January goal check-up

If you remember from New Year’s, my goals are very simple this year. Here are some thoughts on the progress so far.

1. Treasure God and His Word.

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I have to say here, that I am so thankful for my husband. Three times a week I get to hear him teach the Bible and every time I learn and grow in my desire to read and study myself. That being said, I know there are pulls in my heart to choose other things when I have the option. My prayer is that this year those would be put aside and replaced with a deeper hunger for the knowledge of God and His Word.

My current place of study is Acts because Paul is going through this with the students on Wednesday nights. The girls and I are memorizing in Proverbs, and I also would like to come up with a plan of what to read when I just want to sit down and read for awhile. (Do you ever feel like that?) That way there will be some direction of where to pick up.

The other part to this goal is the prayer that God’s Word would be right on the tip of my tongue as I go throughout ordinary life with the girls. I know I need to speak the gospel to myself constantly and I want that influence in their life as well.

Practically speaking, this goal involves nightstands, pens, journals, and a specific effort to reduce clutter. Sitting down to read or meditating throughout the day are greatly helped for me when things are in order and easily accessible.

2. Read. Read. Read.

I love reading! In January I finished The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and I highly recommend it! This month I’ll be reading Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss and The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss by her husband George. Also, Dispatches from the Front by Tim Keesee and Robinson Crusoe with Paul. Someone gave the girls the entire Little House on the Prairie boxed set for Christmas so I am officially making it a goal this year to read those aloud to them.

2a. Read aloud the Little House on the Prairie to the girls. = )

3. Regain an enthusiasm for mothering.

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What I’m realizing is that this involves a very careful putting aside of “extra weights” and a very conscious commitment to do the things I want to do with the girls. Discipline is involved in this. The girls are much more delightful to be around when I am proactive about their behavior. Also, the more involved they are with what I’m doing throughout the day, the better. Yes, everything takes three times as long, but that has to be an investment in the future that I’m willing to make.

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I’m sure this goal will continue to take shape as the year goes. More to come!

4. Make monthly menus and make one freezer meal a week. February’s menu is done! And I have two extra meals in the freezer. Hooray!

5. Make a list for every day and week. Do a monthly goals check-up. 

About halfway through January I stopped making a list every morning and I can see how it slowed progress. That’s why there’s a monthly goals check-up (yours truly) to remind me! And out of the twenty-two items on my most recent weekly list, I accomplished about nine. Oh, look at the room for progress there! = )

These next goals are specific to this month alone.

*Make and use chore charts for the girls. It’s time, people. Way time.

*Accept help with things around the house. It has come to my attention that I cannot do everything. In fact, I do it quite poorly. However, I am not content living in such a sad state of affairs, so I am going to need help.

I can think of two ladies at church who have specifically, genuinely offered their help. This month I want to contact them and make a plan to do some things around here.

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Thanks for reading! See you at the end of February. {James 4:14-15}

2015 – a year for simple goals

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New Year’s has come and gone.

My favorite holiday.

I’ve been brooding about New Year’s Resolutions for about six weeks now. I know, my love for them is a little over the top.

There’s so many things I want to do!

And so little… everything.

Last year my goals were good and there was a ton of success {yippee} but they were a little complicated.

This year I don’t have time to be that detailed. We’ll start out really simple and build from there every month.

Want to hear my goals? (me too, cause these are coming straight off the {hoodie} cuff.

1. Treasure God and His Word. That might seem nebulous, but it’s not. It is simultaneously the most simple and rewarding obligation and the most difficult and elusive pursuit. In any circumstance I can ask myself, What do I love?

2. Read. Read. Read.

3. Regain an enthusiasm for mothering. I think I’ve lost some of the rah-rah that always seemed to come so naturally. But that’s okay – I’m a big believer in the fact that correct emotions will follow obedience. Lately I’ve just wanted to hide in bed from all the responsibility (until I realized Proverbs might have a thing or two to say about that). I’m asking the Lord to help me see and hear and feel and slow down – to love all the cuteness and craziness that I live in every single day.

4. Make monthly menus and make one freezer meal a week.

5. Write out a list for every day (and right here my list-loving Mom starts rejoicing for the prodigal coming home) and a list for every week. Also do a monthly goals check-up. 

And honestly, I think that’s all for now. I do want to build and elaborate as the months go by, but if I make improvement in each of these areas by next January 1, that will be wonderful.

Happy New Year!

(10 days late)

 

Hope, a birth story

She was such a special baby, such a timely gift.

