The Kitten Connundrum

I recently caught my three year old daughter sneaking out of the house, still in pajamas, before she thought we were awake. The reason? She wanted to “see” the six perfect baby kittens that were born in the chicken coop. Translation: she wanted unmitigated access to do something she wasn’t supposed to.

IMG_8306 (853x1280)

6:58 am. This is a new level of sneakytown, even for Ellis.

There’s a long-standing farm rule I’ve heard since I was kid: Never touch kittens until their eyes are open. Kittens that take on a different scent may be abandoned by the mother.

Unfortunately, I’m having the hardest time enforcing the no-touchy touchy rule with a certain young member of the household.

The kittens are barely a week old, downy and delicate, mewling quietly with their eyes closed. Ellis can’t resist them. I find her sneaking in the coop at all hours of the day – so much so that we’ve had to start locking it. She talks about the kittens constantly. She wants to show them to everyone who visits.

I’m torn. The mother is a baby herself – part of our spring litter last year. She doesn’t seem to mind us being near, and welcomes attention whenever human visitors are around.

But the rule.

The interwebs are full of mixed messages about the rule. Some sites say it’s okay to touch them if the mother allows it. Others take a strict hands-off approach.

All I keep coming back to is the advice of the apostle Paul in Corinthians 10:23 – I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. 

(The whole passage really has nothing to do with baby kittens. It’s the principle that’s standing out to me.)

Seriously. How do I resist this face?

 Seriously. This face. Can anyone understand my dilemma? 

Certainly, we can touch the kittens. Is it the best thing for them? Probably not. But do we risk the mother abandoning them at this point? Probably not.

No clear answer.

But if I stop to look at what’s beneficial for everyone involved (kittens, Ellis, my sanity), the answer is simple. We need to wait. Free access to the coop – denied. The kittens need time, and Ellis needs to go another round in learning the wait/reward cycle of patience.

Wish us luck. It’s going to be a long week.

Why Your Mama Blog Matters

I have a confession. Lately, I struggle with blogging. It’s harder and harder to find pockets of time to write, and when I do, I find that a little bit of the party is over. We made it through pregnancy, we survived the first year with 3 under 2, and now…

Now we raise. All the adorable matching outfits are tucked away in a bin. Mismatched play clothes with mud and grass stains dominate the drawers. Every day I dance around keeping enough activities going to leave the TV off. Some days we win. Some, we lose.

And suddenly I find myself in a sea of mamas just like me, trying to do the best for their kids and trying to write about it once in a while, because writing makes sense.

Literally.

Writing helps us sort through what it means to give up one version of ourselves and take on another. Writing makes us speak in full sentences. Writing is a way to process all the broken pieces of the day and remind ourselves of their whole.

I read two very different blog posts this week. One was an open letter To Moms With Kids Under 5: This is Our Time. The other was Dear Stay at Home Moms, Please Shut Up.

One redirected my day, making me take stock of the special moments I usually want to pass up because I have a dishwasher to unload or two bottoms that need changing immediately. It calmed me at 4:00 am this morning when my daughter woke up because she had the snorts and just wanted to snuggle.

The other made me insecure. I thought of all the times I sat down with my friends in some sort of harried, exhausted state, gushing out my parenting struggles like a broken toilet. Was I now the annoying stay at home mom boop booping her minivan fob, looking all privileged and disheveled in sunglasses and stretch pants?

Both posts made me realize the importance of words. Words that matter.

Because they do. Your words. My words. All of us coming unraveled, untangled as we stare at our thoughts on the screen and wind them back into stories.

But it’s how we choose to re-spin and wind our experiences that matters most. When I’m stealing a few minutes in the bathroom, reading your blog posts or your articles on parenting, you have the power to leave me encouraged or disheartened.

As a writer, as a parent, as a person, what would you rather read?

Whenever I can, I seek out words that make me want to have and extend grace. Grace that is greater than all my shortcomings and frustrations.

So please keep writing. Processing. Sharing your heart for your kids, your frustrations in the day to day. Do it with love. Do it in a way that makes me see the shine under the layers of dirt, the silver hiding behind tarnish.

