Quick New York City Update!

To stray from the norm… I’m going to share a quick list of things I’ve loved about this trip so far…

1. Weddings at the Yale Club are stupid amazing. It’s gorgeous, the food was fantastic, and the weather just so happened to be perfect.

2. Museums, museums, museums. That is all.

3. So many restaurants, so little time.

4. Public transportation is the best people watching.

5. “Street Meat” is what Hubby calls anything from a street vendor. Our favorite so far have been the most amazing gyros we’ve ever had. We might never get all tzatziki sauce off our shoes, but it was worth it.

6. I don’t know who said New Yorkers weren’t friendly, but they were lying. I love this place! Everyone is kind, thinks my kid are cute, and doesn’t mind when I chat them up. I call that a win.

More to come later!

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How It Looks From Here

I got an interesting comment the other morning. The person said, “I’ve just been reading your blog. Final verdict: parenthood sounds hard.” It was in the middle of a good-natured comment from an old friend, but still took me a little off guard. My first reaction is “Duh! An hour at my house is the only birth control you’ll ever need!” But then, I wondered if I hadn’t been portraying my life the right way. Am I posting too many things that are frustrating or annoying or hard or sad? Should I be glossing over those difficult parts and highlighting only the good? I don’t want anyone to think I have an unusually difficult time with my kids. But I don’t want you to think I have an unusually easy time, either. I just want to be real. Encouraging, but real. (My thoughts on that a little more in depth here.)

Parenthood can look like all sorts of things at different times, different seasons, and to different people. Motherhood can look wonderful. It can look hectic. It can look easy. It can look good, bad, crazy, scary, or sad, depending on the moment. There are times full of snuggles and smiles and eating all the food on their plate and going to bed on time. There are times of skipping naps, toddler tantrums, picky eating, snotty noses, poop-splosions (read about those here) and breaking down to cry. It’s ridiculous how quickly you can go from thinking, “Awesome! I’m doing it! This is great!” to “I can’t wait for Hubby to get home so I can sit down.” or “When does school start back, again?”

In the moments when my toddler has finally fallen asleep, and I’m still laying in her bed, spooning her, for fear she’ll wake up if I move, I drink in the snuggles. I thank God for the moments like this, when she turns back into a baby again, blanket in her mouth (gross, I know) and face softened to chubby cheeks and eyelashes. And maybe I cry a little bit, because I yelled when I shouldn’t have, or I had to harp on her too many times to share with her brother, or I simply was so busy with work and errands that I barely saw her until bedtime. Finding the grace to forgive yourself isn’t easy when you feel like you didn’t do the best you could possibly do. But you know what? I always make time for smooches and snuggles and she’s always fed and rested and clean. If those things are true, my day wasn’t a complete fail.

Sometimes, when one or both of the babes has gotten up in the night, I’m a zombie, and several cups of coffee don’t seem to be giving me the boost I need, we park it in front of the tv for longer than I’d like to admit. We eat whatever is the easiest thing to scrounge up for our meals and snacks, or we pile in the car and get drive-thru burgers and fries. I do no laundry, no dishes, and the only thing I clean is baby bottoms. Talk about the mom version of an under achiever, right? But those days aren’t the norm. They aren’t even common. But sometimes they are necessary to a tired family. When we all take naps on the couch watching some awful Netflix movie like Turtle Tale, it’s not likely I’ll complain that much. Sometimes those are the days that bedtimes come a little easier and less crying jags happen. On days when I “accomplish a lot”, I’ve been vacuuming instead of playing, and there are groceries in the fridge because I lugged my kids through the grocery store… Those are sometimes the ones that there are more frustrating than rewarding.

But what’s the formula here? Is there a way to ensure that my kids have a great day every day, and sleep well every night? I bet not. I bet there isn’t even a formula to ensure that they don’t have a good day and don’t sleep well. I just do the best I can; I love on them, try to teach them right from wrong, feed them (as healthily as I can), help them get rest (even if it means napping with them), foster learning and love of learning (whenever possible), bathe them (sometimes more than once a day), and pray for them. I don’t know how it looks from the outside. Maybe it looks hard to you, or maybe it looks fun! Maybe it looks rewarding, or like something you aren’t ready for right now. All those answers can be the right one.  It’s looked like all of those things from the inside, too. But from where I sit, the mama of two adorable (however crazy) kiddos, I have a blessed life, and I try to bless those kids in return. It’s looking pretty sweet to me.

It’s Been One of Those Nights

One of these nights, one of these crazy, old nights… -The Eagles

Sure, the Eagles weren’t writing about a mom trying to put her kids to bed, but that one line got stuck in my head as I trudged my way through the worst night in a while.

Today I worked my summer camp job most of the day. We’re leaving on a big trip this weekend, and there is a lot to do between now and then, so naturally the day was pretty busy. This evening, I had a lovely dinner with my family and my friend Katelyn who was in from out of town. Everyone behaved so nicely (due to fairly well-timed naps) and we were home in plenty of time to have a leisurely bedtime routine. Hubby was headed to work so I convinced Katelyn to stay for a few minutes longer for some extra snuggles (read: to be an extra pair of hands for a few minutes).

