Am I Going to Miss This Crazy Stage of Life?

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You’re gonna miss this.  That’s what they say, and what Trace Adkins so beautifully sings about, and the exact lyrics that I sing out loud at home any time I think about the absurdity of missing whatever chaotic thing is happening at the moment.  And then I burst into tears.

Tears of exhaustion from sleep deprivation, not knowing what the heck I’m doing and usually not even knowing how to pretend like I do, and frustration.  Tears of deep love for my kids and my life.  And just the smallest amount of guilt that I might not be mom enough because I do not think that I will miss any of this, and I think that real moms do.

Of coimg_4127.jpgurse, we are in the thick of it now.  A super sassy almost-3-year-old and an impossible-to-figure-out 7-week old.  And I keep thinking that maybe this newborn thing will get a little easier and it never does.  I keep telling myself over and over that this is a phase.  And someday I will look back on it.  Probably with relief.

I put it out there to my Facebook friends who are past this time in their lives.  Most said almost the exact same thing, coupled with some great advice – I’ll miss some parts and not others!

Lynne – “I miss the cuddles and sweetness of toddlers. I do not miss diapers, bottles and not sleeping! Each stage is wonderful and awful at the same time. I have enjoyed the stages my boys have gone through and going through now (for the most part!) I think of it more as savor the special moments. Don’t get too busy that you can’t enjoy your children. It’s hard when they’re so little. They demand so much more. Savor those special moments. And try not to let the nitty-grittiness of life get in the way.

Kelli – “There are things I miss and things I don’t–true of every stage. Despite being so demanding and exhausting, enjoy the moments. It really goes fast and contrary to what I thought it did not get easier! The older they get the bigger the issues, more impactful are the choices, hard to let them learn on their own when you have the experience. Keep praying and communicating…and remember you are not alone! Other parents face the same things, even if it doesn’t appear that they do! Talking with a mom who has kids a few years older than yours is a great benefit!”

Elizabeth – “This very particular stage you are in….helpless newborn baby, needy toddler, sleepless nights…NOPE, don’t miss that.  A few months out and the years after…yes I will miss those dearly. Pull my hair out craziness most days, but the toddler to preschool stage is the best in my opinion.”

One said, YES you will miss this! 

Sherree – “Yes, you will miss it terribly. This stage of life is where you still have control and the worries are far smaller than what comes later. It is replaced by attitudes, pimples, a driver’s license and dating.”

And her sentiments were echoed by our Radio Theology listeners when I asked for calls on the topic.   They all agreed that time goes too fast and I will miss this baby/toddler stage.  (You can listen to that below.  Spoiler Alert: at one point in this segment I may or may not get sassy with one of the listeners.  Oops!)

Then there was some talk and agreement that even if I will miss it, that’s the worst possible thing you can say to someone who feels like she is drowning, or maybe on good days doggy paddling in the endless ocean of toddler tears and baby poop.  (Wow, there’s an image for ya.)

lean-in.pngAfter processing and digesting all of this, the point, I’ve decided, is not whether I like or dislike this stage, or whether or not I will miss this stage.  But that I lean into my own life.  Actively participate.  In the good and the bad.  One of my favorite quotes from Ann Voskamp is this very idea.  “Joy and pain.  They are put two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don’t numb themselves to really living.”  So when it is tempting to disengage and retreat from my own circumstances, I’ll always try to remember to do the hard work of leaning back in.

I might miss Josie jumping up and down, excited to see me after a day at daycare, but I’ll block out the meltdowns over leaving her at the top of the stairs even though she is fully capable of walking down them herself, not letting her sleep with a toy nut and bolt, or telling her yes for something she asked for and then somehow heard no or decided in a split second that having the very thing she wanted would ruin her life forever.

I will look fondly back at when she took her first steps, but will erase from my memory the months of her spitting up all over the entire world (and somehow always on me and usually down my shirt, her spit up pooling in my bra).