I guess since this isn’t titled “A pregnancy story” or “The life of the mom and dad story” I’ll start as close to her birth day as I can.

Just a few hours old
Just a few hours old

Our little Hopey was due on January 1. She was our first baby and we were ecstatic about having her! At a mid-December appointment, our doctor predicted that we would have her by Christmas. I was already dilated at least two to three centimeters.

I was feeling great and if I experienced any Braxton-Hicks contractions I wasn’t aware of them. We were busy with Christmas preparations, Paul’s responsibilities at the church, and my piano teaching.

Christmas was on a Tuesday that year and several things had been planned for the days right before the big holiday. Some friends were having a Christmas party on Saturday night. A man had planned a special Christmas service on Sunday afternoon for the inmates at the local juvenile justice center, and my brother and his family were going to be in town. My sister was also coming in from a few hours away and would be staying with us.

On Friday, a friend and I went to Target to do some Christmas shopping. While there something abnormal happened which I would later realize was what they call “losing the mucus plug.” Lovely. Right before the Christmas party on Saturday, we dropped by Barnes and Noble to pick up some other gifts. (Seriously, Christmas is a great season for staying active and doing things to help you go into labor.) = ) While there, I began to feel quite poorly and felt a great, sudden need to use the restroom. It seemed to go away, but when we got to the party, I knew I wasn’t quite myself. After sitting down on the couch, I did not want to move. Usually the independent one, I was quite content to have Paul get my food and refill my drinks. I started to notice that every so often I would feel really bad. So I asked my sister on one of those occasions what time it was. When it happened again, I would ask her again. It didn’t take long to realize that the “bad feeling” was happening every fifteen minutes. Later, I would realize, duh, the contractions were beginning. That was around six pm on Saturday night.

We went home when the party was done and stayed up late. I was wrapping Christmas presents for bus kids and Paul was assembling some nightstands I had just bought. I kept careful track of how often the contractions came. They worked down to seven or eight minutes apart, but never felt unbearable. When all our work was finished we went to bed.

In the morning, the contractions were still there. But as they weren’t really that hard to take, we got up, got ready and went to church. I was definitely walking different. My pastor’s wife took one look at me and said, “Are you in labor?”

“I don’t really know.” I answered. “Maybe?” Ah, first round ignorance. I just didn’t think it was that big of a deal since the pain was not that bad.

I played the piano for the church service noticing that every now and then it did take some extra concentration if it was during a contraction.

We ate lunch at my parents house with all the family. I remember walking in the door and my brother saying, “Hi, Labor Lady!” It was decided that my sister would play for the service at the justice center.

This was great for me, because I still hadn’t found the perfect Christmas gift for Paul yet. So where did my sister-in-law and I take off to? The mall! I happen to be a very picky shopper so we literally walked through every department store of the mall. I found the right gift and then headed to Walmart. Of course it was crowded, we had to park very far away, and once again, did quite the walking regimen.

By now I knew I was in labor. I didn’t know if it would be it for sure, but the contractions were regular and a little more painful.

We went back to my parent’s house to switch cars and people. Paul and I and my sister headed back to our house. At this point, my sister had a movie she wanted us to watch, so we did. It was horrible. There we were on the couch and my contractions were consistently every six to seven minutes. Sometimes I would look up at the ceiling or breathe really hard through one of them and Paul and Laurie would look over at me and ask, “Are you okay?”

After it passed I would look back at them and say, “Yup.”

This went on until the end of the movie (for which we all rejoiced). = )

I decided that I would go to bed. If I could fall asleep, then there was obviously no reason to go to the hospital, but if the pain kept me up, then we would go from there. We made sure the right phone numbers were on the refrigerator and headed to bed.

At about 1:05 AM I realized the contractions were too painful to sleep through. I told Paul that I was going to get up and call the hospital. The contractions were five minutes apart so the hospital told us to come in.

I remember having a great quandary over what to where to the hospital to have a baby. I didn’t want to go out in my pajamas, but it seemed silly to get dressed. I ended up wearing some of Paul’s basketball shorts and his Duke sweatshirt.

My sister came with us. We were all very excited. I kept wondering if this was really it.

We arrived at the hospital around 2:30 am. The people did not take us seriously at all. They nonchalantly called for someone to wheel me up to the maternity floor. That guy wasn’t the greatest; he laughed at us and said, “If you were going to have a baby tonight, she’d be cursing.”