Ignore my complaining... this girl made my night so much that I'll forget about the bad stuff tomorrow!
Ignore my complaining… this girl made my night so much that I’ll forget about the bad stuff tomorrow!

After the kids were bathed and in pajamas, Katelyn had to leave.  I plopped EK in front of the iPad to watch an episode of Super Why (she LOVES it). We’ve done this before in times that I’m alone with the kids at bedtime and it’s worked fine. This was about 7:45, which is a pretty normal time for J to be getting to sleep. We don’t have an exact time for bed, since if they nap and how long and what we did that day determines what time they get super sleepy.

So I spend the whole episode of Super Why trying to get J  sleepy and it ain’t happening. When EK got bored (about the time J would typically be passed out hard) she kept running in the room, which would jolt J out of any sleepiness we had going. I’d send her out with a job (hop in bed, pick out a book, etc) and try again to get J down. This happened several times, and finally she cried when I sent her out again. I figured it was time for an attention swap (it had been over half an hour) so I laid J down (instant cry) and closed the door. Six months old isn’t too early to have a little fuss and self-soothe practice, so I got EK tucked in, and sleepy-looking. After a few minutes of snuggles, I realized J was doing the opposite of soothing. I said, “Mommy needs to go help J since he’s been crying for a few minutes now.” Cue the screaming toddler. Clearly she hadn’t felt like the few minutes was enough after J had gotten so long with me. I tried going back and forth for a while, but then everyone was crying (including myself, after I had closed both doors, walked to the kitchen, and thought about pouring myself a large glass of wine) so I bit the bullet. I put J on the boob, sat on the edge of EK’s bed and hummed. After J had passed out (he hadn’t been hungry, mind you, he had eaten plenty) I laid him down and went back to EK for another 5 or 7 minutes. All of a sudden, it’s 9:30.

Of course, this was an unusually restless and stressful evening, and of course it’s one that I’m here by myself. When they were finally both asleep, part of me said, “Just go to sleep. Lay down on your bed, and go to sleep.” But the rest (the more responsible part) of me, was reminded of all the chores that hadn’t gotten done yet this week and the laundry and packing that had yet to be done before we go. Unfortunately, all I wanted to do was lie back down next to EK and sleep till tomorrow. But what did I do? Some dishes. A tiny bit of laundry. And then I sat down to write. I needed to vent. I needed to hear from someone that I’m not the only one with nights like this. I needed do a little something for myself – and now that I say that, I realize I should have poured myself that glass of wine.

Please tell me you’ve also had one of these nights…

A Tool for the Gospel

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This keyboard is a tool (a darn good one at that). I use it to make music, to provide accompaniment or melody. As a worship leader, I am also a tool, to be used to lead those around me into worship, into the throne room, into the presence of my God. Sometimes I feel like a broken tool, hurt or jaded or so very needy that I could never lead others. Who am I to stand up there, an exhausted and sometimes frustrated mama who makes an embarrassing amount of mistakes, a too-busy friend, a distant stranger, and usher those sweet seekers of grace to the place of self-abandoning worship of the Most High? Who am I to hammer out the chords, sing someone else’s words, and put my heart out there, when others are surely more worthy?

But I guess that’s the beauty of it. Flawed people do great things. Everyone has a little work to do to further the Kingdom. Moses tried to tell the Lord that he wasn’t good enough. In Exodus, when God called Moses to set His people free, Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt? What if they ask me questions I can’t answer? What if they don’t believe me? ”  God simply says that He has the answers, He will provide the proof… “I will be with you.” Moses will be the tool God uses to do the work, the freedom work, the work for His Kingdom.

If He can do that, then Jesus can take my half-asleep-on-Sunday-morning self, who is insecure about her abilities and worrying about what people may think, and help me let go. He can take my meager gifts and turn them into something beautiful. He takes my simple singing and playing, and touches someone’s heart. Even on a morning that I feel unrehearsed, rushed, hoarse, and hectic, someone will tell me that they felt His spirit, that they were spoken to. If just one someone grows closer to Him, I know that He has used me for His good. What better purpose is there for a person – a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend – to have than to bring forth the Gospel? To bless others? To lead my precious brothers and sisters to adoration at His feet?

And who is changed? Me. I am most affected by His use of me. I am the one who is blessed by blessing others, who grows closer to Him each time I play a note or open my mouth to sing. I am growing and changing and marveling at His love. From there, I can spread that incredible, mind-boggling love to others.

Mom Fail – The Parrot Edition

A couple of weeks ago, I took the kids to the children’s museum here in taken with my friend Rochelle and her kids. Her daughter Emery is 3 months older than EK and her son Dean is two months younger than J, so we can clearly see lots of play dates and slumber parties together in our future. Anyway, EK always takes a few minutes to warm up to the museum (we don’t go often enough) so once she got going, she was off. Emery was off in a hundred other directions, so naturally Rochelle and I didn’t spend too much time sitting and chatting. I was wearing J, Rochelle was strolling Dean, and those poor boys didn’t have time to chill.

