Monday, January 30, 2017

To the Mama of Early Risers

Good morning, mama.

You double-check the video monitor to be sure, but no, your ears are not deceiving you. They're awake.

Brother is awake.  Sister is awake.  Baby is awake.

Everyone but you.  You stretch and roll over - can't you catch just a few minutes more of sleep, please? - but you know that it is futile.  The time on the clock reads an hour that you rarely saw before kids, but is now your new normal.  You were hoping that maaaybe today they'd forget to wake up for another hour or so.  It's been so long since you've had a full night's sleep, much less woken up on your own.  Most of your daydreams now revolve around a night in a hotel.  ALONE.  Clean sheets, fluffy pillows, and quiet.

It's hard.  You're so tired.  Your body is sore and ache-y from never getting a proper amount of uninterrupted rest.  Your cloudy mind tries to mentally prepare for what should be the simplest of tasks: throw back the covers, roll out of bed.

Why is your bed always it's coziest at six in the morning?

Sometimes it seems so unfair.  The fact that your kids,  yes, all of them, wake up so early.  Earlier than any of your friend's kids.  They don't quite understand.  Just the other day one of your good friends complained about their baby waking up "sooo early".  Which was at 6:45.  That day, like many days, you'd been awake since 5:30.  You managed not to punch her.  You are a Christian, after all.

This is maybe the toughest thing you will ever do.  Looking at the long stretch of another day at this early morning hour.  Talking yourself into getting out of bed in the morning can be quite the mental chore.   On your worst days, you start the countdown until 5:00 - daddy's home! - before 8:00 am.

It might not be fair, but it is your reality, so you do throw those covers back.  Contacts in, a splash of water on your face.  Do you have enough time for a whole shower?  Or maybe it's another dry-shampoo-will-do kind of day.  Dab of makeup.  Exchange your nighttime pajamas for what is basically a daytime set.  Thank goodness for leggings.  At least athleisure is a thing now.

Small blessing that this morning there were no potty emergencies or tantrums that demanded your attention before you were even awake.  No pressing needs.  But that's just the thing, isn't it?  How much they NEED you right now.  So many little, little ones.  Too many, it sometimes seems.  Who need you for ALL the things.  To get their food, change their clothes, wipe their bottoms, plan their activities, clean up their messes.  It's exhausting.  Especially when, most nights, you're still up with the baby a couple of times.  Maybe a toddler a time or two, with a nightmare or help on the potty.  You know this is important work, you do.  You're just not so sure that the people telling you to "enjoy it because it all goes so fast!" remember what a luxury their very own quiet bedrooms at 6 am are.

And yet.

This is a season.  I mean, it remains to be proven, but you do hear that these little ones grow up.  They start to fend for themselves more and more.  They don't need so much help on the potty.  They can pour their own bowls of cereal.  Even better: maybe you can train them to make your coffee.   Maybe - miracle of miracles - they start to sleep in a little bit. You're not sure that you'll ever mourn the passing of these early mornings, that can't come soon enough.  But their littleness?  That you will miss.  A snuggly baby.  Toddlers still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, blankie trailing behind, and a sleepy, "hi mommy!". Footie pajamas...what screams "baby" more than that?!?  Yes, you will definitely miss the footie pajamas.

But that day is not today.  Today still requires you to focus, to be present, to do all of the things.  You're still quite surrounded by toy blocks, sticky fingerprints, and, yes, footie pajamas.  

A pause at the door, a breath.  It's the beginning of the day, so (in theory, at least) your reserves of patience, gentleness, and kindness should all be full.  You wing up a quick prayer - HELP will suffice - and move forward to greet your little ones for the day.

And hey, maybe it's not too soon to train them in on how to prep that coffee.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything, watching comedy and documentary-type things, and have wholeheartedly embrace the podcast.  I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening.  Here's my two cents worth.