Why? Because I’m here, reading. Listening to your ideas. Tasting your recipes. Trying your method for getting your kid to eat peas. When I hear that you’ve succeeded, I find a little hope. When I hear that you’ve failed, I know I’m not alone.

That’s the beauty of our social media networked lives. I may not know you beyond the words you put on the page, and vice versa. But through those words, we come together. We share a minute or two of pausing in the busy of our days, and when we’re done, we are re-energized.

Somehow, brighter.

Here at the farm, we have a few favorite g-words. Grace. Gratitude. God. Gruyere. If this is the first time we’ve met, consider yourself hugged. Really, for real, hugged. I hope you’ll join in the conversation and come back again soon!

#Dofightgo – Guest Posting over at TwinTalkBlog today

Have I raved about Twin Talk Blog lately? Seriously. I would have LOVED to have this as a resource when I was pregnant. (They started up just a month or two after my twins were born.) Luckily, Meredith, founder extraordinaire, keeps posting a variety of topics that relate to all sorts of stages with carrying, birthing, and raising twins. It’s a fantastic site, and if you are a twin parent, I highly recommend you start following it.

Today I’m guest posting a few thoughts at Twin Talk, and I’d love for you to check them out. Here’s the beginning to get you started.

3- IMG_6113 (800x533)DO, FIGHT, GO: WHAT I’VE LEARNED PARENTING 3 UNDER 3

A week ago I started writing a post called “What happens when you treat staying at home with your kids like a job.” Or something like that. The title was a mess. The concept was blasé. The post sounded like every other stay at home parent who’s ever tried to find meaning in the endless rounds of cheerios and diapers and play dough.I never finished it.I have a hard time finishing anything right now. My twins are at a very mobile thirteen months, and my preschooler (who’s not going to preschool yet) has ramped up her curiosity to a new level – namely, the third shelf of the pantry and the top of the refrigerator.

Which brings me back to the post I was trying to write. What my former job taught me about managing my days at home was helpful; it just wasn’t that interesting.

But have I stopped to think about what I’ve learned from staying at home with my preschooler and twins? It’s been almost a year and a half of this complete life change. There has to be something.

So after we put everyone to bed, I promised myself thought space. Yes. I had to make a date with my mind to think. It’s getting real, folks.

Here’s what I came up with. Keep Reading….

Letter to my little girls

IMG_3920 (800x533)Dear daughters,

You are the chocolate in my cake and the butter on my bread.

You are a month away from turning 1 and 3, constantly changing, growing, moving, speaking, thinking.

Your milestones are built on routine and care.

You are full of glory, made in the image of God.

You are full of wind and frustration.

You reach and still can’t get things. You speak and we correct your speech. You climb and we pull you down.

You are still figuring out where the boundary lines are drawn.

You scream your desires into our days, always wanting, wanting, wanting, not always understanding when we say no.

You want to taste the batter and lick the spoon. Your eyes light up when sweetness hits your tongue.

You think mangoes are heaven.

You know that the world is broken every time something hurts, and this we can’t explain until you’re older.

Your toddlerhood is part wonder, part terror. It is like loving a tornado.

Your babyhood is stretching, growing muscle and grace, approaching girlhood. You watch the way things work. You learn seemingly without effort.

You are not a job. Or a skill we can become good at. Some days everyone fails.

Raising you is like raising up a house from an endless pile of boards and nails, windows and doors. It requires tools we don’t always know how to use, skills we don’t yet have. It is repetition, repetition, repetition.

Sometimes things fall and break.

Sometimes we all have to start over, gathering up the pieces from the sawdusted floor.

And some days we hang a door on the first try, wondering at the ease.

You are gracious with our efforts. You grow. Take shape. Learn how to open and close things on your own. Learn how to occupy yourself, live within the frame of your body.

Still, we want you to be more than a body, a structure, pretty lashes and a roof.

We want you to become the definition of home.

Haven to those around you.

So we keep building. Hammering. Hollering. Trading tools.

You are labor and love, and we learn that these two things must coexist.

That love without labor has no depth.

That labor without love cannot produce beautiful things.