I will try to look back at both Josie and Cal’s newborn phase with joy and gratitude, remembering that they were healthy babies, and will disregard how crazy I felt after the hours of sleep I missed feeding or comforting them in the middle of the night.

I realize in reading back through this that it sounds like I’m absolutely miserable, and that’s just not the case.  We really are doing fine, and much better than the last time I posted.  It’s the moments where I am miserable that all of these emotions come into play.  But I feel like it is so important to say out loud to myself and anyone else who’s in the thick of it, that it is ok to feel however you feel in the moment.  But keep leaning in. 

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Moments that invite fear.

These have happened to me SEVERAL times in the course of my 2 ½ year motherhood.

  • Josie has a really high fever.
  • Josie needs discipline for the first time.
  • Josie’s room thermometer shows a one degree drop, meaning that she must’ve died and is a human ice cube chilling the room. (I didn’t say they were all rational.)
  • Josie is ready for her big girl bed a lot earlier than I thought (as evidenced by the fearless crib climbing).
  • Josie wakes up in terror with piles of barf on her bed for the first time.

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Or the latest, this week.  Twice I had moments of fear (compounded by pregnancy hormones).  One was when Josie was crying in bed after we had said goodnight.  She was beside herself, but we had also been through 2 weeks of her using every trick in the book to get back out of bed once she was tucked in.  And knowing that every possible need of hers was met, we let her cry.  I hadn’t done this since she was a baby, and even then I didn’t ever let her cry more than 10 minutes.  And usually she fell asleep after 2-3 minutes, which still feels like a full hour.  So on this night, Ryan and I set the timer.  5 minutes.  We’d let her cry and then go from there.  But during this time, I was gripped with every possible fear:

  • She hates me.
  • I’m letting her down.
  • I’m scarring her for life.
  • She really does need something and her life is probably in danger. Even though I can hear her crying, somehow she’s already dead.  (Seriously.)

It took me a full two minutes to calm myself down, to start speaking positivity and truth into my chaos, and to switch from fear to faith.  And guess what?  It took Josie 3 full minutes before she was totally passed out and slept all night.  And woke up with her usual smile and affection for her mother.

The second moment this week took a little longer for me to move past.  We met Ryan’s parents for dinner to drop Josie off so she could spend the weekend at their place, and so Ryan and I could be productive around our house and have a date night.  I kid you not, I LIVE FOR THESE MOMENTS.  Dropping her off is one of my greatest joys!  Sounds a little harsh, I realize, but when you have loving family members that regularly pour into your child, you take advantage!  And I’m never worried, but as I loaded Josie in the car seat in her Gigi and Papa’s car, I kissed her quickly and ran for my life before she really had a chance to get upset.  Josie was fine, and hadn’t cried when Ryan said goodbye either.  In fact, she said, “Bye Daddy!  See you on Sunday!”  What a relief!  But guess who actually did lose her mind?  Me.  I was crying before I got in the car, my mind racing with worry.  Worry that she wouldn’t sleep well in a “big bed,” or that she would wake up and be a bother to them in the middle of the night, and worry that she would die in a car accident on the way down there.  Seriously.  Every stinking worry I could have, reasonable or completely unreasonable, took hold of my mind.  Until I made the conscious decision to STOP IT.  And move from fear to faith. 

What’s the reoccurring theme here?  My first thought, in ALL of these scenarios is “I’m not equipped for this!”  Sometimes it is specific: My middle child, peacemaker personality is not equipped to be a consistent disciplinarian.  Sometimes it is vague: I’m not equipped for motherhood in general.  If I’m feeling this way as the mother of ONE TODDLER, how will I feel as the mother of 2?  As the mother of teenagers?  As the mother of grown children? 

But this is the trick, the key.  The speed with which I move from fear to faith directly correlates to the amount of joy I experience as a mother. 

