To the Tired Momma at Barnes and Noble

Dear tired Momma at Barnes and Noble,

I saw you today with your beautiful, spirited toddler. Your new babe, content in your arms. I see you weekly; you and I there, sharing weak smiles, sipping cold coffee, corralling rambunctious children. Occupying the same space, but not really knowing one another at all. We know one another’s children names, but alas, in this role we call motherhood we’ve become nameless, simply referred to as someone’s momma.

I told you how beautiful your baby was today. And then I asked you how were doing. I saw you, that look in your eyes, wondering if I was actually asking how you were and wanting a genuine answer (I was), or if you were supposed to just give the requisite “fine.”

In that half second you decided that this was a safe moment. That you could let it out. You told me you were exhausted (here, here, Momma!). You told me how jealous your toddler is of the new baby and you don’t know how to handle it; you feel like you’re failing while everyone else can handle two with ease. You told me how your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, and your first babe slept through the night at seven weeks. But she was formula fed, you tell me, and this baby you’re breast-feeding. I can tell your proud of this fact, but you continue: she was born tongue and lip-tied, and that was nothing but anguish. You had the surgeries done to her as the lactation consultant you saw for over a month advised you to do. It broke your heart, causing your baby pain; doing those stretches daily. But now that it’s done you feel you must be committed to breastfeeding or all that pain would have been for naught. But you confess that you secretly wish you could give her a bottle and put her on a schedule like you did your first. But you won’t, you say. You shift the baby to your shoulder as you tell me how you’ve been battling plugged ducts and you thought it was breast cancer and ran to your doctor in fear (been there!). And you told me once again how so, so, so tired you are.

Then you looked at the baby in my arms, playing peek-a-boo while he nursed, and told me I was so brave to feed him right there.  You glanced at my big kids reading books while your toddler ran about and said you had no idea how in the world I could be so put together and functioning with three kids (I will let you in on a secret: I’m not). You said you see moms everywhere with two kids who seem to be so much more collected than you; whose kids seem better managed and behaved. What would have ever possessed me to keep going after the chaos of two?

I smiled – and I hope it came off reassuring – and told you it was crazy town, and it took a lot of time for us to get here. I wasn’t ready for baby #3 after having #2 either (and it’s okay if you never want a #3). And I agreed that two is hard. Babies are exhausting. And I told you that you were doing an amazing job.

I meant it. I really did. So I hope you heard me when I told you that your were doing a great job with those two little girls.

But I left it at that. You didn’t need me to say anything more. I knew you needed that place to vent. You needed to be heard, your feelings and exhaustion validated. A woman, a mother, in the trenches. You needed someone else to acknowledge your existence in that moment, in that space, in that circumstance. And I wanted do that for you.

Because I’ve been there, too.

I’ve had two babies. I’ve been exhausted (and I’m exhausted now). But it does get…different.

I hate to say better because that implies that right now is bad, and we both know that right now is good. It’s hard, Momma. Its so, so hard. But it’s also good. Beautiful. And I know you know that. I know you don’t need me to tell you to take the moments in; cherish them. That it goes too fast. Because you know it. You’ve had a baby. You’ve seen her grow and become a lovely walking, talking person. You know this time is precious. But you also know that you’re not denying or devaluing that when you quietly confess the realities of it too. It’s exhausting. It can be isolating and one of the loneliest times of your life. I heard you, Momma. Those feelings are valid.

Your daily flow will get easier. You’ll learn to manage it with ease, I promise you. It will never be rejuvenating to run off little sleep; but some day your baby won’t balk at sleep and be so needy. Your toddler will embrace being a big sister and the jealousy will ease as she settles into her new role in your family now. Some day you will be so glad you had those two little girls so close together. Because they’re going to be best friends. And the things they say and do as they grow together and build their friendship, nurture and solidify their relationship, will make your heart so happy that these exhausting months will simply be dust you sweep under a rug and mostly forget about. Until maybe one day when you see a tired Momma and recall that season of your life.

Momma, you are put together. You are functioning. You’ve got this! Those little girls were so happy. They were in clean clothes (and so were you!). They knew and felt your love. They were in a bookstore. That speak volumes.

