Helping Kids Become GREAT Sleepers: Tips & Trips from a Mediocre Mama!

It goes without saying that sleep is one of the cornerstone issues new parents face. When I meet other moms, it comes up within minutes of conversation because so much of our well-being depends on how our little ones sleep at night! Without sleep, it is hard to function much less find joy in raising babies. Thankfully we have coffee and friends to love on us and encourage us along the way. Most of my sleep philosophy comes from advice from other mamas, endless visits to the pediatrician, and experience raising my four babies!

I'll preface by saying that I believe sleep is like 95% uncontrollable. Some kids come into the world as great sleepers and others... not so much. So if you have a four-year-old who's still not sleeping through the night, you're probably screwed.

This advice stems from my experience controlling the "other 5%." I will say that all four of my children sleep between 12 and 14 hours a night, their ages are five, four, two, and 7 months. When my daughter was born, my husband worked out of town for most of her infancy and toddler years. My sanity depended on her sleep schedule and we had such a rough start!

Here are a few of the things I learned along the way...

1. Start Them Young

Experts say the first three months, there is little hope of putting a baby on a schedule. I follow the protocol of nursing/giving a bottle right at bedtime, in a dark room, then laying my baby down while they're still awake. This is so important from the very beginning so that your kids learn to fall asleep in their bed instead of your arms! This is like a 50/50 happening in at first because I love having my little ones snuggle me; but eventually my need for a break wins out and I lay them down awake, say some soothing words, then shut the door. 

Baby Charlie's room, blackout curtain source
A doctor told me that once an infant sleeps through the night, they are able to do it again, without a middle of the night feeding. This was not my experience with Mack, but my other three started to go without middle of the night feedings somewhere between 8 and 12 weeks. They went through changes and growth spurts (I still follow "Lucie's List" to get e-mailed updates regarding Baby Charlie's expected milestones!) but I found letting them fall back asleep on their own through the night led to better sleep habits with each child.

While sleep training, I will let my babies cry for a few minutes. This is different for everyone! I do support some of the "cry it out" methodology. I will go in and soothe every so often, pick up my baby, calm them while standing next to the crib, then lay them back down and try again. During this time, I don't speak to them or turn on the lights. Before we start bedtime, I make sure they're full and have a dry diaper so I know that's not the source of crying. This can go on for quite a while when you first start! Honestly, I can remember doing it in 2 hour stretches at first, soothing every 10-15 minutes. Overtime they will recognize this is time to sleep and the crying may stop completely (it always did in my case!) 

2. Stay on Schedule

When my oldest was a few months old, I read somewhere that babies at that age need between 12-14 hours of sleep a night. I realized since I woke her up at 7am so I could get to work, that meant she could go to sleep between 6 and 7 pm. I thought it couldn't hurt to try, began putting her to bed at 6pm, and it worked! This was a lifesaver for me as my husband wasn't home and parenting alone all day left me exhausted and in need of some alone time. I also worked from home in the evenings and it gave me time to eat dinner, watch my favorite show, and get some work done! Now my daughter is 5 years old and in kindergarten. In the summers bedtime is way more laid back but we're getting back into our old routine. I put the little boys to bed by 6:30, and the big kids are in bed at 7.

I can see how this wouldn't work with people who work outside the home, have nightly sports/activites, and later dinner times. We still spend so much time at home that it is no problem for me to feed my kids around 5 pm, then do baths, books, and brush teeth! 

3. Binky/Lovey

Two of my kids kept pacifiers and now I have two thumb-suckers. Each person also has their own "lovey" a small attachment blanket or stuffed animal I introduce around 9 months/a year. I love things that can help them recreate their sleep environment. We try to keep these just for bed time and as soon as my toddler sees his lovey, he instantly puts his thumb in his mouth and lays on the floor! 