That cake needs chocolate, and bread needs butter,

and we need you

to round off all the sharpness in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

Multiple Birth Awareness Month: My Confession

9 mo

Hear that? Mama thought we were scary. (G, L)

I used to be afraid of having twins.

It started at nine weeks when the ultrasound technician revealed the amazing truth that I was harboring two heartbeats. I was afraid of not being able to carry them to term. I was afraid of birthing them. I was afraid of how I was going to divide my time between them and my two-year old daughter. I was afraid I’d always be letting someone down.

I was afraid having twins meant I wasn’t going to be a good mother.

Two days after we came home from a thankfully uncomplicated birth, I got my first taste of the chaos I feared. It was breakfast time – my toddler in her booster seat, the babies in their rockers on the floor. My spoon was in my first bite of oatmeal when it happened.

All three girls started crying at once.

Ellis was done eating and wanted out of her chair. Gabrielle had her fist in her mouth and wanted to eat. Lucia was working on some business in the lower realms, her face turned red and squinchy. All of them were screaming.

I didn’t know where to start, still unfamiliar with the triage that multiples require.

That morning I did it all wrong, attempting to breastfeed a newborn, change a diaper with my free hand, and reason with my toddler that I’d be done in a second. It was a massive fail. My husband came in to find us all tear-blotched and upset.

People often ask if it’s much harder caring for twins. My answer? It’s not harder. (Changing a diaper isn’t intrinsically hard.) It just takes longer. 

Diapers. Baths. Clothes. Car seat buckling. Meal time. Crying. Everything takes twice as long.

Add this to the fact that babies in and of themselves are time-consuming creatures. They require slow and careful movements. They long to be held. To stare into our eyes. To form connections and bonds, brain synapses firing like lightning bugs on warm July nights.

april 042 (533x800)Funny thing is, toddlers need the same thing. So do spouses. Just all in a different way. And once I realized this, somehow, my fear of adding two tiny people to our family got a little smaller.

No matter how many of us were in the house, ultimately, we all just needed to be loved. And love was not a limited quantity item that went out of stock in my pantry. Love was the one thing I could always find, even when everything else was short on supply.

Not that it always looks like love within these walls. Everyone still cries. We all get frustrated with one another and the need to take turns. But as a mother of multiples, I’ve learned how to triage effectively. I’m not defeated when everyone needs something all at once.

I’ve learned that helping one daughter first allows the other two to understand the fine art of patience (well, someday.) I’ve seen how sharing, even in its early stages, will become one of the most important life skills my girls can master. I’ve even earned a spot in my own equation, advocating for myself and taking care of my own needs as well so I can better take care of everyone else.

I’ve found love to be an ever-renewable resource, wide enough for all of us, a perfect force for driving out fear.

 

april 022 (800x549)Written in honor of Multiple Birth Awareness Month for my 9 month old twins Gabrielle & Lucia, and my ever precocious toddler Ellis Olivia. For more great thoughts (and adorable pictures) on raising multiples, go check out  today’s link up at Twin Talk Blog. 

Take Care, Make Care – Part 2: Amber’s thoughts

Take CareHey Everyone! I’m really excited to share this week’s Make Care Take Care guest post from Amber Kuiper over at Mommy’s Me Time. Amber has a great way of encouraging and making me feel really stoked about being a mama (not always an easy task on rough days.) And she’s not just saying it – as mom to a toddler, twins who just turned one, and a baby due in September, she’s in the glorious thick of motherhood – and she’s living and loving it. Here are her thoughts on prioritizing self-care.

Hello Fellow Passengers readers! I’m so excited to have the chance to chat with you today. When Rachel and I randomly met in the bathroom at a mom’s night out a few months ago, I’m pretty sure it was fate. After a few sentences, we learned that we both had a toddler and twin babies at home. Our friendship was a match made in heaven.

One of the things we talked about that night was how wonderful it was to be out of the house BY OURSELVES. We didn’t have to think about high chairs or messy fingers or having to rush home to get them to bed on time. We simply had the night to relax without wearing our mom hats. We could just be us.

