22 Minutes and 10 Ways I’m Surviving Motherhood

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 22 minutes. In 22 minutes, you can shower (no hair washing–that’s no longer a daily priority), get dressed and possibly even put on make-up. You can journal, read your Bible and contemplate the life and words of Jesus. You can clean the kitchen and maybe even sweep the dried up cheese and peas off the floor. You can (nearly) do a Jillian Michaels workout video. Or you can steep a cup of Bengal Spice tea, breathe in cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves  and sit down at your computer. Like I’m doing right now.

Why 22 minutes? You’ve probably already guessed. Only the best survival tool of motherhood: T.V.

With three children four and under, most days I feel like I’m operating in survival mode. Many days my husband and I grab each other by the shoulders in the kitchen, give those shoulders a shake, look one another square in the eye and proclaim: “You can do this. WE can do this.” Sometimes we even high-five. Lest I one day re-read this after gazing at pictures of my adorable children and wonder what the big deal was, let me explain.

My son never sleeps past 5:15 AM. Ever. (And YES, we bought the clock that turns green when it’s 6 AM–but we haven’t found a clock that forces your child back to sleep until they are supposed to wake up.) We wake up to variations of stomping down the hallway, our door squeaking, followed by, “Can I wake up now?” or yelling from down the hallway: “CAN SOMEBODY WIPE MY BOTTOM!?” Some mornings we have cuddles on the couch, but most days there is much shrieking, yelling, fighting and crying as my husband gets cheerios and raisins and situates the kids in front of the T.V. while he grinds the beans and makes us his home-roasted French press coffee (yes, we are coffee snobs–simple pleasures, my friends).

Every.single.event. is a battle. Who knew I would practically cry or throw my own tantrum every day over trying to get another human being to perform basic hygiene or reasonable habits? Brushing teeth, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, putting on shoes and socks and simply eating food are now events I need to mentally prepare for or else I will have a break down.

Mealtime with small children is the worst. Why do we bother giving them plates? The food spends more time on the table than on the plates and most days my son says “YUCK” after I’ve spent an hour cooking. And the crumbs. There are always–always–crumbs. Not to mention food smears, hidden “delights” and sticky railings. I smash cheerios into our cheerio-colored carpet on a daily basis. My son’s room has no pictures left on the walls (he pulled them all off and broke them), has crayon on the wall, a make-up stain on the carpet (from when they “borrowed” my foundation) and chunks out of the paint on the wall from when the glider chair became a carnival ride.

My children have very bad snot-management. It’s exactly as you imagine–and probably worse. I spend more time at the doctor’s office than I do with my closest friends.

Yes, they are cute and funny and say things like “tormado” for tornado, “nummy” for yummy and “bo-manna” for banana. There is love and laughter and hilarity in a way that I have never experienced before. Yes. But, mama who is in this boat with me–we know this is HARD. Here are some ways I am surviving–and even (in very small increments) thriving.

1. Monday Rituals.

My children take ONE bath a week (unless they are so visibly dirty that I’ll be embarrassed to take them anywhere). I am not usually a ritual-type of person, but this is saving me. On Mondays, we stay home. I put a load of laundry in, make an extra cup of coffee and herd the crew into the bathroom. I grab a book and attempt to read for as long as the baby stays happy flat on his back on the bathroom rug. Now that he’s five months old, I bathe him in the tub with other two. He splashes like it’s his job and the other two shriek and beg me to take him out. After this, we all put on “comfy clothes” and pull out their activity boxes and trays downstairs to do some simple non-pinteresty craft like gluing pasta or cotton balls onto construction paper.

 

2. The Children’s Museum.

We drive an hour to the Denver Children’s Museum nearly every week. It sounds crazy and like a waste of time, but I’ve discovered that this is the only way I can legally strap my children down for an hour while I listen to podcasts. At first I wondered about the morality of taking my children to a place where there were few rules and every part revolved around them. Then I discovered the freedom: Wait. A place I could take my children where I don’t have to tell them: “No!” “Don’t!” or “Stop that!” for an entire morning? Brilliant. This is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving–if you have a Children’s Museum anywhere within 60 miles of where you live, ASK FOR THIS FOR CHRISTMAS.

3. Exercise.

Fortunately, my husband doesn’t need to be at work until 9 am, so this is more feasible for us, but running for thirty minutes every-other day at 7 AM keeps me sane. I’m alone, outside and moving my body. But on snowy days, work-out videos on YouTube have also been a saving grace. Though they often get in the way (and more often get into mischief), these can be done with the kids in the room and they often try to join in.

On a morning run.

4. Nights out.

My husband and I schedule date nights at least twice a month. At times when money is tight, we go to Starbucks. On better months, we go for sushi or a movie. Last month we went barn dancing, which was cheap and so fun! Why don’t people dance anymore? This month, we realized that we can still bring our baby to the movie, which means we can stay out without the stress of wondering when the baby will wake up and need to eat. I also try and meet friends for coffee or a drink (now that I have a few friends–hooray!).

5. Hobbies.

Okay, so I don’t have much time for hobbies unless they involve my children since I am the stay-at-home parent. One of my hobbies is traveling, which happens um,  never, now that I have children. So I’ve found a way to travel without traveling and have gotten involved in the International Women’s Club at the university near us.  It meets the SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) criteria: during the day, before naptime, has other kids, snacks AND toys. I also love being outdoors, so I drag us all outside as much as possible. What do you love? How could you involve your kids in that?

6. Inventive Spirituality.

Sounds nutty, but it’s simple. Apart from the 22 minutes (or 44 … let’s be honest) that my husband and I have for quiet time in the morning, there is not a lot of space in my day for meditation, prayer or reflection. I am a part of a weekly Bible study, that I quickly do the DAY OF, but it provides the accountability I need to be in the Bible on a regular basis.

And I have a few apps and podcasts that help me think about spiritual things throughout my day:

You Version app: this has the Bible in many translations, but also has reading plans, devotionals and even devos and videos for kids. And it’s mostly free!