Some thoughts on Fear:

  • Silly, irrational fear: Don’t stay here. Don’t live in this place.  Shut it down and move on.
  • Fear of inadequacy in a moment that doesn’t really matter: Figure this out quickly.  In the case of walking into Josie’s room at night and finding piles of vomit on her bed for the first time, I was paralyzed for 5 seconds before my instincts kicked in, and I moved into action.  We may not have handled this perfectly, but we did the best we could and in the end, it doesn’t really matter how we dealt with the barf.  Josie was safe and well-loved.
  • Fear of inadequacy in moments that do matter: Discipline. First, know that there’s a phase of “new stuff” every 3 weeks in a kid’s life. As soon as you get used to one thing, and feel like you’ve got it under control, your kid starts biting or hitting or talking back.  Something totally new.  This has happened to me so many times.  And the key I’ve found is that the more prepared I feel for each situation, the less time I spend in fear.  So, as soon as Josie started biting, I did some research, I asked friends and family for advice.  I chose a course of action, and moved forward confidently.
  • Reoccurring fear: Whatever this may be for you, take the time to dig into it.  Don’t ignore fear and pretend like you’re not experiencing it.  Set aside some time when you’re not crippled by said fear, and figure it out.  Get to the bottom of it.

Some thoughts on Faith:

  • Faith in yourself: When you become a mom, you really do get this instinct and are equipped along the way for what your tiny might throw at you (literally or figuratively). Take heart that you’re doing the best you can!
  • Faith in God: I really believe that God not only chose Josie to be my child out of all the millions of sperm and egg combinations, but also that He cares for and provides wisdom for us to parent her.
  • Faith as a Verb: This is the big one or me.  When I say faith, I don’t mean this abstract, just pray about it, just push fear aside and hope for the best!  Faith in action.  Equip yourself!  Read and research!  Ask for help from trusted sources!  And make sure you’re setting aside time for yourself so that you’re joyful and reenergized when these situations come about, not always drained and at your wits end.   

This isn’t easy.  Moving from fear to faith is super hard and takes lots of practice.  But it’s a skill worth learning – for your sake and for your child’s sake!  The more I practice this, the more confident I feel.  The deeper joy I find in motherhood.  The more freedom I feel to practice self-care and pour into people and things other than my child!  And as my family grows, and our lives transition over and over and over again as we raise our kids into adults, I hope to look back at this time in life and know that every step along the way I did the work to be confident and prepared in the next step.

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Self-Care, Self-Love, Self-Whatever-You-Want-To-Call-It-Just-Do-It

If you’re thinking, “Self-care sounds like a therapy word,” You Are Right!  It’s a fancy, not-so-fancy way to say TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

As humans, yes, we need this.

As human mothers, we need this all the more.  And the more we have going on in our lives, the more we need to pay special attention to filling our own cups!

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It’s not always easy, and it’s quite the process to nail down the specifics, but if you don’t have a satisfying self-care routine, dig deep and get to it!  Not sure where to start? 

Here’s a look at my self-care journey.

When I’m not diligently practicing self-care, (*in varying degrees depending on how long my stretch is) I:

  • Isolate: Not in the physical sense, because who has time for that! Full-time job, husband, 2 year old, family, friends!  Oh no no no….I hide away inside and bring my relationships to the surface. It’s a slow, almost-unnoticeable progression, but it happens.
  • Make poor decisions: I get lazy. Instead of practicing any sort of discipline, I do the bare minimum.  I keep up my house, sort of.  I keep the laundry going, just so I can binge on Netflix. I go to work, I cook, I play with Josie…but not in the fully-living way that we all deserve.
  • Play a dangerous game of chicken with depression: I’m prone to depression.  Sometimes I can see it coming at a distance, which is a scary gift.  If you’ve ever lived in the trenches with depression, you get what I mean by scary.  But a gift because I know I’ve got time to take steps to get healthy.