I know there are days where you feel so exhausted that your bones hurt. You wonder if it’s even safe for you to drive with your precious cargo you’re so tired, but you know that if you don’t, if you don’t get out of the house, that you might just break. So you do. You did. You made it to the bookstore. Anxious, tired, a little overwhelmed. But you made it.

These day are so, so long. But the years are so incredibly fast. You’re doing a good job, Momma. You’re doing a great job. I know you’re tired: this is one of the most exhausting rolls you’ll ever have in life But dear, sweet, tired Momma at Barnes and Noble, you’re doing an amazing job.

Milwaukee or Bust

We made a very quick trip to Milwaukee this past weekend. H and B’s Godparents’ oldest daughter was playing in the volleyball nationals up there; and since it’s only a mere five hour drive, we figured we’d give it a whirl to cheer her on!

It was a nice tester drive with Sweet M since we will be driving up to Niagara Falls in a little over a month; and that drive MUCH longer. But I think we will survive it. Somehow.

Anyway, we headed to Milwaukee around 5:30am, and got there shortly before 1pm. There was obviously a lot of stopping.

We met up with our friends at the Bradford Beach and H and B were in heaven: you read the word “beach” right? That’s all it takes for them, and then they’re in their zen place.

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The heat was scorching. The water was ice cold. H and B didn’t mind a lick. In and out, in and out, while we watched the games and caught up with their Godmother.

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Between the sun, the ungodly heat, the long drive, and of course, having been up since 4am, we were a wee bit more than exhausted by the time the day was over. We headed to our hotel – the Fairfield Inn – and showered everyone off before grabbing a quick bite to eat at some Mexican restaurant that – I kid you not – J chose because several reviews said how seedy it appeared from the outside.

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We often stay at Marriott properties when vacationing; they never seem to let me down with being kid friendly. And the kids are always happy because they have waffles in the morning. It’s really a win-win.

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The next morning we let the kids swim a bit at the hotel before heading out to grab some water and snacks before venturing back to the beach for more volleyball. The fog was unreal. As we were driving into downtown I was convinced for a bit that there was just a solid white wall up, but no, it was just some crazy intense fog.

The kids were starting to crash on the drive over, and instantly I recognized those all too familiar hangry signs and told J we had to feed them a proper lunch first – once they were playing in the heat they likely wouldn’t eat at all. A quick google search landed up as Safe House, a super cool spy restaurant that the kids were completely enthralled with! If you’re even in Milwaukee, seriously, check it out: with or without kids.

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Unfortunately, after watching only one game, the rest of the day was cancelled due to rain. So we said our good-byes and headed home, as J had a ton of homework left to get done for the weekend.

I’ll admit, the drive home was a bit more rocky in the beginning. It took us three hours to get from Milwaukee to Chicago between atrocious rainstorms and an unhappy Sweet M. But once I finally got M to sleep, it was smooth sailing (the big kids were all ready out by then).

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I really wish we had more time in Milwaukee – it’s definitely going on my list of places to vacation at some day. There seemed like a lot of really fun things to do, and it’s such a short drive.

And I really wish we’d had more time to visit with the kid’s Godmother. But alas, until next time!

5 Tips to Survive Road Trippin’ with Tiny Humans

We’ve taken more road trips with tiny humans than I care to recollect at times. Some of those road trips have been stellar. Others have been…well, let’s just not talk about those.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way to help insure more successes than fails. It’s not full proof though, because two out of three of my small people loathe the car; although the 6 year old has (mostly) outgrown the consistent screaming for the entire duration (and yes, we’ve taken multiple 24 hour road trips…), but it’s still pretty solid.

1.) Stop frequently.  We aim to stop every two hours with our kids. And now that we’ve got an infant again, we stop every hour. I know it sounds like a lot, and it is, but with frequent stops they get less antsy and it makes everyone happy. Plus, Sweet M hates the car like his sister. After 30 minutes of crying, we pull over. So that can even mean pulling over every 30 minutes for a few hours. But it’s better for everyone’s nerves.

2.) Make it special. Road trips are when I pull out the lollipops and movies. My kids don’t get much TV at home, unless it’s the middle of winter. And they get even less candy. So it’s a big deal for them, and can keep them happy for several, several hours. Sometimes we have to urge them out of the car at breaks, because they’d be willing to keep going! Find their currency; your kids’ might be different than mine. Maybe it’s a new Nintendo DS game, or new glitter crayons. Whatever it is, don’t question it. It’s worth your sanity.