Laudate app: though I’m not Catholic, I have still loved this app. Here you can find daily readings, the liturgy of the hours, daily prayer, and a daily Bible verse. It was perfect for those early days of nursing when I was up at all hours.

The Practice Podcast: Better than a podcast and more than just a sermon, this podast provides a whole worship experience with a message, music and questions for reflection.

Pray As You Go Podcast: This is a daily prayer, scripture and meditation guide. It has been perfect for mornings when my husband goes on a run and I am preparing breakfast for my kids because we can listen to Scripture (often read more than once) and start our day in the right headspace. Thanks to Megan Tietz of Sorta Awesome Podcast for this recommendation!

7. Using My Brain.

This is a hard one when you live in Daniel Tiger World, but it is so necessary. I listen to podcasts any time I can, am in a book club and am involved in online communities related to racial reconciliation and social justice. I write to think (which is why I haven’t written as much these days …. when my body is tired, my brain stops working).

8. Trying to Be Sweeter.

I don’t have a saccharin personality. There was a good reason I was a middle school teacher not a primary school teacher. But I’m trying to sweeten up and learn the love languages of gush and snuggles. I’m trying to tune the tone of my voice so that I don’t always sound so eager, angry or frustrated. I’m learning to pretend I’m peppy.

9. Noticing Small.

Some complain that people use Instagram as a way to make their life seem perfect. I’m using it to notice the beauty in mine. John Updike famously said that he wanted to “give the mundane its beautiful due.”  I’m striving to do this. I’m chasing beauty in my ordinary, mundane, boring life as a mom. And if Instagram helps me do that, then it is a worthy tool.

10. Permission to be Imperfect.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last five months I’ve had to rewash a load of clothes. And I think there is a direct correlation to how large your library fines are and how many children you have. My counters need wiping, the floors are strewn with toys, my bathroom looks like a science experiment and sometimes I strap my kids into their car seats in the garage long before I’m actually ready to leave the house. I let my children ride the toy horses at the grocery store five times as I check out (this is actually my most brilliant discovery yet–not only bribery, but one cent bribery!). BUT. They are clothed, fed, washed, and cared for. And even if I am sometimes merely surviving … they are thriving.

I need to remember that–and so do you.

You are doing good work, mama. You are loving the best way you know how with the time, energy and resources you have been given. And do you know what your kids are going to remember twenty years from now?

YOU.

They are going to remember that hike you took them on, the way you laughed at their jokes and tickled them until they couldn’t talk. They are going to remember the songs you hummed as you scrubbed pans and the way you smelled when you snuggled next to them in bed. They are going to remember the dance parties in the kitchen, how you let them help you make waffles and the way you prayed with them before bed. They will remember that you did the voices as you read, sat with them on the floor and chased bunnies together in the front yard. Mama, you are doing an amazing job. You do you. Keep up the good work. And don’t discount the value of a 22 minute reprieve (in fact, don’t feel guilty about that even for a second). Most likely, it is just the breather you need to make you an even better mama in the end.

xo

Leslie

22 Minutes and 10 Ways I'm Surviving Motherhood

In this season (of motherhood)

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”
(Eccl. 3:1-2 KJV).

In this season (of motherhood)~~Am I blooming here, or just biding my time, hoping that this season will pass quickly?
*** 



Colorado is yellow in the fall.  Aspen strike the treeline of the Rockies with such a brilliant yellow, that you nearly have to squint your eyes to take them in without being blinded.





My husband and I passed these flowers blooming in a neighbor’s garden on an evening walk a few weeks ago.  “Have these always been here?” my husband asked.  

“I don’t think so,” I said.  “I’m pretty sure they only bloom in the fall.”

Though it’s a bit cliche, those perfect yellow blooms got me thinking about this season of motherhood, asking myself, Am I blooming here, or just biding my time, hoping that this season will pass quickly?

A week and a half ago, I took the one-month old baby and fled to my parent’s house over the highest road in the nation.  I just needed a nap.  My parents took care of me, fed me, held the baby and allowed me to rest for nearly 48 hours. On the majestic drive home in the early hours of the morning, I forced myself to spend the two hours in silence.  I attempted to clear my head and just listen.


In the silence, I began to formulate a list of priorities.  Watching the center line kept me from careening over the edge, much like keeping my eyes on Jesus is holding me from sailing right into the tired mama’s tendency towards postpartum depression. My list right now is simply this:

Sleep when I can
Exercise daily
Get outdoors daily
Eat healthy food
Seek God
Talk to another adult

But I also felt like I needed to remember my husband.  For the past few months, we’ve been high-fiving one another and passing on the baton in the relay-race of parenthood.  We are partners and team-players, but are we lovers, friends and companions?  This newborn’s needs must come first right now, but is my husband a close second?  So we are instituting weekly one to two hour date nights for a couple months and getting better about being intentional with one another.  I’m trying to remember to make eye contact and really see him even when I can barely see straight because of sleeplessness.

It’s been a week and a half since my assessment and I am feeling more emotionally healthy.  On the days I don’t walk alone, I strap on the baby and push us out of the house for a walk.  The exercise and fall are ministering to my weary soul. 

I will be the first to tell anyone that I am not a pinteresty mom.  I don’t do crafts or cutesy activities.  But in a moment of weakness last week, I drew up a simple scavenger hunt for my kids to do during the “hike” part of our walk. 

The kids looked for animal tracks in the hardened path, picked up sticks and were delighted when we discovered three apple trees along the way.  I tried not to smack the baby as I hoisted a stick up to dislodge the apples, yelling at my kids to get out of the way so they didn’t get hit in the head. Our mouths full of sweet apples, we laughed at one another and delighted over the special unexpected treat.  



It was one of the first times I have felt fully present with my kids in a really long time. 

Over the past few months, an image has come to mind as I’ve thought about my life as a mother.  So many times, I feel like I am sitting in the stands while my kids are out on the field playing. But I am the type of disengaged spectator who is scrolling through social media on her phone, wishing she were anywhere but here.  