I don’t remember too much about the first little bit of being there. I think I was only dilated to four centimeters. Thankfully we had an older nurse who thought it’d be great for us to walk around a bit. So we walked around the floor while the contractions continued. Once they were too bad to continue walking, we went back to the room. Again, I don’t remember too much; only asking for a ball to sit on, trying it and realizing it would never work for a short girl like me; and being very hot. Paul and my sister would take a washcloth and wet it with cool water to put on my forehead or neck. This felt amazing.

For some reason, I climbed up on a loveseat and kind of leaned my arms and torso over the armrest while kneeling on the seat. The pain was very bad. I rocked back and forth a little bit trying to do different things with my breathing to just stay in control and not give in to the pain. It was kind of like a zone. I knew other people were there, but still felt all by myself.

The next time the nurse checked me I was at nine centimeters!  We all cheered. Apparently, the weird rocking on the loveseat experience had been “transition.”

From there I stayed on the bed.

Again, the exact details here are a little sketchy. I think the nurse asked if I wanted to try to push. Of course, I did and she gave me this long explanation of what to do. I was excited as everything I had heard was that labor was bad but pushing was good.

Well let me tell you, not for this girl. I tried pushing a few times and stopped. That was not for me. To this day, I hate the pushing part!

Through all of this, my water had yet to break. They said they would call the doctor to come break my water. Then we found out that our doctor would not be there, he was out of town.

This didn’t seem like a big deal. A doctor’s a doctor, right? We’re pretty laid back.

I remember somewhere around five or six in the morning telling Paul that he needed to pray for me. I’d been doing pretty good, but was beginning to lose my trust in God. Why is this taking so long? It really hurts!

When the doctor walked into the room, a new wave of confidence was given.

He broke my water, which I thought was pretty cool. If nothing else, childbirth is a feast for curiosity.

I started trying to push again and was miserably unsuccessful. Let’s just say I push like I’m trying to play a trumpet or something and all the force does not go to the right place. And no, another explanation of how to properly do it will not be helpful, thank you.

The doctor gave the nurse a look and she told me they were going to do something to numb it because he was going to cut.

For some strange reason, this bothered me not at all. I don’t remember feeling any pain until recovery.

A few more pushes and there she was. (I have to say that the moment when the baby comes out is really cool! I thought for sure that that part would hurt quite badly, but for me it really didn’t.)

In just a moment, there was a beautiful red and purple skinned, dark-headed screaming baby on my chest.

“Hi! Oh, you’re so beautiful!!” I said to her over and over again.

I looked up with tears in my eyes at Paul and saw his first proud daddy smile.

“She’s here!”

She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Happy can’t even describe how we felt.

They took her and cleaned her up all while Paul followed and watched.

I remember being sewn up and not even caring. (Whatever they did to numb me worked really good!)

When they brought her back to nurse, it was so precious. She latched on beautifully and I watched in amazement at what was happening.

She was six pounds even and nineteen and a half inches long. Such a little peanut. An absolutely perfect little peanut to me.

One funny memory from after delivery is when the nurse informed me that I needed to get up and try to use the restroom. I looked at her like she was crazy and thought, “Hello, just had a baby! I don’t need to get up and do anything!” 

But sadly, I discovered, that yes, I did have to do something. And from there the pain and annoyance of recovery began.

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We spent the first Christmas of our married life in the hospital. It was great. Everyone was being so sweet, bringing us gifts and miniature trees. All the while I was thinking, We just got the best Christmas present of all! Nothing can top this.

We held our sweet little Hopey and tried to take in all that she was. I was so surprised by how many faces and expressions and noises she already made. I had never been around a newborn before.

She was such a sweet baby, nursing and sleeping so well.

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All the pain of delivery didn’t seem to matter anymore. I was thankful and surprised to have gotten through without any medication. While it certainly isn’t for everyone, setting myself up for it to be really bad and trying to breathe and concentrate through the pain seemed to do the trick for me.

I will say that recovering from the episiotomy was very painful and unpleasant. To this day I have no idea how many stitches I had. I didn’t want to know and didn’t ask.

Also, unexpectedly painful were the contractions that returned with nursing during the first week. I was totally caught off guard by this and a little mad that no one had told me about it.

Baby

The whole experience was only about half as bad as I had prepared for. Someone had let me borrow some Lamaze magazines and much of what I had read in there was helpful for ideas on how to breathe through contractions and for the overall “You were made to do this!” mentality. It wouldn’t be true to say that I followed it completely and I think that some women have a lot harder time than I do, but overall what I read  was helpful.

