen loads of the damned laundry
And lastly, as I got out my freezing cold skin started stinging and turning red... because I didn't know they had dumped the oils all over the bathtub too!

and worst of all-- we were all out of desserts/snacks SO I HAD NO WHERE TO TURN BUT GOD

Life Lately

Oh my gosh, they're all napping at once! I don't even know what to do with my hands! I am sitting on the couch wrapped in a blanket, shoving food into my mouth, chugging water, looking out the window at the beautiful day and typing--- all at the same time!

Real Time Photo
I probably have like 4 seconds before someone wakes up but I think about blogging all the time and want to get a few (hundred) words out reallll quick-- and this is also a great excuse for ignoring the MOUNTAIN, I say it again MOUNTAIN of laundry waiting to be folded.

This is like a weekend's worth of clothes
1. So far so good. Thanks for those of you who asked and if we aren't friends on the old FB, Charlie Bennett was born January 31st and is as fat and precious as I had dreamed.

 I wrote a blog post about his birth that will be coming at ya in the next few days... months... years... who knows... Consistency is not my strongest virtue. Sponsorships, anyone?

He is still pretty sleepy so it hasn't been too crazy yet. I mean it is craaaaazy, but I know once he is more wakeful and stimulated it will be a lot harder. Maybe I'll be surprised and we'll breeze through trying to get him on a schedule/teaching him to sleep/figuring out nursing but I keep my mothering expectations low, low, low so probably not.

2. Archer has totally gone rogue on us. He is not as hateful to the baby/me as I feared (Low-Expectation-Ally really thought she wouldn't be able to breastfeed because the child is suffocatingly possessive of his mama!) But he has really gotten the hang of climbing on furniture and standing up for all to see and share his madness with him.

He is scaling the baby gates too, yesterday I was scarfing down some leftover something off of a kids plate, and heard him giggling from our loft-- the stairs are super treacherous so I keep it gated off. Aint nothing too big for Archie to climb!

Not exaggerating: Emmy ate organic eggs scrambled with spinach every day at this age. Archer helps himself to a box of Chicken Biscuits and we call it balanced breakfast

I can't help but laugh when he gets onto the kitchen table. We have a pretty large one so it is constantly 1/4 covered with food, 1/4 covered with crafts, 1/4 covered with random kids stuff that needs to find a home, 1/4 hairbrushes/whatever Archer ran from the bathroom with and I quickly confiscated. Having open concept living is SO overrated! Basically it is just way for ALL your mess to be in one place. I have such a love-hate relationship with it!

Another real time photo. Before kids I said I'd never be one of those moms that had random stuff laying all over her house. LOL

Anyways, Emmy and Mack can usually be found sitting here eating their thousandth snack of the day or drumming up some sort of creative mess genius. Archie has figured out how to shove his little body up on the bench, then climbs on the table. You really would think a gorilla has escaped from the zoo and dropped right into their laps-- that's how dramatic and unnecessary Emmy and Mack react! They start screaming "He's on the table, AHHH, MOM-- He's on the table!!" Desperately collecting their colored pencils/aquabeads/cookies. And Archer really does act like a monkey, he manically laughs and tries to gather as much stuff as he can before I run over with my boob out and Charlie tucked under my arm to take him down before the next instance happens... 5 minutes later...

The sweet child also dumped a bag of rice out on the kitchen floor last week. It was a 1 lb bag. It was full. I made the rookie mistake of taking a phone call, and turned to catch him mid-pour. It was too late for any intervention so I calmly carried on my conversation (I chose that free minute to book Mack's birthday party and couldn't hang up!) and sat in a chair to watch the chaos unfold. Emmy and Mack were delighted and started filling pots and skillets up with rice to throw around the house. It was basically like one big sensory table, finally turning into that Pinterest Mom over here, don't be jealous of all my skills! I will be finding rice smushed into all our baseboards until we move. Yesterday I vacuumed some up in Mack's room which is on the other side of the house.

That same night as the rice-tacular, he fell into the coffee table and needed 4 stitches so that was slightly terrifying. I kept my cool until after we got home from the hospital. Sometimes I feel so discouraged because it seems like we have years of the dangerous phase ahead of us!

Archer seems to have a gently masked aggression towards Baby Charlie, he'll approach him with a soft coo and starts to tickle his feet, next he playfully hits him, followed by some serious jabbing and then tries to violently shake his head.

I am considering buying a fence to put up around Charlie's swing

3. Parenting Emmy and Mack is more challenging, too. I feel like I ask a lot of them right now. They are constantly grabbing me things and picking up. Emmy is even on breakfast duty since I taught her to use the microwave, she gets up before anyone else so she makes oatmeal for her and her little brothers! I don't want to put too much pressure on her so I'll probably just teach her how to roast vegetables and fire up the grill before calling it good.

Kids only know what you show them right? So while other kids' definition of "normal" might be trips to the park, riding their bikes, playing tag with their friends, Emmy and Mack are well versed in the experience of watching mom use her breast pump, protecting their little brother as he learns to use the stairs, and playing "who can collect the most dirty diapers?"

The old married couple holding their little bundle of joy
Photo credit Haverlee Photography

It is hard to make them feel loved with all the attention going to Archer and Charlie (please note our major hospital error in that both little boys share almost 100% of the same letters in each of their names). I am asking God to fill in my parenting gaps, as He already so kindly does, My biggest thing for now is just putting down my phone while nursing, trying to look them in the eyes as they tell me their fantastical little kid stories, and telling them I love them every chance I get! Mike of course is a huge help too, Saturday morning I left them for a few hours and told him not to discipline anyone just to let them run wild and be kids-- which he is totes the king of doing anyways!

4. Errands, no thank you. I tried taking all four babes to Target by myself in a blizzard last week. Whoops. We didn't even make it out of the mini-van before Emmy and Mack announced they had to go to the bathroom. Strike 1 against me.

Strike 2 happened in the bathroom when I was ignoring Archers fussy cries and he got stuck in the infant seat (somehow he twisted his legs into the side) so he started shrieking, cue Charlie screaming. I made the mistake of telling Emmy and Mack (in that moment) that I wanted them to spend the money they had each brought on a craft instead of a toy.

So as we left the bathroom, I already hit Strike 3 as Mack started crying, "But Mommy, I REALLY WANTED A TOY!" So I pushed my cart full of hot mess past Customer Service with three crying children before we had even walked up and down a single aisle. Awesome. Mike called me while I was in the check-out line with 1/10 of my list, everybody staring at me, the babies crying, and the big kids loudly asking me how to pronounce all the names of the candy bars, and I answered, "Hello is this Jesus? Are you coming to help me?!"

Yikes. So that was the last time I've gone anywhere unnecessary with the littles! We did make our big debut at the pediatricians last week for Charlie's 1 month check-up which was also a bit of a ish-show once we found out it'd be a 90 minute wait, bless! But our favorite PA saved the day and took mercy on me, seeing us right away and hiding us in a patient room so I could nurse.

Not pictured: Charlie crying to be fed. Not smelled: Archie has a giant poop

Sooooo we are keeping the caffeine intake highhhhh and strong. I am so glad for social media where I can connect with all of you during an otherwise isolating season! Thanks for all your messages and comments, it spurs me on and reminds me that this is such a refreshing space for me and I am grateful for you all!

This is actually how I nurse 90% of the time

Love them!

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