Archie and his beloved truck blanket

4. Sound Machine

Again with creating that environment, having a sound machine helps us set the stage that sleep is different from anything else we do. Mike thinks I have damaged our kids' hearing with these (because they all shout non stop!) so I am keeping the volume lower than I used to. When we travel these are always packed, and I keep a back-up around if one happens to break. I've crawled into sleeping kids rooms with a flashlight in my mouth to put batteries in these during thunderstorms-- just in case the power goes out!

5. Black Out Curtains

Everyone's room is as dark as possible. I have blackout curtains over every window and also several of them have brown pillow cases tacked up as well. Since it is still light out most of the time we go to bed, I have to trick them into thinking it's dark and also don't want my kids woken up by the sun in the mornings. We operate in a war-time mentality around here when it comes to bedtime, and their rooms are like little bunkers! 

The boys' room, blackout curtains from Target, not pictured: old diaper boxes filled with various clothes and garbage, a clump of used bandaids I found when I made Mack's bed, and a stack of contraband toy weapons I found in the closet

6. Short Routine

Until my kids are two or three, I give them a kiss, lay them in bed, and walk away. I read a story to my older two, then pray over them and sometimes sing one song. I don't lay with them very long although I feel this is important and when my husband is home, I spend more time talking and hearing their little thoughts and stories. However he is still gone a lot and I have been with these sweet people all day and usually am ready for some me-time! 

7. I Do Not Negotiate with Terrorists!

Nobody got out of bed the first few years but now I'm getting a lot of repeat offenders-- asking for cups of water, urgent cries for a bug bite remedy, complaints about growing pains. Most of the time I will simply send them back to bed. Sometimes the door from the lower-level opens and I will just shout, "No!" from the couch before even hearing their requests! This doesn't always work and sometimes it's easier to give in and quickly meet their demands and send them back to bed. I really try to nip anything in the bud as quickly as I can, and often offer bribes for staying in bed if it is becoming a habit (something simple like the promise of a glass of orange juice or a few chocolate chips with breakfast usually does the trick!)

8. Middle of the Night Shenanigans

You know how they say with adults, it takes you 21 days to make something into a habit? With kids, I think it's 1 time. My kids will wake up in the middle of the night to tell me something then BAM, we are having middle of the night conversations for 6 months! I am a heavy sleeper and can't be relied on in the middle of the night to help anybody. Thankfully I will hear the baby but the big kids are often left to fend for themselves.

Once when Mack was three, he came upstairs to tell me he wet the bed. I told him I'd come help him, but fell back asleep! The next morning during breakfast, I remembered what had happened and said, "Oh no! Mack what did you do, I'm so sorry I never came!" And he happily said, "That's okay Mom, I just changed my clothes, threw the yucky pull-up in the trash, and laid a blanket down where I peed and went back to sleep!" Three cheers for independent kiddos-- but I really did feel bad for not showing up! 

9. Wake-up Rules

We have a strict rule that nobody wakes up before 7am. That is super hard to enforce with babies. I think some kids just need less sleep than others! However, when mine were little, I would put them back to sleep if they woke up early. Sometimes I knew they were hungry, so at 5 or 6 am I would give them a few ounces, change their diapers, and put them back to bed. Eventually it became a habit for them to sleep late and they skipped the early wake-up time. Mack used to go to bed at 7pm, then sleep until 9 or even 10 am! I have an early riser but I put her to work, having her help me make everyone's breakfast and do a few quick chores so there is less incentive to wake up early!

The room of my early riser, who makes her bed every morning, packs her own lunch, and lays out her outfit for the next day as soon as she gets home from school. Basically she acts like she's not related to me in every way-- and it is all kinds of awesome! 

Disclaimers:


1. One of my kids woke up every two hours through the night, until he was ONE years old, and he also barely slept during the day unless I was holding him or he was in his jumper.

2. If people are sick or teething, every rule goes out the window and it is crazy-town.

3. None of my babies/toddlers are great nappers-- even the 7 month old barely takes two long naps a day and often goes with one short one, falling asleep in the car here and there between errands and school pick-ups. I think this is the price I pay for having great night sleepers. That break during the day may be more important to you, and then you should do what's best for your own family!