3.) Help them understand the distance. My kids don’t fully grasp time yet. But they do know how long it takes to get to Target, the zoo, etc, or how long a Wild Kratts episode lasts. So we will often explain it’s like driving to the zoo and back home (2 hours) six times. So along the way, when she asks how much longer, I can answer, “We just need to drive back home, and then to the zoo and back two more times” or “Two more Wild Kratts episodes” and she can grasp that.

4.) Set yourself up for success. It may sound obvious, but seriously. It’s astounding how often I get overly ambitious and that gets me mentally depleted when things aren’t going smoothly. So instead, it’s far better to assume you’ll need more time, more wipes, more changes of clothes, more movies, more patience, and more potty breaks than you account for. Don’t go in with an expectation of knocking the whole trip out in a certain time because that will just stress you and your tiny humans out when the inevitable happens. I also split the big kids up so that they can’t antagonize one another as easily. I’m assuming when we have a 4th this will mean there will be baby in the back: likely more cumbersome for me, but I anticipate completely worth it. I also really like to think of things in absolute worst case scenario, such as: We are stranded 20 miles from a gas station with no cell service, a flat tire, and all the kids have explosive diarrhea. Then I mentally walk myself through how I’d handle that. After that, any little bumps that actually do occur, are no big deal. I know it could be worse, and that I could calmly handle worse.

5.) Enjoy it! J and I prefer driving at night when we are together and able. This typically means the kids are asleep and it gives us literally hours of unadulterated conversation with little to no interruptions, which we obviously don’t get much of at home these days. We also really enjoy finding fun, off the road little places to eat. Maybe you’d have fun visiting new parks during your breaks, making a pit stop at a zoo or museum. Whatever it is, remember that a fun drive to your destination and back home, really is a huge part of your trips entirety; you should enjoy it!

But really, just know that you can do it! I made my first 12 hour drive sans J when H and B were 22 months and 6 months old respectively. We survived well enough that I’ve been doing it ever since without much thought. It’s not always perfect or luxurious, but thus far, it’s always been worth it!

When Life Isn’t an Adventure

I’ve been so fortunate in the adult life of mine. One beautiful adventure after another.

But honestly, it’s not always a beautiful, exciting adventure. Don’t get me wrong; life itself is one helluva grand adventure, but sometimes the day to day stuff can become mundane.

I’m nomadic at heart. I thrive on constant change: one of the reasons I’m sure that I’m always painting something in my house, rearranging furniture, etc. I need change. Grandiose adventures.

I love being settles. Amazing husband. Check. Three beautiful babies. Check. Gorgeous house that is an ever ongoing project. Check. A day to day routine that we all find amenable and keeps us all comfortable. Check.

But I still love travel and adventure. I crave it deep in my soul, even though I know it’s not half as glamorous as I believe it to be in my head when I’m not in the throes of it. It doesn’t make me enjoy it any less though, knowing it won’t be quite as wonderful as I build it up to be. I know it’s a lot of work. Even before there were tiny humans to consider in travelling, it was still exhausting and required lots of prep.

And yet, that’s still what keeps me ticking some days. The knowledge of going somewhere at some point. The thrill of new.

But even during the seasons of life when we’ve been gone more than we’ve been home, the thrill of being gone would not exist if we didn’t have those moments of home.

The trust is, the every day ordinary of home is exquisitely beautiful and enjoyable, too. I sometimes take it for granted though.

Today I watched my 4 year old practice learning how to dive. He needs work still; but I got to watch him leave his comfort zone and truly be challenged, leaving his apprehensiveness at the door so that he could battle his fears of the deep end.

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Today my 6 year old put her leadership abilities to good use, passing out snacks and crafts at story time, and helping smaller kids with their crafts after completing her own masterpiece.

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Today I watched my 5 month old squeal in absolute delight as he tried green beans for the first time. Those big belly laughs were music to my ears.

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Today I read to my 4 year old for over half an hour, just him and me, while a friend held and loved on my baby so I could get that time in with him. He’s not going to be a 4 year old much longer.

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Today I nursed my ever-curious (read: way too nosey to eat around other people) 5 month old and held him on my chest for nearly two hours while his big siblings played quietly, feeling his rhythmic breathing in my arms like the melodious beat it is.