When I AM diligently practicing self-care, I:

  • Work out consistently: Nothing like a good sweat and some trusty endorphins to make me feel empowered, accomplished, and disciplined.  (Edit for pregnancy: let myself not work out because I can’t even get up the stairs or have an exciting conversation without losing breath and sweating profusely…oh the joys!)
  • Make healthy food choices: Can’t ruin my morning work out! (Edit for pregnancy: chocolate and dairy, in as many combinations as humanly possible.  The end.)
  • Am Transparent: I’m back to storytelling and wearing my heart on my sleeve.
  • Look for joy: Sometimes, I know just where to find it.  Other times, I’ve got my eyes wide open looking for it in the day to day!
  • Take my alone time: If I don’t get alone time, I go nuts.  So I take it when I need it, usually before I start getting really cranky.
  • Focus on others: Because I’m not busy burying myself, I’m free to send a small gift just because, bake cookies to give away, or enjoy conversations I’d otherwise dismiss.  I’m available to love others well.

It’s taken me a while to even get to the place in life where I can put words to all of this stuff.  I haven’t always been good at recognizing my times of no-care or plenty-of-care.  But I am getting better.  My self-care stretches get longer and longer, and the breaks get shorter and shorter! 

So every day I’m striving to love myself well, so I can love others well too!  Isn’t that kind of the point?

I’d encourage you…take the time to get to know yourself so you can chase down what brings you deep joy and excitement, health and wholeness.  love-yourself-love-others.png

I Can’t Remember The Last Time I Felt Pretty

This isn’t an easy one to write.  But those were the words I said out loud to myself one Sunday afternoon.  Ryan was running errands and Josie was sleeping.  I had a list of things to do, but the only thing I could think of when I looked in the mirror was that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt pretty.  Not looked pretty, felt pretty.  And I didn’t like it.  I felt (and looked) worn-down and kind of pathetic!

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So I got to work: 

  • Hot shower
  • Curled hair
  • 20-minute mascara application
  • Cute clothes
  • Painted nails

All great things that made me feel better about my outside appearance, but nothing that stuck longer than that evening.  And as I dug deeper into this, I realized that it all comes back to my New Year’s Resolution – to put more focus on self-care.

What does feeling pretty really have to do with self-care?  EVERYTHING!!!!!!  Everything.

Case in point, the week after my not-pretty afternoon, I went on a Girls’ Weekend with my college roommates.  On the first day, my soul was so filled with peace and encouragement, just from being together and laughing and swapping stories about babies with the flu and potty training and our husbands who sacrifice so we can jet out for a weekend away.  So filled that I lay on the side of a mountain, covered in snow, and felt like taking a selfie — which had little to do with my physical appearance and everything to do with how pretty I felt surrounded by my beautiful friends and the beautiful mountain.  And I knew I would post it because in the moments after the selfie when I lay there in the snow, I actually cried from relief that these moments exist.  If we focus on filling our own cups, we are able to pour into others – love and joy and peace and encouragement.  We can be who our family needs, and who our friends need, and who the world needs — our best selves!  Exactly who we are!  Exactly who we were created to be!

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But it doesn’t just happen.  We need to figure out what brings us the most joy and create the space for it.  Not every weekend or even every year will we have the time or money to spend a weekend away with besties eating fancy crepes and getting massages and pedicures.  But every day we can do one thing that fills our cup a little more.  And with that we can love extravagantly!  God can take our little efforts of self-care and multiply them into care for those around us.  He is extra gracious and generous in that way.

You can’t pour from an empty cup.  And you can’t feel pretty with an empty cup either.  

Friends, please.  Create small moments in your day that fill you and cling to them!  You are worth the effort.  And you’re pretty too 🙂

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My New Favorite Christmas Song Will Rock Your World

This.

This is my Christmas Power Anthem.  I’m one of those Christmas criers.  From about November 10th through mid-January, I’ll cry at the drop of a hat when it comes to anything Christmas-related.  And here’s why:  During the Christmas season I’m reminded at every turn how grateful I am for so many things in my life.  And I’m looking more clearly at the joys (and pains) in other’s lives as well.

Noel, Noel

Come and see what God has done

Noel, Noel

The story of amazing love!