I see my kids as an interruption.

Instead, I hope to be not only paying attention to them, but their greatest fan.  In his book, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson said that he always knew that his mother adored him.  I hope the my kids will be able to say the same of me.   

A friend sent me a verse several weeks ago that had spoken to her as she prepared to have a baby of her own.  It has also come to mind over the past days and weeks as I’ve struggled to be content in this season of life that can feel so restrictive and confining.

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Ps. 37:3 NASB).


The word that stands out to me is “cultivate.”  Cultivating requires staying in one place and tending to my garden.  Patience, persistence and attention are needed if I am going to see my seeds grow.  This is the season of staying put and doing the back-breaking, repetitive work of watering, weed-pulling and guarding from both frost and heat.

This is the season of loving when I see very little return for my love.  It is the season of tilling hard soil and wondering if my words will ever sink down deep. And the verse that follows is one that ironically, I clung hard to in my many years of longing for a husband and children: 

“Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4 NASB).

It is not just in delighting in nature, my “me time,” my husband, or my children that I will find the soul rest that I seek.  It is in delighting in my God.    

Nevertheless, my prayer in this season is this:

“Lord, Help me to listen more than I speak, read more than I write, 
laugh more than I cry, praise more than I criticize and be more than I do.”

~~~

Previous Post: Having Three Kid Looks Like…

Having three kids looks like…

Many friends have texted me over the past few weeks asking how the transition to three kids is going.  The fact that I haven’t had a chance to write a blog post (and am now typing this standing up while my infant is strapped to my body) should tell you something.  But for what it’s worth, here is a quick list of what having three kids looks like up to this point.


So far, having three kids looks like…


going to the grocery store at the end of your “date night” (in which you held the baby the entire sushi dinner, ignoring the looks the server gave you as you drank a glass of wine WHILE nursing.)

always saying yes to the coffee.

nursing your baby in the Moby wrap at the pumpkin patch (that’s a 301 skill, people).

feeling guilty for sending goldfish as your son’s birthday treat at school.

accepting ALL the help anyone is willing to offer. 

doing three loads of laundry a day.

not sweeping the floor.

wiping three tiny bums all day long.

nursing with or without a nursing cover in public.

lowering the standards for personal hygiene for everyone in the family.

adding 15 minutes per kid to get out of the house.

being told every.single.time you leave the house with all three children, “You have your hands full, don’t you?”  Yes, yes I do.

wondering how to answer when your mom asks if you got any sleep last night.

praying that the screaming in the other room while you’re nursing doesn’t mean your other two kids are murdering each other (there have been bite marks…).

someone is always, always touching you.

congratulating yourself on brushing your own teeth and hair (bonus points for make-up).

feeling lousy for not spending time with your other children or husband.

not feeling sexy.  Ever. 

thanking God that someone invented a way for you to wear your baby so you could cook dinner, eat, write, give your son a haircut, and go anywhere “hands free” (ahem, holding the hands of your other two tinies, that is).

wanting to high-five everyone in the preschool drop-off line because not only were you on time, but you managed to get everyone inside without injuring themselves.

asking for three extra weeks of meals on your meal plan so that your mom says, “You’re STILL getting meals?”  Yes, mom.  

accepting that showering is a luxury.

someone is always, always crying (and sometimes it’s you).

your husband majorly picks up your slack and though you mostly want to yell at him for no good reason (hello, hormones), you know he is the one holding the house together and you love him for it.

eating the proverbial crumbs under God’s table because you are just too tired to be a spiritual “success.”

LOVING my minivan.  Seriously.

wanting to kiss the friend who spontaneously stops by to take your two-year-old for the morning.

letting go of all illusion of control.

loving my mother even more than I already did.

marveling that you operate on so little sleep.

trusting that this is a short season in the scheme of things and that one day you will actually miss this.


***


Some have told me that three is the hardest transition, though I hoped it wouldn’t be true.  I’ll let you know what I really think when I emerge from the fog!  For now, I wouldn’t say we are thriving, though we are surviving, so keep the meals coming!

~~~

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Previous Post: Monthly Mentionables {September} 

The Best Years of Our Lives {for The Mudroom}

I had the privilege of writing over at The Mudroom a week (or two) ago and with all the life shifts, I am just now getting around to sharing it here (quickly…all three children are sleeping!).  

Legs curled under my body, I stole a few minutes from studying to sit on the floral couch in the chapel hidden in the attic of Williston Hall, scribbling in my journal. I’d sometimes sneak in here for an hour of quiet between classes since it was in the middle of campus and my dorm was a much farther walk away. Suddenly, the door burst open and a woman in her early 40’s entered with her two school-aged daughters. She peered around the room, eyes wide. “I spent so much time here,” she whispered. “And it hasn’t changed at all…”

In her, I saw my future self.
What will life be like when I’m 40? Where will I have gone? What will I have done? I thought.
Later in the day as I crossed Blanchard lawn on my way to class, I passed some alumni visiting for their twenty year reunion and one of them stopped me to ask for directions. Before turning away, though, he said, “Enjoy this. These are the best years of your life.”
The “best”? So it’s all downhill after college? I thought. Sad.
Now that I am nearing 40, I understand more of what that man meant. From his life of mortgages, insurance, bills, retirement savings, car payments and parenting, what my dad’s description of college as “living with your friends and studying a bit on the side” sounds pretty amazing.

****

I now have two teeny children who I avoid taking to the grocery store at all costs. But when I do, I catch some grandmother fondly admiring my two blondies and I know what she is about to say. “It goes so fast. These are just the best years!” she’ll call over from the other aisle. And if she’s especially anointed that day, she’ll add, “Enjoy them!”
Another woman left much the same message on one of my blog posts about motherhood recently. In fact, I think she actually used the words, “Those years with little ones were the best years of my life.”