 

Today I watched my 6 year old proudly master the rules of silent e.

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Today I watched my 4  year old play the ukulele for his tiny brother; a beautiful moment of brotherly love.

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All these little things, little moments, are more beautiful than any grand adventure we have ever or could ever have.

It’s taken me 6 years of motherhood to slow down. 6 years to accept and embrace that life isn’t always an adventure, and really, it shouldn’t be.

It should be about these little moments. That look joy when he tries to dive for the first time. The baby milk-drunk sighs from the infant passed out on my chest. The opportunity to witness her in the role of helper. Watching my children bond and love one another is the most unprompted, organic of moments.

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It doesn’t mean I’m not looking my next escape from reality; that I’ll enjoy our next adventure any less. I don’t think the wanderlust inside of me, the spirited beast of “more,” can ever ben wholly abandoned; but here is a time and place for it, and for now, it must be hushed so I don’t miss out on the here and the now.

 

What You Need to Survive a Teething Baby

Miss H never really teethed. I mean, she got teeth, of course, but there was none of that inconsolable crying, drooling, fever, diarrhea, whatever. She was totally chill and then bam! I’d notice there was another tooth. That’s kind of how she does life though.

If we’re being honest, I don’t fully remember Mr. B getting teeth other than some molars coming in at 20 months when I was staying with my sister-in-law…and he cried every night while I paced back and forth in the bedroom with him. And he was a pretty drooly babe and everything went in his mouth. Okay, and J might have once said he’d happily get the little guy some dentures if we didn’t have to endure anymore teething. So it was probably a wee bit more helacious than my tired brain can recollect.

But M. Sweet M. Dear, lovely perfect M. Whooo boy!

He’s drooly. And clingy. And sad. And tired. And unable to sleep. And in pain.

I feel for him. I really do.

And he’s an overachiever, that kid of mine. Completely.

He’s getting not one tooth, not two teeth, but three teeth in a row on the bottom. Yep, you heard that right. My little 5-month-old is getting three teeth. They’ve been visible in that “right under the gum” way for over a week now. I can seem them; but they haven’t broken through the gums yet.

I wish they would. So much sweet relief.

But in the meantime, I’ve got survival tactics.

First, he wears an amber necklace.  The theory behind it is that the skin heats it up and it releases pain relieving oils onto the skin which helps with teething. I’m pretty sure science says it has to be heated to like 200 degrees F for it to release said oils. So who knows? But lots of people swear by them, and my older two both wore them until they were well over 3 years old. I figure if it doesn’t help, at least he looks pretty darn cute while he’s screaming in my face.

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I wear this really cute silicone necklace similar to this one for him to chew on whenever he so desires. And oh does he ever desire! I don’t typically ever wear jewelry outside of my earrings and wedding bands, so this adds a bit of flare to the tired, rumpled momma look. It’s a win-win for us both.

We recently purchased a toofeze teether and everyone is a fan. I love that I don’t have to stick it in the freezer for hours first, which I always inevitably forget to return to the freezer and thus do not have a teether when needed, and Sweet M loves that he can hold it and his tiny hand doesn’t get cold. And yes, of course he told me that. I told you, he’s an overachiever.

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I’m a pretty big fan of Hyland’s teething tablets, and M seems to like them too. Or he just loves that I’m putting something that has some semblance to food into his mouth and he thinks he’s big stuff. Either way, he gets super excited when he sees the bottle and eats them happily, and I think they really do help a bit.

I also would not survive this time without my trusty ergo. I’ve got a few too many baby carriers, but when the going gets tough, I always fall back to my ergo. Always, always, always. While Sweet M insists on not being out of Momma’s arms even while she pees – yep! – I can still get stuff accomplished while I hold him. Okay, I can only get some stuff accomplished because unless he’s asleep he feels like he’s being jaded if he’s in the carrier and not my actual arms, and then when he’s asleep I can’t really bend over and scrub the bathtub, so…I still stand by the ergo.

I’ve yet to find a bib I really love for drooly McGee over here (so if you have one you love, tell me about it!). He’s got a thick, short neck and is prone to heat rash. So the super cute bandana ones mostly seem to choke him and emit heat rash. And I’ve not brought myself to buy any generic regular ones…maybe I should. But really, a bib would be helpful right now. Until then, I’ll just use it as an excuse to play dress up with him a few times a day when his clothes are soaked.