I have to admit though, sometimes it can be easy to forget who I really am. I stay at home with my kids who are all two and under, so most of my conversations are about toy airplanes, pooping on the potty and peek-a-boo! My days are spent singing nursery rhymes, pretending I’m Lightning McQueen, and changing endless dirty diapers. When I actually have the opportunity to have an adult conversation it can feel really awkward, unless I’m talking about my kids.

As moms, we give and give and give to our families. We love our kids so much that we’re willing to do whatever it takes for them to be happy and content. When they need us in the middle of the night, we’re there. When they wake up early in the morning, we scoop them up in our arms and cuddle. When they’re hungry, we make sure to fill up their little tummies. From the little things to the big things, we do it all. We provide for their every need. We oftentimes don’t even think about how much of ourselves we’re pouring out because we simply view it as doing what needs to be done.

At some point though, I think we’ve all felt empty. But instead of acknowledging that we need to be filled up, it can be easy to beat ourselves up and feel inadequate. We feel overwhelmed, defeated, and alone. We look around and everyone else seems to be painting a picture of their perfect little lives. We wonder why our life doesn’t feel like that.

The truth is, none of us have a perfect life, and none of us can do it all. We weren’t designed to! Perhaps one of the most important things I’ve learned since becoming a mom is how important it is to humble myself and ask for help. It isn’t easy, because for some reason we think we should be able to do it on our own. But that just isn’t realistic or healthy.

We all need breaks. We need time away from our kids to reflect on who we are. We need to remember what we loved doing before kids, what fills us up and makes us have more love to give to our families.

I love this metaphor:

If you’ve been on an airplane, you likely remember hearing this phrase from the flight crew before take-off.

“Should the cabin experience sudden pressure loss, stay calm and listen for instructions…Oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat…If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.”

Mommas, we need to be breathing if we want our kids to be breathing. We shouldn’t be grasping for air. When we’re filled up, we’re able to be the best moms we can be and love on them like crazy.

We need to stop making excuses as to why we don’t deserve or need “me time.”

Here are some things that helped me to prioritize self-care. I hope they can be of some help to you, too! You matter, and you deserve to be taken care of.

5 Steps To Prioritizing Self Care

1. Make a list of things that fill you up. Maybe it’s reading, or exercising, or sleeping, or blogging. Maybe it’s something totally different. Whatever it is, you need to pinpoint it.

2. Communicate to your husband, family, or friends that you need a break. And don’t feel ashamed when you do. Ask them to help you make it a priority. They want what’s best for you, but unless you tell them how you’re really doing, they won’t be able to know what you need. Schedule a time for them to watch the kids. Ideally, make it a reoccurring appointment for as often as you think you’ll need it!

3. Follow through. Unless there’s a life threatening emergency, do not postpone your “me time.” You NEED it!

4. Don’t micromanage while you’re gone. Trust your husband to take care of the kids. Or your friend, or your babysitter. Don’t check in a million times. I promise, the kids will be just fine. I know it’s hard to give up control, but it’ll be good for your soul.

5. Don’t return until you are in a better place. Give yourself the time you need. Don’t rush it. When you walk through the doors and pick up your sweethearts, you’ll look at them with new eyes and a new perspective!

IMG_0984 I’m Amber, a 28 year old stay-at-home mom to three sweet kids. I have a two-year-old son, one-year-old twin girls, and we’re expecting Baby #4 in September! God’s grace is the only thing that gets us through each crazy day!
I’m passionate about encouraging moms to prioritize self-care and take time to fill ourselves up by pursuing Christ. When we’re full, we can love on our families like crazy and be the moms we’ve always wanted to be!

Amber blogs at www.mommysmetime.com

 

Take Care, Make Care

Take CareThe gray presses down with two hands on my shoulders. I sing nursery rhymes and dutifully remove grape stems. I lay my girls down for their naps, thankful that they are resting but loathe to let go of their little hands.

Sometimes, parenting is lonely work.

Not because I am alone (I am RARELY alone), but because day-to-day, it’s hard to see anything change. Diapers get dirty at regular intervals. The princess dresses are out of the toy box by 9:45 AM every day. We eat off the same silverware, drink from the same glasses that then need to be washed. And washed. And washed.