Present Over Perfect
I am a definite Shauna Niequist fan, and this latest work was another beautiful read.  She has such a gift for storytelling and stringing words together.  It should be obvious from the title, but Present Over Perfect emphasizes a turn away from the rush and the spotlight and towards what's actually important; family, friends, home.  Choosing where and what we say yes to.  However, I do have to say that as an average mom with a messy playroom and an abundance of sticky fingerprints and not all that many engagements to keep in the first place, it was a bit hard to relate to.  I still love her storytelling, but I just can't relate to saying "no" to such big opportunities in life that she is experiencing (i.e. speaking engagements, interviews, books etc.).  I still appreciate her perspective, but it definitely wasn't relatable for me from that standpoint.

Simply Tuesday
This made a bit more sense to me.  Emily P. Freeman's idea that it's in our "Tuesday moments" - Tuesday being the most ordinary day of the week - that we can really thrive and find ourselves.  So much of our life is made up of the Tuesdays, not the big grand sweeping moments that we might like or think it to be.  I loved her perspective about being a bench sitter, someone who embraces the small moments  and marks them as something important.  This book was a breath of life, especially for someone in a season of raising very small children.  Also check out her hashtag #itssimplytuesday on Instagram for some lovely, ordinary, inspiration.

The Life Giving Home
Okay, I guess my books had a theme this month.  Being present, embracing small moments, the importance of the home, etc.  I've been listening to Sally Clarkson's podcast for awhile, and was excited to finally dive into one of her books (which was co-written with her oldest daughter).  She and I have a lot of the same opinions on the correlation between home life and the health of our families, and the importance of rituals and routines to mark our seasons and our days.  I love her idea of daily teatimes.  Her book is full of inspiration (she is definitely an idealist, which helps this self-proclaimed realist to dream a little bigger) and practical stories and ideas on how she breathed life into her own home.  From listening to her podcast and some other interviews, many of the stories were familiar to me, but reading the book was a good reminder and nudge at the beginning of the year to keep up and create some rituals of my own.


Top Chef
Tyson and I are diehards.  We love it.  We catch up with each week's episode and Last Chance Kitchen online.  This season, half of the competitors are repeats (or "veterans" as they call them) so if you've watched previous seasons, you'll recognize some familiar faces.  There's been some decent drama this season, too, though not in a dumb way, that have made a few of the episodes even more fun to watch.


The Axe Files
My political-minded cousin recommended this one to me and I can't get enough.  David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to President Obama, interviews people in the political sphere from both sides of the party lines.  Even when he interviews someone that I disagree with (I'm looking at you, Sean Spicer) I come away with a greater understanding of who they are and where they are coming from.  If you're scratching your head and feeling despair over the last election (#allthewailingandgnashingofteeth), I strongly recommend listening to Axelrod's well-reasoned, articulate, intelligent conversations.  Start with his post-election chat with Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Or his interview with President Barack Obama...but you just might need some tissues for that one.  (Side note: also has the classiest intro music I've ever heard for a podcast.)

Friday, January 13, 2017


No longer a twenty-something.

I'm not sure what I think about that.  I've been a twenty-something for so long - it feels like about a decade, amiright? - that it's weird to be in a new place.  Like it or not, age is a part of our identity.  We don't really remember our youngest years, though every birthday is a thrill then, until we hit double digits, which is it's own form of excitement.  Pre-teen segues into teenager and then we hit our twenties and it seems to slow down a bit and we stay there awhile.  There are so many milestone birthdays all piled on top of one another 1-10!  13! 16! 18! 20 and 21!  But this is the first *big* birthday in-what? Five years?  Nearly ten?

I want to say it feels different, but it really doesn't.  I mean, I'm pretty convinced that I've been sitting at twenty-five for the past few years so anyway, so thirty doesn't even seem possible.  But here I am.  And when I stop to actually think about twenty-five?  It seems like eternity ago.

Thirty is definitely NOT twenty-something.