I remember the week after we had settled back down at home my sister-in-law sitting down and saying something like, “So tell me the birth story.” As I talked it out for the first time, I realized just how special it was and how special it was to be able to share it with someone else.

Even as I’ve written this I realize how many details I’ve already forgotten. But at least what I still remember and what was really important about those hours is recorded here. I can’t wait to write out Sophia’s! Hers was quite the whirlwind.

 

Remember this {on bouncing back}

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About this time last week, I was down. Down on housekeeping, down on homeschooling… cooking, kids, you name it.

When I look around and find myself so dissatisfied with what I see, feeling helpless to turn any of it around, I’m often forgetting some extenuating circumstances.

In this particular case, my husband just graduating from seminary! A four-year long culmination for him. Not to mention more than a week of careful preparation on my part to insure that everything went smoothly that weekend so we could fully enjoy celebrating together.

So yes, there were rotten bananas on the counter that just hadn’t gotten made into banana bread. The laundry that had been so carefully taken care of before Friday had once again spiraled out of control. The two-year-old who had completely mastered potty training started having accidents out in public when I had no extra clothes and no idea what to do about the mess.

But accidents and dirty laundry and rotten bananas are not the point. The point is that I let these things convince me that I’m a complete wreck who will never get it right no matter how hard I try. Which is completely untrue. What is true is that I am a very average homemaker who most of the time keeps everything in line enough so that our family can run smoothly and enjoy each other, who some of the time can do above that, and who sometimes bottoms out and lives in a very messy house for a few days before bouncing back.

When you’re pregnant and there’s big a big abnormal life event, you might have to just rest for a few days. And no, your housework will not get done while you’re resting. And that’s okay.

Because somehow, in some way, I usually bounce back. It’s not normally from the big, all day, get-this-place-cleaned-up times I dream of; it’s usually in very small, indiscernible steps. Then one day I look around, and things have gotten better.

This applies to so many areas of my life. Just after having a baby is a big one. Or when baby has to start eating solid food. Sometimes it’s not just the physical settings of a messy house, testy kids, disorganized homeschooling, or never-ending schedules, sometimes it can be spiritual growth (or the lack thereof), strained relationships, or cloudy moods that evoke those feelings of hopelessness. It’s hard to convince yourself that those circumstances won’t last forever, but really those “lows” are most often just as temporary as the equal and opposite “highs.”

It might be the next week, the next month or the next year, but most of the time if you wait long enough, things will bounce back.

Maybe I’ll remember for next time. = )

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Just wanted to say a quick hello to you, the readers! This may be the longest stretch of time I’ve gone without blogging! We did indeed have a lovely and touching graduation. God blessed and everything was smooth and wonderful. It’s hard to believe that sweet time of life has come to an end. We currently have three days of homeschooling left before we finish our first year. And then, it’s get ready for all things baby! Somehow that has given me the itch to rearrange everything in the house. = ) I am woefully behind on sharing pictures. Keeping my fingers crossed that I will have some ready for this Saturday. Until then or whenever, thank you so much for reading and for your sweet support. 

What the fly on the wall heard {a little more serious}

I guess one of the joys and terrors of parenting is answering the questions your children are bound to ask. We’ve had some pretty good ones in the last year, so I thought it’d be fun to write them down.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Hope:

“Mommy, if God is righteous and would never do anything wrong, then why did He tell Abraham to take the life of his son Isaac? Doesn’t the Bible say that killing is wrong? I don’t understand.”

“Mommy, before Adam and Eve sinned, when they walked with God… was God still invisible to them?”

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Sophia:

“Mommy, does God know all the people that will believe in Him?”

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Gracie

“Mommy, what are feelings?” Seriously, have you ever tried to define the concept of feelings without using the word “feel”? It took me a good five minutes to come up with an answer. Let alone the fact that I was driving the car, ending a phone call about lunch plans, and hoping for a red light so I could put on my make-up. Their timing!

A few days later she asked, “What does ‘after’ mean?”

Hope

This one she asked while really thinking through salvation. I thought it was pretty interesting that even at five we want to figure out a way to gain our own righteousness. “So Mommy, what if a person could stop sinning and only do good things for the rest of their life. Could they go to heaven then?”

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And for a light ending, yesterday I saw Gracie in the middle of the living room, arms extended, passionately preaching. It didn’t take long to realize she was being Jonah. (She was the only one there) After a few more minutes, she dropped her hands and looked dejectedly up, “God, the people of Nineveh just won’t settle down!”