Routine is beautiful. Routine is tiring.

My husband leaves for work at the same time every day, carrying the same coffee mug and rugged leather briefcase. My parents have farmed the same dirt since they were married. I have friends who have worked for the same company for over a decade.

And I think we all feel it. The weight of sameness.

The funny thing is this – different is rarely better. But I don’t always believe that. I believe that so and so’s recent trip to a tropical locale makes them happier. I believe I’d feel better if my hair were just a different color. I believe what I see in a picture is an accurate reflection of the whole.

I believe the untruths, get a little cranky, and then stop doing one very important thing. I quit taking care of my present day self.

Do you know what I mean? As in, if I can’t have all the apples, I don’t want any of them.

OK. I don’t stop entirely. I eat. I brush my teeth. I try to start the day in clean clothes. But some days, that’s as far as I go. I don’t devise fun games that make my toddler’s face stretch wide in smile. I read stories without doing the voices. I slap turkey melts on lunch plates for the third day in a row.

I let sameness overwhelm me, body and soul.

It’s easy to forget that in order to make time to care for others, I first have to take time to care for myself. I know, I know. We hear this a lot. You know why? Because it’s true. Marguerite Lamb, in an article for American Baby, said, “While we can’t control our children’s happiness, we are responsible for our own. And because children absorb everything from us, our moods matter… Consequently, one of the best things you can do for your child’s emotional well-being is to attend to yours.”

I think this applies to more than just parents and children though. It’s about the way we all live in relation to one another. Caring for ourselves makes us apt to be kinder to the world around us. Why? Because caring for ourselves makes us feel good. And when we feel good, we act accordingly.

At the risk of you thinking I’m a hedonist, I’m going to share three almost fail-safes that make me feel good, consequently making me a better spouse, mama, friend, co-worker, and fellow passenger on this earth.

Eat Good Food

We all have to eat. Every day, three times a day (if we’re lucky.) But I’ve noticed that what I eat determines how I feel. There’s a whole pile of science behind this that I’m not going to go into here, but straight up, I feel better when I eat yogurt and berries and scrambled eggs for breakfast than when I eat cereal.

I like cereal. Don’t get me wrong. Cereal is easy. But that’s the problem. When we start eating food because it’s easy, we stop caring whether or not it’s actually good. And if it’s not good, well, what’s the point?

Good food doesn’t mean difficult food, and I think that’s what derails most people. It’s just about having the right ingredients. If you want to make an amazing lunch, you have to have more in your kitchen than peanut butter and jelly.

So sit down. Make a list of foods you like to eat, foods that make you feel energized, foods that are colorful and bright and exploding with flavor. Then hit up the market. It’s a first class luxury to have a place that sells mangoes, peppers, chard and Gouda just miles from our homes. Take advantage of it.

Crank the Tunes

When we get bored during the afternoons, my living room turns into a disco. We can stream Pandora through our TV, which means that on any given day you’ll find us rocking to Raffi, bebopping with Billie, or pretending we have club moves like the Black Eyed Peas.

Sound crazy? It probably is. But music with a beat can immediately perk me up. It’s like a mental knuckle-crack and shoulder roll. Suddenly I’m out of my own head. I’m being silly with my daughters, swinging and twirling, boogieing and laughing.

I used to do this at work too (not the dancing part – Lord help us). I’d bring an ear-bud and plug it into my phone, and then delve into my next project with renewed gusto. Music is like a mental reset button, and it’s as easy as pushing play.

Love what you Use

I’m no minimalist, but I do like keeping my possessions pretty basic. I buy what I love, and then I use the heck out of it. At this stage of life, I’ve learned that “stuff” doesn’t make me happy, but quality and usefulness do.

So use what you love, and love what you use. If something in your cupboard or drawer annoys you, start a thrift store or garage sale box and pass it on. IMG_20140403_111741_015~2Buy what you know you need, and then take pleasure in using it day after day.