…continue reading at The Mudroom.

~~~

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Potty Training a Strong-Willed Child

If you are not currently a parent of toddlers or preschoolers, please feel free to skip this post or pass it along to someone who is in this stage of lifeI won’t be offended.  But hopefully this will be helpful to those of you in the middle of this insane time of life where we actually get excited about our kids’ poo.

My son is currently three months shy of his fourth birthday and my daughter is 23 months old.  We tried this foul business almost exactly one year ago and I was so scarred that I’ve put it off until now.  If it weren’t for the fact that I will soon have THREE children in diapers at once, I’d probably wait even longer, but that thought alone motivates me (along with the fact that we already put down a deposit on my son’s preschool where he must be potty trained by the end of August).

I’ve read the books and done my research.  I’m armed with stickers, fruit snacks, juice (well, mango tea…I forgot to buy juice), movies, a froggy potty, rags, cleaning products, a bajillion undies, a doll to train, pull-ups, a reward toy and promises of going out for ice cream and calling grandparents with the good news.

But here’s the thing…my son couldn’t give a rip.  That toy has been sitting in my closet for an ENTIRE YEAR.  So I’m going into all of this knowing full well that it will be a battle of the wills…and I’m determined to win.

After last year’s sad attempt at using the naked bootcamp method of staring at your kid’s naked bum for three days straight without leaving the house and not having a single hit in the potty, this time around I decide to relax.  I’m okay with naked, but will keep the kids in undies if at all possible (and shorts with an elastic band, too, for my son so he can get used to pulling them off and on).  

I’m starting to accept that I’m not a cutsie parent who does sticker charts, dances and elaborate parties–and that’s okay.  Kids all over the world learn to control their bowels completely without the help of Pinterest.  I also let my husband off the hook and decided to do it during the week instead of over a weekend.  So here’s how it went for us…

Pre-potty training (trying to gear myself up)

(Saturday):
I sat in an Adirondack chair with a cup of tea and let the kids run around in the backyard in their underwear all afternoon.  My son had one big wet accident on the carpet in his room at 6:30 pm, but held it otherwise (even though I asked every 15 minutes if he needed to go).  My daughter peed in her underwear 4 times (and I finally put a diaper on her right before dinner).

(Sunday):  Skipped

(Monday):
More backyard nakey/undie play time in the afternoon.  Brought the little potty outside, which my daughter sat on for over 15 minutes without going, then promptly peed on the patio.  I never saw my son go, but I suspect the wet undies weren’t from playing in the plastic pool.


The Real Deal

I decided to just go for it.  We pulled up the rugs and I committed to staying home all day for four days, but was ready to bail if it was terrible.

Here’s my “method”:

  • show them what I want them to do by demonstrating myself and with a doll 
  • set a timer and take the kids to the potty every 20 minutes 
  • have my son sit on the actual toilet normally with a step stool (we have a pretty small/low toilet) and my daughter on the portable one 
  • make up stupid songs about pee as they sit there for at least two songs (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is a good one for this 😉 )
  • don’t make a big deal out of accidents 
  • RELAX and enjoy lounging around watching movies or laughing at my kids playing in cute undies outside (this is why I waited for summer)


Also, last minute I decided to go cold turkey with my son even at night and naps because I figured he’d just hold it until I put him in a diaper.  We put a waterproof mat under his sheet and a portable potty in his room at night and naps and hoped for the best…

Day 1 (Tuesday):  Not terrible.

I started out the day bawling on my husband’s shoulder because my son kept announcing that he was NOT using the potty (hey–pregnancy hormones are for real).  But I rallied and we ended up having a low-key morning of cuddling and eating popcorn on towels on the couch.

All day long, I marched both kids to the potty every 20 minutes.  Neither ever went during these times.

My daughter was the first to pee in the portable potty.  She went while she was watching T.V., but I suspect it was just luck because I probably changed her undies six times throughout the morning as she played around happily without even noticing the rivers she was leaving on the wood floor.

Later in the morning, my son announced he needed to go potty, then went in the regular toilet like it was no big deal.  I was so happy that I CRIED.  Honestly.  I never thought this day would come.

Hugs, cheers, kisses and high fives seemed to be enough of a reward and he didn’t even mention previous promises of rewards.

He went once more right after his nap in the portable potty–all by himself in his room without prompting.  No pooping all day.  No accidents, either.  Hallelujah!


Day 2 (Wednesday):  Failure…

Neither kid went in the potty all day long…not once.

My son started out the morning by unloading his bowels into his undies twice in 20 minutes.  Throughout the day, we continued parading to the potty every 20 minutes with no results.  During non-nap times, we watched movies and the kids played outside in the backyard.  My son held his pee from 8:30 am until 5:30 pm (nine hours!), then let it whoosh after sneaking into another room. My daughter started resisting sitting on the potty and would go on the floor minutes after our bathroom trips. Hopefully vinegar will be enough to cover any potential smells…

Feeling discouraged.


Day 3 (Thursday): Success!!!

We woke up at 5:30 am to my son shouting, “Mommy, Daddy, I pooped in the potty!!!”  It was his first time.  We stumbled into his room, admired his “present” in the portable potty, gave hugs and high fives and “let” my son flush it down the toilet.  Grandparents and uncles were called later in the day.

The second time he went #2 was right before his nap–alone in his room.  He also peed in the potty two or three other times throughout the day and stayed dry otherwise (even at night and naps!).

I didn’t even bother taking them every 20 minutes because my son never once went during any of these times, but always went of his own initiative.  Oh, the strong-willed child.  So frustrating, but so lovely in their ability to surprise you.  Later in the afternoon, he remembered the promised toy he has admired in my closet for the past year and we decided it was finally deserved.

I had my daughter in her undies in the morning as they played outside in the sprinkler, but gave up and put her in diapers in the afternoon after more accidents and no hits in the potty since the first day.


Day 4 (Friday): An Outing.

My son has been dry for over 24 hours (sleeping times included), so I decide to attempt an outing.  We went out for frozen custard and french fries–at 10 am.  I put my daugher in diapers, but brought a change of clothes for my son, a towel and threw the froggy potty into our van for good measure.

About 30 minutes into our time at the restaurant, my son said he needed to use the potty, so we rushed into bathroom and he bravely scooted onto the much larger public toilet to do his business.  I was glad it wasn’t an automatic one, because I wasn’t ready to deal with that trauma.  He did it!  More cheering, hugs and alerting of the family members.  We headed to the park for a little bit after that and made it home without any accidents.

1 Week Later…

Up to now, my son has had just one accident and has stayed dry while sleeping–for an entire week.  In that time, he’s gone at church, at restaurants and even peed off the hiking trail with daddy. We’ve jumped right back into life as usual and trust him to tell us when he needs to go. But what’s surprised us the most is how this new skill has transformed him.  He is more confident, willing to try new things and glows with pride in himself.  He can control something very important in his little life and this knowledge empowers him. 