Ear plugs. No joke. J gets some great ear plugs at work. I love my baby, and I totally sympathize with him, but I can sympathize even better when I’m rocking him around and his screams aren’t quite as piercing in my ears.

I’m also pretty keen on natural nipple butter by Earth Mama Angel Baby since he’s reverted to nursing like a newborn at night as a pain reliever.

If your baby loves soft things like Sweet M, then you cannot have enough bamboo blankets. My very favorite are Kickee Pants swaddling blankets. They’re so soft and Sweet M puts it right up to his cheek and will often drift to sleep. He insists on soft things by his cheek while he falls asleep. Somehow we only have two though, so when they are inevitably in the wash or misplaced, we use an Aden and Anais muslin blanket because that’s what we have on hand. Though they make some bamboo ones, as well as silky ones that I’m dying to get my hands on because I imagine sweet M would love those too, and I foresee blankets being a thing for him for many, many years.

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Sweet M also loves this Under the Nile dolly for chewing on. But ours has been MIA for the past two days, so things have been a bit harry around here. Actually, even if your babe isn’t teething, they probably need this dolly. It’s M’s favorite thing ever.

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And I admit, it’s not very green hippy of me, but when the going gets tough I break out the acetaminophen. Okay, okay, I had to go buy it first and then I called the pediatrician four times to confirm that it really, truly would not damage his liver if I gave it to him. But the little dude just needed some relief.

And let’s just be honest, even with all of that, teething just sucks. But at least we’ve found ways to cope. And I hope to remember this for the next baby. Actually, I hope to block out how terrible teething is so that I still desire a next baby.

 

Ellery Jane Boutique

When Sweet M was born I vowed that I would not resign myself to your typical baby boy clothes.

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I’m not a huge fan of the most traditional clothes that baby boys are dressed in: sports, big trucks, puppy dogs.

I like fun things: dinosaurs, robots, wild animals, feathers and arrows, and tiny-man clothes. I’m a lover of all colors, but candy shoppe colors really do it for me (you should see the walls in my house!).

So when I came across Ellery Jane Boutique, it’s no surprise it was love at first sight.

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We are mega legging lovers over here. They’re cute, simple, and versatile. They fit the skinniest of babes and kids (and mommas!) as well as the chunkulicious ones without a hitch. Plus, I don’t have to switch the size my baby can fit in if we are travelling and not using a cloth diaper, which is always a good bonus.

When Mr. B was a babe I always had to buy his leggings from the “girl” section. Boys just didn’t wear leggings. But even now he prefers leggings for the functionality and comfortability over jeans any day. Now, however, it’s slowly getting easier to find “boy” leggings.

Ellery Jane Boutique makes adorable, custom,  handmade clothes for both girls and boys. Her dresses and ruffle pants are to die for. But what caught my heart were her organic animal leggings – elephants, bears, deer, oh my! And they come in beautiful, fun colors!

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Sweet M is the proud owner of elephant leggings in pool blue (the entryway in my house is nearly the exact same color!). I was crushing hard on them. The second they arrived in the mail I couldn’t get them on him fast enough to see how adorable they were on!

The leggings are fantastically handmade. You can tell it’s a labor of love for sure. The material is durable and soft, perfect for a baby M who will be wearing these while learning how to crawl!

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M is solidly in 6-12 months clothing at 18lbs and 27″ long, so I went with 12 months sized leggings to be safe. They are a wee bit long, but they cuff perfectly, which actually works to my benefit because he will get extra long use out of them.

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And I super love that they’re made out of organic material. There is nothing better than feeling good about the material I’m putting on my baby.

So if you’re shopping for some new duds for your little man (or lady!), or in the market for a baby gift, Ellery Jane Boutique has you covered. Sweet M is definitely a fan!

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Why I Will Always Make You Food After Having a Baby

When I had H, I was two months shy of turning 22. Most of my friends were preparing for their last finals as undergrad students (I had graduated the semester before). Needless to say, I was the first to do the whole baby thing.

I hadn’t yet acquired “mom friends” and didn’t really have any family around, so it was just J and I figuring out the whole baby, sleep deprivation, survival thing on our own.