A little optimistic reality for expectant and first-time moms

Sometimes I read posts that try to encourage young mothers by contrasting the long-term influence, joy, and blessing of motherhood with the current state of walking around as a sleepless, friendless, spit-up crusted, hardly ever attractive-or-cordial-with-one’s-husband zombie.

Women are encouraged to take heart and embrace the mess of motherhood knowing that one day they will miss these precious years.

I often wonder if those reading who have not yet had children are terrified. “I won’t shower for days? I’ll have to walk around with {fill in the blank} disgusting baby substance all over my clothes? I will growl at my husband every day when he walks in the door? My toddlers will scream uncontrollably while I try to remember these are actually the best years of my life?” Where is the exception clause?

So I felt it incumbent upon myself to tell whoever might be reading that it is not always that way.

I personally don’t think I’ve ever gone an entire day without taking a shower. Sure sometimes I would have rather it been right when I woke up and it ended up being right before I went to bed. Yes, there were things that totally fell apart after I had my first baby -namely doing dishes, making meals, and keeping laundry clean. But I wasn’t that great at those things to begin with. And little by little after the initial “black hole” post-pregnancy time, things started to come back together.

*I call about the first six weeks after delivery the “black hole.” Simply because though life still clicks along and happens, I can never remember anything about it. You look back and wonder how anything got done, but know that somehow you did eat and sleep and bathe.

I know a lot of moms, young and old, who’s lives did not completely fall apart when they had a baby.

Will there be days that are hard? Yes.

Will there be disgusting things to clean up? Yes.

Will you be able to keep every up every personal and domestic habit you enjoyed before children? Probably not.

But will your days be characterized by less-than-human conditions? Probably not.

Now are there people who have a really tough time regaining a “new normal” after having kids? Who do feel like they can’t struggle to the top of messes and sleep-deprivation and schedule changes and sickness? Of course. And if that is what one finds themselves enduring, that person needs hope. And if posts like the above-mentioned help, then I am sincerely all for that.

But if you’re out there, about to have a baby… take heart. Don’t be freaked out by drama and “realism.” Yes, you’re about to face a challenging time of life. But it’s doable. It will look different for every person and family; every child produces unique joys and challenges. Chances are, sometime during the first few months, you will figure out how to venture out of the house with a new little one in tow. Perhaps there will even be a grocery trip or a meal made. You will discover with great joy that you’re little sweetie can lay happily in a crib while you get a shower. Or maybe they’ll be cool enough to sit in a bouncy seat in the bathroom while you sing your favorite tunes and scrub away. Maybe not, but you will figure it out eventually. (in most cases, people do!)

Motherhood is a privilege, a great adventure, and above all a gift. God gives grace and new mercy every day.

So from one very average, imperfect, “real” momma to another, you can do it; and if you haven’t “done” it yet –it’s not so bad. I highly recommend it. ; )

31 days of training my kids: Hope, quite literally

imageWhen we were expecting our first daughter, it didn’t take us long to settle on the name “Hope.” Her name has several layers of meaning for us. One in particular has just happened this past year.

There will be days where I feel like I’m constantly working with the younger girls to just obey.

How hard can this be? Your life (and mine) would be so much easier! I really am doing what’s best for you!

Sometimes in the middle of these days I’ll mindlessly ask Hope to go do something. “Take your shoes to the room, bring me a diaper, go brush your teeth, whatever.”

And she does it. And then I think, “Maybe, when they’re five, they’ll just do it, too.”

Though she’s certainly not perfect, Hope for the most part obeys with a good attitude. Sophia even does most of the time. I have to stop and realize that they are two to three years further along in this process than Gracie and Mckayla.

There really is hope!

This wouldn’t have occurred to me at all until my third or fourth child. (This is one of the blessings of having so many close together!) I can see in living color the different stages of learning obedience. I can remember when I thought we would never get Sophia straightened out with certain issues; and now that we’re re-living many of those with Mckayla, it doesn’t feel quite as hopeless.

I guess my point is, tonight, if you only have one or two small children and feel like you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… it’s there! It might take a few more years to see it, but faithfulness to God’s Word will bring fruit!

If you feel like you got a late start and are just now beginning to work with older children, persevere!

The goal is not to make your life more comfortable. Four and five year olds have their own unique challenges- that we’re just beginning to learn. But the goal is for your child to bend that oh-so-destructive will to their parent’ authority, and eventually to God’s.

My sweet little Hopey brings me joy and peace in so many ways.

Here’s to “Hope”-ing the others follow along.