~~~

  Here’s my take-away:

1. Wait until they’re older, not just “ready.”  
My son was very content to stay in diapers forever, so I couldn’t just wait for him to tell me he was ready, but I think the fact that he was older made it all go so much more quickly. I keep thinking of it like picking fruit–would you rather pick fruit prematurely and have it sit on your counter for a week to ripen, or just wait and pick it when it’s good and ripe?  My son was ripe and ready for this.  My daughter? Not so much.  But she’s two next month and we’ll try her again when the time seems right.

2. Relax.  
Don’t take it too seriously and be willing to wait if it doesn’t work for you right now. 

3. Be willing to go against “the books.”  
My son certainly didn’t follow the potty training script–he never ONCE went when prompted, stayed dry at night and naps from day one, and seemed more motivated by our smiles and praise than by stickers and prizes.

Ah, parenting.  I never thought I‘d see the day when I‘d look in the toilet, see a huge turd and start smiling and clapping. 

~~~ 

What’s your experience with potty training?  

~~~ 

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What we did and how it went when we attempted to potty train my strong-willed son.

  

Three Children is a Bad Idea (and why we’re doing it anyway)

Three Children is a Bad Idea (and why we're doing it anyway) If you make a pro/con list about whether or not you should have a third child, I guarantee you the answer will be no. I know, because I actually wrote that list.

If you make a pro/con list about whether or not you should have a third child, I guarantee you the answer will be no. I know, because I actually wrote that list.

On the con list? It’s more expensive to travel. You need a larger table at every restaurant and a bigger car. There’s less parent (time/energy) to go around. You’ll need more college money. And you have to change your parenting strategy from “man-to-man” to “zone” defense.

There really is no logical reason to have more than two children—especially if you already have one boy and one girl like I do.

But when you take a good look at the pros, you’ll find that though there are far less of them, they are weighted differently than the cons. How can “new life” or “a soul” not be a better reason to try for a third than any other monetary or convenience reason?

Don’t get me wrong. Three is not for everyone. Honestly, I was more of an “even-numbers only” gal, myself. Growing up as one of three siblings, one person is inevitably left out. The phrase “three’s a crowd” was coined for a reason.

But after having two kids, I still felt that spooky “someone is missing from our family” feeling. Since negotiating with my husband for two more kids (and so arriving at my “even number”) was a tougher sell than just one, I conceded to “just” three kids. Five months later, we were staring down at a faint pink line on our dollar store pregnancy test, excited, but going into it all with eyes wide open, wondering how we were going to handle yet another one.

If you’re in the market for three, here are some of the reasons that have helped me overcome the overwhelming list of “cons” you may be staring at on your pro/con list right now.

1. Three is a small “big family”

Large families are boisterous and lively. “I’m bored” moments are rare because there is always someone to play with (or annoy). Your family is the party. So three is a nice compromise for having a big family without having a huge family. Having three kicks you up from the 1-2 category of families to the 3-4 category which equals more chaos, but more life and bustle.

2. One of my children will have a same-sex sibling

I would love for my daughter to have a sister. Growing up with two brothers, I always wished I had one. But if we have another boy, a wise friend of mine pointed out that it is often more difficult for men to find friends later in life (especially after marriage), so having a brother is a built-in guarantee that they will always have a male friend in the world. As for being left out, the one sibling who doesn’t have a brother or sister will get to brag to their friends about how understanding they are of the opposite sex because they had TWO brothers or TWO sisters.

3. More chances my husband and I will be cared for in our old age
 

Though it’s not generally something we think about during our young-ish child-bearing years, one day we will get old and need help. And with western society spinning with a surprisingly fast centripetal force, flinging our families farther and farther apart, the more children we have that will still be close enough to care for us in our feeble years, the better. 


4. We get one more chance at perfection

Poor, poor first born child. Son, we had no idea what we were doing and you were essentially an experiment for us in parenting. We only pray that we did not screw you up beyond repair by all of our failed experiments.

But with number three, hopefully we have learned a thing or two and have a chance to incorporate our wisdom and experience into raising a more obedient, compliant and calm child (insert sarcasm).

5. Life is “supersized”

When we had our second child, we felt like the work didn’t just double, but increased exponentially. I’m not naive enough to believe that going from two to three will be any different.

But just as the grunt work, sleeplessness, frustrations, anxieties and stressors have increased, so have all the counterparts. The giggles, dance parties, hugs, kisses, snuggles, invented words, and heart-bursting love have also increased right next to the difficult parts.

~~~

Although I am not quite as idealistic and swoony as I was with my first pregnancy, I’m still in awe that I get to experience this mystery one more time. Even now, my little one is kicking in my belly and reminding me that I will never regret choosing life. Though we still haven’t chosen a name for our son, God has always known what he will be called.

Three is not logical. But I’ve always been more of a believer in going with your gut than with logic anyway. So if you feel like you want a third–why not? Rip up the pro/con list. Your life is probably chaotic already, so really you’re just adding more life to the party (or more party to the life…). 

~~~

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Three Children is a Bad Idea (and why we're doing it anyway) If you make a pro/con list about whether or not you should have a third child, I guarantee you the answer will be no. I know, because I actually wrote that list.