I recently found a really great website called Raise.com that lets me sell old gift cards and buy new ones at a discount. Someone could probably film an episode of Hoarders on the way I collect gift cards, so I was stoked to find a way to sell unused cards and make some cash, or replace them with cards that got me closer to a new item I needed. Check it out sometime. It’s a great way to get use out something that otherwise just sits.

Trust me when I say that I know life is busy. No one really has time for extras. But taking the time to do something that brightens your day usually means you make someone else’s day brighter as well, simply by virtue of your own happiness.

And isn’t that how we’re meant to live with one another? With kindness, with patience, and above all, with care?

 

Leveling the playing field of importance (why wiping butts counts for something too)

Minnesota autumnIt’s November, and darkness narrows the margins of my landscape. It lingers later and later into the morning, and calls again far too early in the afternoon. Much of the color has been blown from the trees and fields. Only the framework of the growing season remains.

Sometimes I think bears have it right. Hibernation is a great idea.

I’m looking in the direction of winter, steeling myself. It has been a challenge to get out with the girls even when the sun is warm and daylight streams through the branches of the oak trees in my yard. But now there will be the need for hats. Mittens. Boots. Blankets. Extra everything just in case of emergency.

There will be long afternoons when everyone is restless. There will be floors to mop. A bathroom to clean, over and over. More art projects to stock for, and another collection of rags covered in glue and feathers to toss in the garbage.

There will be stretches of days when the weather is so inclement that it’s safer for me to keep the girls tucked in at home. There will be wind. Cold. More darkness.  And it will be very easy for me to listen a little bit longingly when I’m at the table with family and friends who are out and about, active in their worlds, doing their work.

I took a walk this weekend with a friend, and had the privilege of listening to her explain her work in the realm of therapy and healing. We kicked along in the leaves and dirt, pushing air through our lungs, needing the exercise in different ways – calm and contemplative for her, world widening and leg stretching for me.

IMG_2194(Let’s be honest. Sometimes the furthest walk I get in a day is to the chicken coop and back. PS. Our chickens finally started laying this week. Phew.)

At one point in the walk, she laughed and said something like “do you really want to hear all of this?” and I couldn’t say yes fast enough, because it was so nice to have the luxury of extended, uninterrupted discourse. But another answer, hidden and a little bit ugly, was there too.

I loved listening because I felt as though I didn’t have as much to say. And I didn’t have as much to say because I felt like what I spent my days doing was not as important.

I tried to laugh this off in some sort of offhanded joke about spending my time wiping bottoms. My friend laughed too, but then she said something I won’t forget any time soon.

She reminded me that there is a huge importance in raising a child who loves others instead of harming them.

That the world can be a dark place unless we know the One who is the light of the world.

That everything a parent, grandparent, caregiver, or extended family member does to further and support a child is necessary and beautiful because it creates a healthy, well-adjusted little person who cares for those around him or her.

It is important work.

I adore being home with my girls, but I’ve also had to push hard against feeling like I’m no longer contributing as well to society, to my church, to my family, or to my friends. That my home is now a place of chaos instead of a welcoming calm. That maybe I shouldn’t go out, see friends, or even take walks because of the potential for all hell to break loose when the girls get tired and hungry.

(This is where I also love being married to someone trained in psychology, because the best way Jason encourages me when I am afraid of something is to make me visualize the worst possible outcome. These days that’s basically a lot of screaming for a fairly short period of time until the problem is solved.)

It’s easy to keep spinning the unspoken fears that live in the back corners of our minds. But the broad and bright reality is that when we actually voice them, testing their truth against the air, we can finally see them as what they are. Fiction. Story. Nothing more.

But maybe what I also needed to hear was external validation. Validation to believe that I what I was doing was just as important as any the work of any doctor, teacher, or architect.

KindnessI’m not trying to get all “motherhood is the highest calling” here. The problem just repeats when any one person claims more importance than anyone else. I just want to believe the truth that raising a family is important, not because I have anything to prove, but because I owe it to my girls.

If I believe that my work is small, I may as well tell my girls that they are insignificant.

If I believe my world to be small, how can I show them how wide and big it actually is?

And if I believe that my worth is small, how can I teach them the steadiness of their value?