Twenty was college and classes and friends and parties and roommates and projects and papers and deadlines.  At my twentieth birthday, I hadn't even met Tyson yet (though that was just a few months away).  I wasn't looking to meet anyone and I had halfway convinced myself that I would move somewhere out east after graduation in a couple of years.  I wasn't officially in my university's interior design program yet.  At twenty, I hadn't even met most of my core group of friends in college.  I wasn't writing as much as I do now and I hadn't realized how much I enjoy food and the process of cooking, which are things that seem so integral to my life right now.  I probably did still drank the same amount of coffee, though.  Pulling all-nighters hasn't really changed.  It's just that now it's with a baby instead of a design project (although really, both of those things are kind of my babies).  Otherwise, thirty looks absolutely nothing like twenty.  Twenty was very different.

Twenty-five.  At twenty-five, Tyson and I had been married for a little over a year.  I was working my first interior design job as a closet designer, though I didn't yet know that it wasn't going to last but a few more months.  We had moved the previous fall to a new apartment in Madison, but we didn't really know how much longer Tyson had left in school, much less what our next steps would be.  We certainly didn't anticipate having twins in another couple of years, or adding a third baby to the mix almost exactly two years to the day after that.  Twenty-five was still so fluid.  So many unknowns.

Now thirty.

Thirty is settled.  It's an interesting switch, since my life at forty will probably look very similar to life at thirty.  Of course I realize that anything can happen.  There will be hard things and happy things and new life and losses along the way, sure.  But it's incredibly likely that we'll be in the same house, with the same kids, albeit a decade older (even if kids in their double-digits seems absolutely unfathomable now).  We'll (hopefully) have many of the same friends.  Thirty is more determined, and life is settling into a pattern that was absolutely unimaginable five years ago, ten years ago.  Heck, even two years ago.

It's almost like this is my first "grown-up" birthday.  In many ways there are fewer unknowns.  Most of the big questions in life have been more or less settled: marriage, kids, house.  There's not the "where will I even be what will life look like" questions that there were at twenty, or twenty-five.  My kids will have memories of me in my thirties.  They'll start to make memories and form attachments to our traditions, our values, our family life, during this decade.  Heck, I remember my mom wearing a faded pink sweatshirt around the house, emblazoned with the words "thirtysomething" printed in teal.  For all I know she wore it into her forties.

In fact, I should ask her if she still has it, tucked away in a drawer somewhere.  I could use it for about the next decade.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

These Are the Days

I lay snuggled up in bed last night, propped up on pillows as I finished Emily P. Freeman's Simply Tuesday.  Towards the end she talked about writing down in her journal "these are the days of..." and listed what was going on in her life.  I immediately set her book (well, my tablet) aside, grabbed my journal, and started scribbling.

These are the days of:
  • (too) early mornings with (too) early risers
  • leggings and comfy shirts
  • Cheerios for breakfast
  • ...found later scattered on the floor and tucked into folds of clothing
  • not enough coffee (at least of the hot variety)
  • knowing all the words to the songs in Daniel Tiger and Super Why
  • living in danger of being loved to death by a big brother and sister
  • wiping too many bottoms
  • being bundled in a dinosaur coat and a polka dot one
  • three in the Target cart
  • picking up too many toys
  • savoring the quiet of naptime (blessed naptime)
  • resenting the apperance of a too-short napper
  • the infectious excitement of a baby when I walk into the room
  • lazy (as much as possible) afternoons

  • Frozen sing-alongs
  • negotiating the battlefield of two toddlers and a baby playing with the same toy
  • counting down to the 5 o'clock hour
  • everyone around the table
  • a couple of kids who are constantly being told to "sit down at the table"
  • post-dinner games of memory
  • everyone in the tub
  • early bedtimes
  • picking up too many toys again
  • snatched moments of "me" time 
  • snatched moments of "us" time
  • collapsing into a comfortable, fluffy, never-made-because-why-bother bed
  • night wakings
  • a pep talk the next morning to motivate myself to go at it for another day

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Year of Creativity


That is my word for this year: 2017.