When You Feel Guilty About Your Blessings

What are God's gifts to you right now?  Are you allowing yourself to enjoy them?


We spent Christmas at the nursing home, visiting my husband’s 94-year-old grandfather.  Normally a vibrant conversationalist, each visit since he moved into the home a few years ago the conversations have gotten shorter as his mind loops back to the beginning of the conversation.  

This time, the span was shorter than ever, including just one simple question about our children, “How old are they now?” he would ask.  And then he’d comment on how he forgets that children show intelligence beginning at such a young age.  He’d pause as other people talked, but soon would ask again, “How old are they now?” with the same genuine interest.

If my daughter lives to be 94, it will be the year 2110, which blows my mind.  It feels like a very long time.  And yet as soon as pregnant mothers pass from the random-stranger-warnings of, “Enjoy your sleep now!” they are hit with the next words of wisdom, “It goes SO fast!”  But there are days when it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s going fast.  


I had given up on the hope of having children.  I was very much single on my 30th birthday and even after I got married a few years later, I told myself that I probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant (to protect myself from disappointment).  I eventually did get pregnant and then I told myself I’d probably miscarry or else there would be a serious problem with the baby.  But there wasn’t.  Apart from the Guinness Book of World Record-breaking long labor and a couple days in the NICU for a possible infection, we had a healthy boy.  And it was love at first sight.  I actually looked forward to waking up and seeing him in the middle of the night.

Two years later, I had another sweet baby, a little girl.  Now my kids are three and 17 months and I’m realizing that this parenting thing is no joke.

The terrible twos were true to their name and other very helpful people told me to expect the threes to be even worse.  Throw a new sibling and a cross-country move in there and you may as well double the tantrum quota each child is committed to fulfilling.  

But lately, I feel God has been whispering something hardly intelligible into my ear:  

Enjoy your kids, Leslie. 

Enjoy them.  Smile at them.  Slow down.  Laugh, dance, talk and pretend with them.  Learn how to be a child again.  

I feel much like Robin Williams in the movie Hookwho returns to Neverland as an adult after discovering he is Peter Pan.  I have forgotten so much.  When I was little, I always wanted to write a journal to my future self about what it’s like to be a kid so I wouldn’t forget.  But I have forgotten.  I now sit with the throngs of adults that watch children playing and say in a tired voice, “Where do they get all that energy?”

This summer I was in a multi-generational women’s book study.  I felt like I was following along behind the older women, gleaning from their every scrap.  One seventy-year-old woman shared that as she looks back at her life as a mother, she wishes she had enjoyed her kids more at the time.  She regrets missing out on them.

But sometimes I feel guilty for my blessings.  I feel ashamed that I have healthy beautiful children when so many of my friends can’t get pregnant.  Or when others long to get married and are still waiting for God to bring along the right man or woman.  

I hesitate to enjoy what God has given me out of guilt.  But that is like me giving my son a bike and him never riding it because the neighbor boy doesn’t have one.  It seems heroic, but he is actually depriving me of the pleasure of watching him enjoy a gift my husband and I wanted to bless him with.  

God delights in watching His children take pleasure in the blessings He gives them even more than I enjoy my children’s happiness over a gift I give them.  

Solomon writes, “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor–it is the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:12-13). 

What are God’s gifts to you right now?  Are you allowing yourself to enjoy them?

Yes, my life could be harder and I’m sure that there are times in the future when it will be, but am I enjoying life and all of God’s gifts right now? Or am I letting Satan steal my joy?

I’m praying that God would help me to love like crazy and stop holding back.  I want to accept that He is elated to see the look on my face when I open His good gifts and delight in them as He intended.  And right now, He is inviting me to enjoy my children. 


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Previous Post~The Truth About Family Advent

What are God's gifts to you right now?  Are you allowing yourself to enjoy them?


The Truth About Family Advent

It is day 22 of Advent and here is what celebrating actually looks like for us as a family of four with a three-year-old and 17-month-old...


A few weeks ago I posted about how we were planning to celebrate Advent as a family this year.  Lest you believe we are the poster family for spiritual and holy family moments, I feel an update is in order.  Advent is all about waiting, which for a toddler or preschooler is about the worst thing you can be expected to do. 

Last year for Christmas we asked for a wreathe with four candles and calendar with little Velcro nativity characters that you pull out of pockets and stick to the felt manger at the top.  A couple years ago we also bought a large beautiful Advent book that you read each day with doors that open on each page that tell the Christmas story. 

It is day 21 of Advent and here is what celebrating actually looks like for us as a family of four with a three-year-old and 17-month-old…

After putting on PJ’s and brushing teeth, my daughter slides down the stairs backwards on her belly to join her brother who is dancing around the living room.  She toddles to the tree and sits down with her tiny legs straight out in front of her.  Our son “helps” us light the candles by holding onto our hands while we use our grill lighter.  And by the time we are done lighting them, our daughter is up wandering around, draping dollar store necklaces around her neck and collecting random toys in the large Ziploc and old cooler bag she likes to haul around. 

We eventually get our son to sit down on the floor with us to read the Advent book and he insists on holding the door flaps open with his foot, which we ask him not to do.  He fills in a couple words as we read, shouting, “Immanuel!” and “Gabriel!”  He opens the next door in the book, leaving a wet streak from where he had his hands in his mouth.  He gets bored and my husband and I read the next few pages alone until he finally wanders back and insists on opening the door that we already read.

When she’s not trying to blow out the candles, my daughter shuffles in and out of the circle, backing up with all her gear to sit on our laps and occasionally tries to open doors as well.  We finally finish reading and sing a “Away in a Manger” as a family, my son picking his nose and eating it all the way through. 

After that, we bring over the wall-hanging Advent calendar where you are supposed to take out one king, star, shepherd or other nativity character each day and place it at the top.  First of all, the kids are having none of this “one a day” business, so it is a free-for-all to see how many objects they can grab and run away with before mommy figures out what they are doing.  And when I finally coerce them to stick their objects on the manger at the top, they inevitably fall off.