These are hard realities. They require action every time an unfounded fear darkens my eyes. But the practice of pushing them back, and the grace that results, is like the fire we continue to build night after night when the cold settles in sharply outside the windows, the crackling amber heat a solid wall against the pressing chill.

It may need to be coaxed day after day, match after match, but coals that are well-tended need only a brief reminder to burst brightly again into flame.

 

 

 

Present duty, present pain, present pleasure

IMG_20130918_095101_164Sorry, no post last week. We are in the middle of two really happy events – both Jason and my youngest brothers are/have gotten married back to back this month. That means last week I spent two days straight doing laundry, packing clothes, checklisting for a six hour road trip to South Dakota, etc. and the things I normally tried to sneak in (writing, eating lunch before 3 pm) took the last seat on the bus. And this week, I busted out my former life skills from working in a bridal shop and made a ribbon lined elbow length veil for my awesome future sister in law.

I also learned that putting said veil in the dryer FOR TWO MINUTES to try to shake out the wrinkles in the tulle will melt the whole dang thing.

Life lessons. IMG_1699

***

This week the twins are two months. Time passing, my how they’ve grown, etc. etc. Here’s my biggest PRAISE for this phase. We are all Sleeping. Through. The. Night. As in, they go to bed around 10:00 or 10:30 pm, and wake up pretty consistently at 5:30 or 6:00 am.

This feels a little like I’ve hijacked an ice cream truck and have a whole summer’s supply of those really bad for you but really good waffle cone drumsticks with the fudge drizzle on top. It’s amazing.

Here are a couple of mug shots from their recent photo documentation. My favorite might be Ellis “helping” by pointing out Lucy’s facial features while I’m trying to take pictures.

In other news, we had the two month check in this week. The good news is that the girls are starting to catch up to one another in weight- Gabrielle was at 10 lbs 14 oz, and Lucia at 10 lbs 1 oz. The bad news was that they had their shots. There are a lot of awful things in this world, but pinning down your infant on a hard clinic mattress and watching her get poked with a bunch of needles is pretty rough. Then again, coming down with whooping cough or some other Oregon trail-esque disease is way worse, so I count the shots as worth it.

***

 My friend Nate posted a great quote on Facebook the other day, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

From “The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis”
TO MRS. RAY GARRETT: On the real program of the spiritual life—living in the present moment.
12 September 1960

The whole lesson of my life has been that no ‘methods of stimulation’ are of any lasting use. They are indeed like drugs—a stronger dose is needed each time and soon no possible dose is effective. We must not bother about thrills at all. Do the present duty—bear the present pain —enjoy the present pleasure—and leave emotions and ‘experiences’ to look after themselves.

That’s the programme, isn’t it?

I used to have a pretty big beef with the monotony of routine, but these days it saves my life. And as much as I feel like a fun-sucker to say it, the sweetest days can often be the ones with nothing going on. Those are the days Ellis climbs in my lap and we read story after story before nap time. I get to sit down on the couch with each baby individually and schnoogle with them. Laundry gets down, the chickens get let out, and some sort of creativity in the kitchen usually occurs in the form of supper.

Sounds a little like do the present duty, huh?

I completely love getting out and seeing friends and something other than my four walls, but no joke, it takes serious effort and lots of time. It’s like convincing yourself it’s fun to eat an orange. Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t peel an orange properly. I usually end up hacking it open with a knife. And those little plastic orange peelers? Not helpful, unless you count squirting yourself continually in the eye with acid juice “help”. But the perfectly sweet, heaven-sent interior… that’s something entirely different. And it’s always worth it.

Do the present duty—bear the present pain —enjoy the present pleasure

At home or outside of it, I find myself doing all three of these, which makes my mind wander to a line from my grandpa’s favorite hymn Day by Day. Lovingly, it’s part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

I think these writers were on to something.

***

I ended the week listening to the newest Civil Wars album and holding my girls. Jason was chaperoning the elementary crowd at the homecoming football game (herding cats), but since the weather was calling for rain and the game started at Ellis’ bedtime, I kept the pink brigade at home and did a round of baths for everyone. And for a couple of hours after everyone was fed, bathed, and laid down, there was peace. Rest. Quiet. All of which I appreciated more because of their opposing activities during the week.