At least one baby, even our high-needs, vivacious, colicky, don’t-sleep-til-Brooklyn first born, in hindsight, is easier than when you’re on #3. Of course, by the time you have three, you’ve been around the block a few times and have a solid groove going on, so it’s easier in some ways, too.

But the one things that is always, always, always helpful, whether it is baby #1  or #19, is food.

I will forever go out of my way to bring food to a momma who has just had a babe; whether it’s a close friend or someone I barely know through the grapevine, because I know how so extremely helpful it is.

With H and B, I had no food deliveries outside of what I ordered in (and we aren’t going to discuss how much carry out we ate during those days, ha). We fended for ourselves and we survived. We didn’t even know that there is a world where people bring others food after they’ve had a baby, ha.

But by the time we had M, it was a game changer. The half dozen or so meals that friends brought us was quite nearly life changing.

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but seriously. When you’ve got a new babe and two other kiddos, not having to think about dinner when you’ve survived the whole day solo is a Godsend.

At this point, I will make people food for nearly any occasion: new baby, broken bone, illness, bad day; it doesn’t matter. Who doesn’t enjoy a night off from cooking, but still eating a yummy home cooked meal? I aim to make half a dozen pans of enchiladas a month to deliver to friends, because hey – who doesn’t want them!?

When you have a baby, everything is so time consuming. You’re racing against the clock in between naps and breastfeeding and playing with big kids that it can be hard to even squeeze in a shower some days, so obviously meal prep can seem unobtainable at times.

Whether you’re a parent or not, if you know someone who has a new baby, make them a meal. If you don’t live nearby, or simply don’t enjoy cooking, order them their favorite carry-out, delivered straight to their door.

Seriously, the #1 thing you can do for any parents, no matter what number baby they are on, is provide them with food. They will appreciate that more than anything else; I guarantee it.

I Tried not to Blink, but I Did

Motherhood is a tricky sport.

The days are long, so long. You spend your time wiping butts, cleaning up spilled milk, driving aimlessly for hours while the toddler naps, rocking the teething baby in the wee hours of the night, doing laundry, and then more laundry, and then some more laundry. The to-do list never gets shorter; it simply seems to grow exponentially with each tick of the clock.

And then somewhere in it all you blinked, and your tiny little, chunkalicious pickle; the child who first made you Momma, is this gangly, beautiful girl; a person you can’t really call “little” anymore, though she’s only 6.

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I tried so hard not to blink. I really, truly did. I told myself I wouldn’t. I knew that my time was precious and it would be so fast. And I know that I still have 12 more years before she’s an adult; but I’m 1/3 of the way done raising her. Because I’m a daughter, too, I know she’ll flee the nest, a bundle of independence and self-reliance, a brilliant lady that I have had some hand in – only time will tell if she’s amazing because of or in spite of. But I’m really hoping for the former.

I know I can’t take all the credit. So very much of it is nature, even though some days I wish I could take credit for it being nurture.

But then some days I’m all too happy to blame it all on nature, because she’s a pickle for a reason.

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I can’t tell you exactly when this very attached little girl became so independent. I don’t know the day, the time, the moment. I just know everyone told me she’d be dependent on me forever if I carried her all the time, nursed her until she self-weaned, let her co-sleep as long as she wanted, didn’t force her off to preschool, or elementary school.

And yet I held her close. So, so very close. And all ready she is so far some days.

So lovely and beautiful, but more importantly so vivacious and inquisitive and driven and powerful.

No other person drives me quite as crazy as Miss H. But no other person reminds me so much of myself, only so, so much better (thankfully!). I see in her all of my faults, but I also see in her all of my beauty. And even more so, I see all of her beauty and person, and you guys, there aren’t words.

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I have moments where I have to stop and ask God what in the world He was thinking, granting me with this dear girl. How could He be so certain that I would have enough patience and love to help shepherd her tenacious spirit? How did He know I’d have to delve deep into myself to become the calm, mindful momma she would need? Or what that just part of the plan? Was that the reason she’s mine?

That child has all ready moved mountains. I cannot imagine what the rest of her life will bring. But I do know that I am incredibly thankful to have a front row ticket to it all.

I blinked. I tried so hard not to, but I did. And she’s practically a little lady.