We sometimes pray at the end, but are mostly just ready to be done and for the kids to get in bed, so we let my son blow out candles and my daughter attempt to blow them out (mostly she just stares at them in a mesmerized stupor) and we herd them upstairs for books, songs, prayer and bed. 

But if we “forget” to do Advent one night? Oh boy.  This has already become a habit for the kids and though it is frustrating and we wonder if they are getting anything out of it, they seem to really want to do it each night.

I know it will get better in the future because our kids will not always be so little, but for now, it sometimes feels like we are just doing it to do it. 

And yet if we’re honest, isn’t this what much of being a Jesus follower is really all about–simply showing up?  We don’t always feel like pursuing God, but this doesn’t mean that we just give up all together.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to hang back until our hearts are perfectly in the right place before we pray, read the Bible or hang out with other believers.  He just wants us to make any small effort we can to inch closer to Him.  Sometimes we feel His presence, but many times we are just going through the motions, but this doesn’t mean we should stop trying.   

Life continues to be sticky, but God is here in the stickiness. 

He is in the chaos and the shrieking of my children as they fight over toys, in the repetition of meals, diaper changes and bedtime routines, and in the seemingly lame attempts at teaching our kids about God.

I wish that I could invite God into my immaculate “inn,” with shelves dusted and floors scrubbed clean, but right now all I can offer Him is this stable.  But I still invite Him in.  And He welcomes me to kneel at His side and worship Him right here in the dust.

And this is the God I love:  The God who came to earth not as a king, but as a carpenter; not in a mansion, but in a smelly stable; and not to a perfect people, but to a bunch of distracted, snotty-nosed whiners who needed to physically touch Him, hear what He had to say and see what He had to do for them. 

He didn’t come to people who were clean, worthy or even ready for Him, but He plopped down in the middle of messy life and allowed Himself to be known.

So this is Christmas.  And this is Advent for us right now.  It is not beautiful or filled with moments of enlightenment, but it is “God with us” in the stable of our living room, in the real stuff of life.  

How does your ideal celebration of Advent compare to your actual celebration of Advent? I’d love to hear some of your experiences in the comments! 

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It is day 21 of Advent and here is what celebrating actually looks like for us as a family of four with a three-year-old and 17-month-old...

Day 2: Moms are not Monks {7 Days of Soul Rest}

Henri Nouwen, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, John of the Cross, and Theresa of Avila are some of my spiritual heroes, but since becoming a mother, I find myself thinking Yeah, must be nice to have so much time to spend time with God.  Though moms do keep night vigils and do manual labor, our commonalities end around there.   As a married woman with two children, I have been on the search for words on rest from someone who did not have 12 hours a day to saturate themselves in prayer and Bible study because sometimes all I have is 10...minutes, that is.     Though I know you don't need convincing that rest is something you want, I do hope to convince you that it is something you need.   Why rest?   Jesus knew the value of rest, often escaping for time with the Lord and encouraging His disciples to do the same.  The Old Testament is also full of promises for the weary.  But for some reason, our culture attaches guilt and shame with rest.  We apologize for reading a book, taking a nap or needing time alone.


Henri Nouwen, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, John of the Cross, and Theresa of Avila are some of my spiritual heroes, but since becoming a mother, I find myself thinking Yeah, must be nice to have so much time to spend time with God.  Though moms do keep night vigils and do manual labor, our commonalities end around there.

As a married woman with two children, I have been on the search for words on rest from someone who did not have 12 hours a day to saturate themselves in prayer and Bible study because sometimes all I have is 10…minutes, that is.  

Though I know you don’t need convincing that rest is something you want, I do hope to convince you that it is something you need.

Why rest?

Jesus knew the value of rest, often escaping for time with the Lord and encouraging His disciples to do the same.  The Old Testament is also full of promises for the weary.  But for some reason, our culture attaches guilt and shame with rest.  We apologize for reading a book, taking a nap or needing time alone.

But the type of rest Jesus describes is the rest that infuses all of life with greater strength and meaning.  When we pray, we become centered on the eternal.  When we read the Bible, we are reading a book that is living and applicable right now to whatever we are experiencing.  When we sit still and listen, we are reminded that we are not alone.  This kind of soul rest fuels all the other work that we do in a day.

Madeleine L’Engle said, “When I am constantly running there is no time for being.  When there is no time for being there is no time for listening” (Walking on Water, pg. 13).  And we need to be hearing from God during this season of life where we are responsible for caring for the soul of another human being.

Rest is a need, not a want.  

But how can we find the soul rest we really need when we have so little time (and energy)? 

Recently, an older and wiser mother challenged me to “lower my standards when it comes to spirituality.”  She gently pointed out that perfectionism is doing nothing for my walk with Christ. Though I balked at the accusation, I also realized that she was right.  

I am a spiritual perfectionist.

I got married at 31 after many years of singleness where I was used to spending at least an hour a day journaling, reading the Bible and praying.  Marriage and The Narrowing made that old expectation an impossibility and so I entered motherhood thinking that if I couldn’t have an hour long quiet time or at least 30 minutes, I wouldn’t even sit down to try because it wasn’t “spiritual enough.”  


So it is not surprising that it is year three of motherhood and I feel spiritually dehydrated. 

Here are a few adjustments I’m realizing I need to make to find the nourishment my soul needs in a season of life that is so demanding.

First of all, we must accept that we are not monks.  As moms, we must change our expectations for the quality and quantity of our time spent with God and let go of perfectionism when it comes to spirituality (and, let’s be honest, everything else!).

In this post, Margaret Feinberg points out that “Jesus extends the invitation to come away. In Mark 6:31, Jesus instructs His followers to “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place and rest for a while.” The word oligos in the Greek that’s translated “a while” actually means “little, small, few”. I love this detail! Because it means God can do great things with only a sliver of time.” 

We need to learn to do the most with the little slivers of time that we have in a day, and not just wait until we have a large enough chunk, because that time will most likely never come.