It was a moment of pure and present pleasure, and it fell over my shoulders like my favorite nubbly old sweater that I pulled out this week because apparently it’s cold now.

And all I can really say here is amen.

Welcome to the mom scene

This Thursday, I explored new territory.

Yep. I went to my first mom’s group.

I’m a little late to the stay-at-home-mom scene. I’ve been working up until this point, so I was the one who had to politely decline morning bible study invites, midweek play dates, and spur of the moment trips to the zoo.

It was hard at first, being THAT mom. Feeling somehow disconnected from my daughter. But slowly I learned to give myself grace. An allowance for our circumstances. And to do the best I could with the time I did have with Ellis.

But today I saw things from the other side of the fence. Literally.

The mom’s group met at Sundance Mission Stables just north of Scandia. While the older kids were taught a lesson in grooming horses, the mamas with babies and toddlers in tow congregated in the horse barn with Barb, the owner. Barb had a single horse on a lead rope, and she asked each of us if we wanted to lead the horse around the ring, back it up, turn it around, etc.

As the women took their turns, it was evident many of them had never been around horses. Barb took this opportunity to connect how they asked the horse to obey with how they asked their children to obey.

Some of the women were timid. Some had difficulties asking the horse to back up. Some were not sure whether to lead or to follow the giant creature gently plodding the dirt ring of the enclosure.

And in the back of the group, I stood there thinking, “I’ve SO got this.”

I grew up around horses. I participated in horse camps, riding competitions, and even took English dressage lessons for a summer. If there’s one animal I know a lot about, it’s a horse.

So when it was my turn, I confidently walked up to the horse with Ellie on my hip, patted his nose and neck for a moment to introduce myself, and then firmly took the lead rope and led the horse around the ring.

After putting the horse through his paces and arriving back to Barb the facilitator, I expected to be congratulated. I was confident. In charge. I made sure the horse did everything it was supposed to.

Barb smiled and said, “Well, I can always tell a lot about a mom’s parenting style by the way she approaches the horse. This assertive, or even aggressive method certainly gets the job done, but leaves the door of resentment wide open for children later if they are not given a little more space, or rope on the lead.”

Aggressive? Assertive? I was thinking more like “Wow, she was great with that horse. See how she was calm and in control?”

Hm.

I smiled it off, made an offhand comment about having a little horse experience, and let the next mama take her turn. But inside, I felt off kilter. Me? Aggressive? Seriously? How does she decide this from how I walk a horse around the ring? Is she some sort of parenting guru? I’m so even keel. Kind. Calm. I DO NOT GET MA…

Oh. Right.

I am the parent who responds immediately with a raised voice if my daughter is doing something she shouldn’t. And I’ve done my fair share of shoulder-hauling to the timeout step in our house, and yes, I’ve spanked my daughter when she’s bitten me (it’s the only swattable offense in our house these days.)

I’ve also questioned how effective any of this really is. (Seriously. If my daughter puts herself in timeout when I point to the stairs, I might need to rethink things.)

***

Afterwards, I met some really great people, reconnected with an old friend, and breathed a prayer of thanks for the mothers that were prepared and brought more than an air temperature 32 ounce water bottle for their toddlers at snack time.

(I thought I was doing pretty good to remember the water bottle.)

The more I am faced with these everyday challenges, the more I realize I have a lot to learn about what children need. (Uh, snack food, for starters.)

But more so, I think I need a little more calm to balance my firm hand. A gentle voice instead of an angry one. The patience to get down at face level and talk a situation through instead of immediately resorting to time out. Don’t get me wrong. All the latters have their time and place. I just need to figure out which and when.

Preferably before the twins turn two. Which means I have a long ways to go.

***

Do you have a preferred parenting tactic for toddlers? I’d love to hear it. Really. Truly. Comment away.

PS – In other small accomplishments, I figured out how to completely collapse the stroller, and then forgot again when I had to leave and ended up manhandling it only half folded into the back of the van. I think I also got manure on my shirt in the process, but I’m just chalking that one up to the hazards of mom’s group on a farm.