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Parenting with “It” (aka Anxiety)

I’ve written this post so many times in my head.

But putting the words down in print is a whole new ball park.

It’ so much bigger. So much more.

So much more real.

When I was kid I was often told that I had an overactive imagination. That I was dramatic.

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I took it at face value and assumed that those were bad things, which in turn made me assume that I must be bad somehow, which of course only fueled the fire roaring deep within me that I’ve only recently been able to name: anxiety.

If my mom was running five minutes late getting home from work, picking me up from a friends house or an afterschool activity, she was, no doubt, face down in a ditch after a horrific car accident taking her last few breaths before forever leaving me an orphan.

You may chuckle; I can roll my eyes at it now. But those feelings were very real for me. Until I actually saw my mom again, there was no convincing me otherwise. I just knew this was the only possibility.

And thus went so much of my childhood.

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As I entered college and adulthood I had a pretty good grasp on it. I was able to chalk it up to overactive imagination and learned to not watch shows like “Criminal Minds” if I was going to be spending my night solo. Basically, I learned how to cope with it, grasping at strings, because I didn’t realize it was an it that needed to be coped with; that there was actually healthy ways of learning to manage it.

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I had anxiety, I’d have said no without even questioning it.

But I’ve been around the block a few times since then.

I had a lot of anxiety while pregnant with M.

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Every day that J walked out our front door, I felt sick to my stomach. I knew for sure it was the last time I’d see him. When I’d kiss him goodbye as he left for a work trip, I’d linger, wondering if this was in fact the very last time I’d ever touch him, taste him, smell him, see him. Was I saying goodbye? It seemed likely.

I spent most of my pregnancy unable to shake the feeling that my perfectly healthy little M would not survive.

I know. I know. If you’ve never experienced anxiety you’re thinking, “that’s batshit crazy!” I get it. Because even in those moments, those moments of panic and worry; I knew it wasn’t rational either. It’s all I had to hold onto sometimes.

The turning point was the first day I picked Mr. B up from preschool after M was born.

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I had all three babes in their seats, driving the same 7 minute drive I’ve driven hundreds of time, when I was overcome by unrelenting dread. My heart was racing, I felt hot and clammy, and all I could think of was if our car were to hit a slick spot in the road and run off of a bridge into a raging river, I’d never be able to save all three of them. It was not raining, nor is there any river, let alone a raging river, anywhere I typically drive. Most especially not on the short drive home.

It felt so real though as I raced through the scenario in my mind. I could let H swim by herself. She was the best swimmer of the kids; she stood a chance. But if it was a raging river, she didn’t stand a very good chance. And how could I ever forgive myself for letting her fend for herself because she stood the best chance, if she didn’t actually make it?

And the boys. M didn’t stand a chance; a tiny new babe. He might not even make it to the surface. And B is so squirrely he might drown me while I tried to save him. And who are we kidding? I’m not even a very good swimmer, the boys probably wouldn’t make it at all.

And thus it spiraled until I pulled over, certain I was having a heart attack.

You guys, that was one of the most surreal, terrifying moments of my life. And the whole time I just kept telling myself it was completely ridiculous and irrational. But it wasn’t helping.

J psychoanalyzed me through it later which was insightful, but wasn’t a cure for it. The anxiety.

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I’ve not had a moment like that since, thankfully.

I’d be a liar if I said it was all miraculously gone, but it has gotten significantly better since I’ve been able to put a name on it and do a lot of research.

I like to think that I won’t have bouts of anxiety my whole life, but I probably will. The good part is that I’ve had large chunks of my life where it’s been nearly nonexistent, or at least manifested itself in more helpful ways (we eat a significantly better diet than most of America thanks to it, ha!).

The truth is, I will probably always be a little hyper vigilant about doing things “right,” especially parenting, because I can’t get past the anxiety of the “what ifs” if I screw it up, even in small ways. It doesn’t mean I actually do it right, but it is definitely why it seemed crazy important that we create a beautiful nursery three times over for babies who never actually spent a night in said nurseries.

It plays a role in why I strive every day to know better, to be better, to do better.

I can’t make the anxiety disappear, but I can do my best to cultivate it for good. I can find healthy ways of living with it and dealing with it. I can be in control of it instead of allowing it to control me.