4. I have always loved the idea of having my kids sleep in bed with us but I just can't do it. I do not sleep at all when they're there and for some reason, neither do they. We just stare at each other all night until I get up enough energy to walk them back to bed. I love the idea of co-sleeping though and support it in every way! 

5. If my kids don't go to bed by 7 or 8 pm, they are up until 9 or 10-- every time. I think there is a window and once it closes, they are ready to party... indefinitely!

I can't stress more that every family and kid are different. If you don't spend as much time with your kids during the day, I can see how you would want to stretch those evening hours. It is is amazing how well kids thrive when they are simply loved.

I would love to hear any tips you have, please share in the comments anything that works for your family that I may have missed!

She's Gone Forever! Sending Kids to School is hard

A few years ago I had this great friend who really struggled sending her oldest son to school. Her younger daughter felt lonely and was having a hard time as well, and my friend ended up pulling her son out of school to homeschool him and that journey has been awesome for their family.

I remember thinking how crazy that all sounded to me, and I even questioned my friendship with this gal because I felt like I couldn't relate to someone who didn't need a break from their kids as badly as I did! I am pretty sure mine were both under two at this time and life felt super crazy.

Fast forward like a minute, and today I sent Mack to preschool and dropped Emmy off for her second week of kindergarten. It is weird and wonderful in all the ways.



If you haven't sent kids to school yet, hold your judgement! I always believed the social media pictures and sad mamas seemed a bit dramatic. I am not super sentimental-- whenever people tell me to enjoy the little years because they go by quickly, I smile back and cheerfully say, "Thank God!" I barely blinked twice over sending my oldest to preschool every day, grateful for someone else to step in and work with her on learning to read and creating crafts my little art lover could enjoy. I never thought I would be emotional sending my kids. I love the public school system where we live, thrived in it when I was a kid, and some of my best memories revolve around my friends and the amazing teachers that sharpened my character and mind all those years.

But honestly, watching Emmy walk away from my car and into her school each morning is the hardest part of my day. My heart sinks as I see her little backpack bob away through the crowd. My spirit has just been melancholy about the whole thing the past few weeks. That little girl has experienced so much transition with adding new siblings basically every year of her life and moving three times. These things have made her years at home seriously fly by. It is a wake up call to me as we make the most of our afternoons and weekend together, and I can see how much quicker the time is passing before her brothers go to school.


I wouldn't trade the wonderful experience she is getting to keep her with me, that isn't where God is calling us right now, and she enjoys school so much! Last weekend she told me she wished she was there instead of home, and it didn't hurt my feelings at all because I knew what she meant! I know not all of my kiddo's will love school like she does-- I can't imagine any of these boys sitting still all day and am already praying for Archer's future teachers.

Guess who shut himself in this locker shortly after this photo was taken?
The boys are going through a lot of change too-- they have lost their ring-leader! Emmy is the one always saying, "Okay, now you're all pirates, I'm the mermaid, let's run to the ship and shoot canons at each other!" Now they just wander around, staring at each other, and asking me for snacks.


So all you mama's having a hard time adjusting, sending your lovies off really is a big deal. It suddenly hit me that this is the first time I have to make peace with one of the biggest aspects of parenting: sending your babies off into the world and letting go. It is a real thing, and it is hard.

Don't be concerned, I only cried in my bed for two hours before this picture was  taken. The only cure for my sorrow? Trying to fix her hair for the first day, ha! Good-bye fair maiden, and I wish your teach the best of luck!
Also the scheduling, paper pile-up, lunch packing, and drop off system is nooooo joke. I am exhausted! I am finally starting to feel normal again. I kept telling Hubby the first few days that I don't have the stamina for this, and if I knew how hard getting kids out the door for school was, I wouldn't have had so many!

Thankfully the missing "I" in this photo was found by the vacuum cleaner, not one of the babies


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 ultimately will not matter. An internet life. A life of an empty shell- that is so pretty and perfectly 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

"...my 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.


01 09 10 11 12
Blogging tips