It's a new thing for me, to choose a word, a theme, for the year.  I've never been much of a resolutions girl or even a writing-down-my-goals girl.  Resolutions have always seemed a little, I don't know, forced? overly hopeful? just plain cheesy? to me.

But a word?  A word I can do.

For Christmas, Tyson gifted me "The Year of Creativity", put on by the ladies of the Coffee + Crumbs blog.  It's essentially a year long class, prompting (or maybe at times forcing) the act of writing and cultivating creativity.  He knew I wanted to participate, but that it was something I would never gift myself.  (Shout-out to the hubby: you're a keeper!)  This gift, this year of creativity, is what inspired my word this year, and to even bother to choose one in the first place.


And I mean create in the fullest sense of the word - to create with my writing, certainly - but also in other ways as well.  To create areas of my home that are cozy and inviting and welcoming, areas that have been somewhat neglected since the chaos of moving and then Tyson being gone and surviving our year of #threeunderthree.  To create food, good food.  I mean, I love me some food.  And I love the making of food.  The entire baking and cooking process is so interesting and therapeutic and, yes, creative, for me.  And to create a peaceful, not frantic, schedule for our family so we can soak up these "little" years.  

This isn't a post with a pretty picture.  I don't have such free reign to create during the "pretty" hours - the sunlight streaming in and a clear, well-rested head with a mason jar of fresh-cut flowers nearby and everything arranged just "so".  That's not how this stage of life works right now.

Much of this creativity is happening in the after-hours, the fringe hours of my day.  It's dark, shadowy even.  Blurry.  It doesn't photograph well.  But this is where my creativity is happening.  This is where you will find me for much of this coming year.  

Kitchen table.  Dark.  Tea.  Or maybe a glass of wine.  Pen.  Journal.  On a good day something sweet will be nearby.  Quiet, above all else.

Tonight, I've actually created several things.  I've created a clean home (i.e picked up 1029 toys).  I even created perfect scenes in the twins' dollhouse as I re-arranged the jumble of furniture for the night (#interiordesigner4life).  I finished creating invitations for the kids' birthday party and sent them off to the printer.  And now I've created this.

The year of creativity has begun.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

It's Not Always Like This

As I left the store this morning, my cart loaded down with three kids and eight bags of groceries, another mama was just entering the store.  Two kids in tow herself, a boy and a girl who looked very close in age.  They must have been 3 and 4?  4 and 5?  Or maybe even twins.

They were NOT having it.  Tears on the verge of tantrums for both.  She grabbed a cart, saying, "we've only been in the store for 30 seconds, guys!", with a little smile.  The kind of smile that says, "this is funny except that it's NOT AT ALL funny because now I need to deal with it".

I was able to give her a quick smile of my own, along with a "good luck", as I walked out the door myself.

We probably looked pretty good to her, done with our shopping, myself with three kids younger even than her two, all in good moods and happily munching on the bananas that were their rewards for good behavior in the store.

I only had time for that "good luck", but what I wanted to tell her was "it's not always like this!".

My three are usually well-behaved in public.  But not always.  Like last week.  Let's just say that last week they didn't earn their bananas for good behavior in the store.

Today was a good day, happy chatter as we walked through the store, minimal reaching for things on the shelves.  Some friendly words for the cashier and a cheerful "thank you!" to the giver of the free bananas.  

We came home and Caden and Brooklyn even helped unload the groceries - and I mean they were ACTUALLY helpful with putting things in the right places and handing me items from the bags that needed to be put away where they couldn't reach.  (This is an immense improvement over their previous practice of taking everything out of all the bags and leaving it all on the kitchen floor as a sort of grocery minefield for me to pick up.)

They went off and played with their own toy kitchen, still fresh from Christmas, and played their own version of pretend grocery shopping and putting the things away.

But it's not always like this.

Solidarity, mama.  I'll take what we had today.  Call it luck, or a little Tuesday morning blessing.  I could just as easily be you tomorrow.