Everyday I am learning more about these sweet babes God entrusted with me. I’m learning so much more about me and the little fires that make me me. I’m learning about parenting my children with all of our quirks, with inevitable bumps along the way.

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But from the view I have of these three kidlets, I’m pretty certain that despite my anxiety, these babies are going to be straight up masterpieces. So I’ll take it; imperfections and all.

Meeting Everyone’s Needs

A good momma friend with one lovely babe asked me recently, “How do you meet all of their needs? Some days I feel like I’m failing to meet the needs of just one!”

First and foremost, there is not such thing as “just” one. Things are certainly different, perhaps a bit more chaotic, than when we had only one babe; but I was definitely winning and failing just as much now as we were then. Just in different ways. So whether you’ve got one kiddo or 12, you’re still just as deeply in this as the rest of us.

But how do we meet the needs of three kids daily?

Well, some days we don’t.

Most days we do though.

Sometimes, oftentimes, we have to put ourselves aside. I feel quite strongly about self-care, but I also know that this season of life is so terribly short, so many times I just don’t get to come first. Some days I have to run off of fumes and one measly square of dark chocolate and delicious wafts of my husband’s coffee (thanks, Sweet M, for not loving caffeine as much as Momma does).

We’ve rearranged our lives for this current season (the parents of three children, one a young infant), to best meet everyone’s needs. We decided early on that working out would not be a priority until M is at least 6 months old. I feel much better when I exercise each morning, but M and his siblings feel even better when they get adequate rest and snuggles (and they wake if Momma gets up).

We made budget cuts and changes to allot for a housecleaner. It sounds really luxurious, but when you’ve got control issues like I do, it’s super helpful, but slightly stressful. But this is what we need right now so that we can spend more time focusing on our babes, on our marriage, on ourselves, as opposed to cleaning toilets. The time will come around soon enough when we’ll be back at it ourselves, but for now, this is it.

Meeting the needs of three kids means some mornings I accept being Groot for my four-year-old and spend over an hour saying nothing but “I am Groot” no matter what is going on. Actually, this is pretty entertaining for me. I accept this role as often as possible.

It means spending longer at the Farmer’s Market in the hot sun than I personally want in order to let them play music for the second time.

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It means that when I am super looking forward to a solo grocery shopping trip, I am the one who sucks it up and realizes that B really needs some special Papa time and change my plans to accord for taking M and H with me so that J and B can go to the Wonderlab for two hours.  And then when we come home I have to tweak our media rule so that B can play quietly for an hour while I nurse and love on a teething M and J appeases H by making a very fancy dinner with her that she chose all the ingredients for while we were shopping.

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It means dressing up in the fancy clothes my daughter chose for me even though I’m exhausted and haven’t showered in two days because she insists on it in order to eat the delightful meal she and her papa prepared.

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It means reading an extra super hero book to B at bedtime, and taking a deep breath and telling my tantruming six-year-old that I really need a hug and to cuddle when all I want to do is flee downstairs and mentally check-out for the night.

It means sleeping (well, laying mostly awake during night hours) with a baby on my chest for most of the night and loving on him while he fusses through sleep because of those dang teeth ripping his gum tissue as they push their way to emerge above his flesh.

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Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean J and I are chopped liver who never get our own needs met. As I said, self-care is really important to me.

It just means that sometimes we don’t. And we have to be okay with that in this season.

And sometimes our babes don’t get their cups filled either.

Some nights, I admit, I’m not as loving as I should be. I don’t make allowances for extra books and stick with our two book rule because I just have nothing left to offer in that moment. I know I’m hanging by a thread and that my need for some solo quiet time is greater in that moment than my child’s need for an extra book (welcome to parenting as an introvert!). Some nights, most nights, it’s reversed, but it’s okay that some nights it is this way, too.

Sometimes I am not half as patient with my feisty, vivacious daughter as I wish I were. When she is crying at me for the umpteenth time because her swimsuit is the wrong color or she’s misplaced her favorite hair bow or the pencil isn’t sharp enough or the bandaid is crooked or, or, or…yeah. Some days I just sigh and walk away until I can collect myself to be the loving, patient momma she needs. And sometimes, not often, but sometimes, as much as I dislike it, I can’t be the momma she needs at all. And I really hate that. But it is what it is.

So how do I meet the needs of three kids? I don’t. I do. I try.