We need to retrain our minds to do spiritual sprints instead of spiritual marathons. 

The next few days, I’ll be sharing some creative ideas my friends and I came up with for doing the most with what you’ve got in terms of time and energy level.

We need to retrain our minds to do spiritual sprints instead of spiritual marathons." www.scrapingraisins.blogspot.com

But along with shifting my expectations of how and when I will pursue God, I also need to plan ahead.  

For example, I don’t usually feel inspired to cook a meal at 5 pm if I have given it no forethought, but I have found that if I plan to cook something, buy the vegetables and pull the meat out ahead of time to defrost, the meal is much more likely to get cooked.  A plan sets things in motion. 

We always plan for what is important to us, so why should spirituality be any different?  We love the mountain top moments with arms raised, eyes streaming with tears of joy and a burning heart, but if we are honest, we know that we live in the plains and not on the mountain tops, so we should make our travel plans with our scenery in mind.  

How can I seek God during the slivers of “alone” time in my day, during: kid’s naps, car rides, showering, putting on make-up, cooking, brushing my teeth or waiting on a toddler to put on his shoes?

There are 1440 minutes in a day.  1440.  Could I spare 5, 10, or 15 minutes of those minutes a day to seek soul rest and a deeper relationship with Jesus? 

I need to have plans and contingency plans for seeking God throughout my day.


Finally, the same wise older mama (as well as a few other friends), have reminded me to give myself grace in this chapter of my life.  God loves us and sees all our attempts at holiness and accepts them just as a loving father accepts the precious “gifts” a toddler might hand to him.

I am also realizing that my years studying the Bible as a single woman created a reservoir that I am now benefiting from as a married woman with limited time.  If you are single, feed the reservoir.  You will certainly need it one day–if not for marriage, during other hectic times of your life where you do not have the time or energy to pursue the Lord.

In the next few days, we’ll be discussing practical ways to maximize the time you do have in order to find the soul rest you are longing for.  I get you, weary mama.  I’m writing this just as much for myself as for you.  Sign up for emails if you want to be sure not to miss the next few days.  Check out yesterday’s post if you missed it and come back tomorrow to find permission for self care.


How have your expectations had to shift as you have become a mother?   
Do you struggle with being a perfectionist?  In what ways?  
How can you plan ahead to spend time in prayer and the Word? 
In what areas do you need to give yourself grace?


Check out all the other posts in this series:

       Introduction to the Series
       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest
       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks
       Day 3: Permission for Self Care
       Day 4: Ordinary Moments
       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times
       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat
       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms


Related articles:
Ashley Hale’s Write 31 Days Series: Letters to Weary Women

A great blog series:  31 Hats Mom Wears

Linking up with Mommy Moments  

Introduction to the Series: 7 Days of Soul Rest

Thirsty. Tired. Weary.  That is how I would describe my soul thus far during this chapter of my life.  In the past three years of being a mother, I have struggled to find the true kind of soul rest I used to know.  At the risk of sounding whiny or ungrateful, I‘m pulling the transparency card in the case that you, too, can relate.
But it is time for me to take my search for water more seriously and I need a little accountability and a lot of community. 
Mostly, I want to be back in constant touch with the Source of this water, Jesus Christ.
I am writing this series in search of answers, ideas, wisdom, inspiration and perspective because my soul longs for the kind of rest that goes deeper than just a spa day.
 
For help, I have enlisted several friends to contribute their wisdom over the next 7 days.  All are moms in their 30’s and are women I respect for their deep relationship with Jesus.   
Meet some of my friends:

  • My gentle friend from Kansas is the mom of 3 children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years 
  • My analytical friend from Michigan is the mom of 3 children between the ages of 4 months and 6 years
  • My kind friend from Wisconsin is the mom of 9 children (yes, 9!), between the ages of 3 months and 13 years
  • My disciplined friend from Alabama is the mom of 2 children, ages 1 and 3
  • My passionate friend from Missouri is the mom of one step son, age 18 and 3 biological children between the ages of 2 and 8  
  • My wise friend from Illinois is the mom of 4 children between the ages of 2 and 8


In the mix?  A homeschooling mom or two,  some evangelicals and a Catholic, a personal trainer, a teacher, a doctor, and a mom in full-time ministry. Though they all live in different states and only a few know each other, all had some inspiring ideas about following Jesus.

Their profound words and advice will be scattered throughout these posts and I know that you will be blessed by them just as I have been.

Here’s what you can expect over the next 7 days, beginning on December 1st:

       Day 1: Three Secrets of Soul Rest
       Day 2: Moms Are Not Monks
       Day 3: Permission for Self Care
       Day 4: Ordinary Moments
       Day 5: Creative Spirituality for Busy Times
       Day 6: Planning a Personal Retreat
       Day 7: Sabbath Rhythms

These posts will be geared towards encouraging moms of little ones in a season of life that can feel like Jesus is constantly asking too much of us, but I am sure that anyone seeking soul rest will benefit since the truths and principles we discuss are timelessIn addition to talking about the Source of our soul rest, we‘ll discuss practical ways to pray, spend time in the Word, have a healthy lifestyle, plan a personal retreat and implement Sabbath practices during seasons when we feel weary.

I would love to hear your experiences each day in the comments.  In fact, I am prepared to bribe you to comment (although I am learning they call these “giveaways” in the blogging world).  If you leave a comment or subscribe during the duration of this series, I will draw three names the day after the last post is published and the winners will receive a code for a free audio book download. 

I am certainly not an expert on this subject, so I would love to hear of any other resources such as books, blog posts, articles or websites you know of on this topic.  I will share some that I have run across as well. 

To follow along each day, you can subscribe in the upper right corner and these posts will go directly to your email inbox.  Otherwise, you can return to this intro page or find the “7 Days of Soul Rest” page at the top of the website and the latest post will be linked to the table of contents.

Okay, sisters (though weary brothers are welcome, too), let’s begin this journey together. 

I pray that we would find true rest for our souls as we seek Christ together.

“You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.”  Jer. 29:13

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