The light of the world, given for us

Noel

As I reflect over our year of transitions and changes, I’m remembering that through hard days/weeks and peaceful ones, God really blessed us beyond what we could have imagined.

Come and See What God Has Done:

  • A New House: we waited over 18 months in a “short sale” for this house we really wanted! And a week after we found out we wouldn’t be able to get it, we found this house in our adjacent neighborhood and were able to snag is sans realtor before it even went on the market.
  • A New Baby: Sure, I’m still growing it, but we are super pumped for Josie’s little brother or sister to rock our worlds! I seriously can. not. wait. to watch Josie interact with this new tiny one.
  • A New Job for Ryan: As I’m writing this in late November, we are still waiting on this to be an answered prayer. But Ryan was able to work from home a lot during his final days at his old job, and even got extended 2 months, which helped take the pressure off of the job search.  We’re confident the right job will come along.
  • A New Opportunity: I knew for a while that I’d wanted to start a blog, and here we are. But I was also looking for other opportunities to share my desire to encourage women!  Low and behold, I walked right into a co-hosting gig on a new radio show on the most listened-to station in Indianapolis!  Say whaaaaaat?!?!
  • A New Clarity in Calling: Ryan and I went through a workshop called Clarity in Calling with my awesome cousin Robbie, and that really helped us identify and verbalize the situations in which we thrive! (Me: storytelling!  Ryan: project work!)  This has led to great discussions in our marriage about the future and also helps us understand each other better.
  • Family: Our families are the best ever. Tons of support and love.  Tons.  The best ever.  Did I mention they are the best ever?
  • Josie: I mean, just everything. Our little thrill-seeker.  Her highs are high and her lows are low, but oh my goodness, I can’t put into words the ridiculous emotions I feel for this girl.  And watching her with her Daddy has my heart exploding.

It’s possible I could go on and on, especially in thinking about our FAMILY and FRIENDS!  The Story of Amazing Love! 

Merry Christmas season to you, my friend!

 

 

2 quirky things, and 1 real thing that brings me JOY

What brings you joy?

I’m not talking the big picture JOY, just the little everyday moments of joy that you can pick out from the chaos and feel slightly okay about life (that’s the bare minimum – hopefully, it’s not that bad!)

These are the important things, the milestone moments in each day.  Some are felt deep, and some are just silly.

My quirky joys include:

Opening a new jar of peanut butter.  There’s something about that first scoop with the knife, and the many possibilities that one action can create, artistically speaking.  The first time it happened to me (or the first time I noticed the pure awesomeness of this occasional occasion), I thought to myself automatically – it’s going to be a great day!  And guess what?!  That was almost 15 years ago, and now every time I open a new jar of peanut butter, I say to myself, IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT DAY!

Drinking coffee from my Scotty’s mug.  I ordered coffee once at Scotty’s Brewhouse. (Special shout out to the Totchos!  My life has been changed forever since discovering I could dip tater tots into nacho cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, bacon, and sour cream.  I digress).  I fell in love with the mug!  It’s not especially pretty to look at, but I just liked how thick it was, and how the coffee slid over the rim into my mouth. Anyway, every morning that I reach into the cupboard and grab that mug among all the others, I say, IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT DAY!

And speaking of coffee – that brings me to my real joy.

Drinking coffee from a real mug (not a travel mug) at my kitchen table, while my world is still sleeping. After I became a mom, I quickly discovered that alone time comes at a premium, and by the end of the day, that alone time means I’m escaping my life to venture into the lives of my favorite Office or HIMYM characters.  Fun, but not exactly refreshing or re-energizing.  Now, I set my alarm a little early every morning to make sure I get a full cup in before the babe stirs.  I create the space in my day to set my mind on the day ahead.  To say a prayer or fit in a little devotion time.  10 minutes is all I need to make a difference in my whole day.  Life-changing stuff.

I’m a firm believer that the more we look for joy, the more we find it – in the extraordinary and in the mundane.  And the more we find joy, we find ourselves!