A brief moment of togetherness, on the troll bridge.
A brief moment of togetherness, on the troll bridge.

Finally, the girls were getting a bit cranky (all four of us!) and needed some lunch, followed by naps all around. We decided on Moe’s, since it’s loud and fast and low-key, not to mention fun food for us all to eat. We packed the kiddos and unpacked the kiddos and ushered the kiddos through the line. Rochelle sandwiched the girls into a booth, and I situated myself in between the boys in their carseat carriers. EK and Emery were like popcorn – one was always popping up, turning around, watching the poor souls who also chose Moe’s as their lunch spot. Rochelle and I were losing our voices saying, “Sit down! Eat your lunch! Sit down! Drink your juice! Sit down! Get off the floor! Sit down! Wipe your mouth!” Talk about a broken record. I don’t feel like we were yelling, but we weren’t whispering. We weren’t being mean, but we were being firm.

After most of the quesadillas were eaten and “juices” (water with a splash of lemonade, of course) were drunk, Emery decided to stand up once more, turn around, and check out what was going on behind her. Rochelle and I had all but given up on finishing lunch sitting nicely, so we didn’t say much. EK, however, had finally gotten the point. She looked up at Emery, and firmly (rudely?) said, “SIT! DOWN! NOW!” Rochelle and I looked at each other… and tried very hard not to laugh. From the mouths of our babes, we hear what we sound like. Not that I needed a reminder that my little girl is a parrot, but I sure got one.

How hard is it, sometimes, to control your tone of voice? I know that when I need to tell EK something several times, my tone escalates each time. I almost always start softly and politely. But after I’ve told/asked several times, I begin to lose my patience. Especially if time or safety or politeness to others is a factor, I get firm and sometimes loud very quickly. I wouldn’t say overall that I’m a yeller, but I do raise the volume a little if the first and second (and third) time I say something doesn’t bring forth the desired response.

That day at Moe’s was a prime example of what she remembered about telling someone to do something. Since then, I have been more conscious of my tone and delivery of directions. I try to have a little more patience and grace. And yes, folks, it’s difficult. I have never claimed to be the most patient person in the world. I find myself hollering things like, “Get your shoes!” across the house as we prepare to go somewhere. If I catch her holding my iPad with one hand, I might shout something like, “Put that down, NOW!” a little less nicely than I could. But I’m improving, and doing the best I can. I’ve always been a loud lady, so teaching my daughter to reign her loudness is at best a little difficult for me. At least I’m honest, right?

Have you had that moment where your parrot child repeats something you’ve said, in that perfect tone of voice, and surprises you? Or even disappoints you?

A Summary of Preschool Summer Camp

EK went to camp this week. The church where she’ll be attending two mornings a week of preschool in the fall had a Monday-Thursday summer camp, so we thought that would be a great idea to make a few friends and get used to her new space.

In short, here is a summary of some things we did/learned this week:

-Screaming drop offs almost every morning.
-Feather painting, tissue paper art turtle, and glittery paper plate “fish bowls” (this week’s theme was Pet Pals)
-Vacuuming playground sand from her bed when she got up from her nap
-First experience packing a lunch for a toddler. She eats more at home when we’re eating with her. Win of the week: a banana and a squeeze pack of fruit/yogurt
-Receiving a text message from my cousin that she had seen EK on the playground happily running around (on only the second day, no less!)
-Being at home in an all-too-quiet house in the morning is strange and a bit sad (but I could get used to it)
-J was SO HAPPY when she came home each day; he just stared at her and smiled.
-A girl’s gender-neutral sippy cups WILL be mistaken for a boy’s. Come on, people.
-The mixed feelings you have when your daughter waltzes right into her classroom and doesn’t look back will cause you to call Hubby from the car crying.

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Big Girl Bedtime Woes

Before I start on today’s actual post, I want to thank you for the HUGE surge of support and love after my last post. It was really wonderful of y’all to read it, share it, comment on it and message me with thanks and encouragement. You are the BEST. Now, on with the post!

Recently, bedtime with EK has been a marathon. Hubby and I have tried a LOT of different things (now that I’ve said that, maybe that’s the problem?) to get her to go to bed and stay there. When J was born, we moved EK, within a few weeks, to a big girl bed in a different room. We tried moving her before he was born, and we just couldn’t get her to stay in the bed, so he ended up arriving before the switch was complete. She began in that bed just like she was in the crib. It didn’t really occur to her that she could get out on her own. If she woke up, she just called for us and waited for us to get her. She slept the same hours, etc. Then she realized she could get out. This applied mostly to the morning for a while… she’d get up on her own, come into our room, and wake us up, either wanting food or smelling like poop. Or both (blerg).

Nowadays, most nights she gets up 2-4 times after we “put her to bed”, which is a routine that includes a book, singing a song or two, getting a good snuggle in, and kissing her good night and leaving. Sometimes she will even wait up to 15-20 minutes before she climbs out of bed the first time to come find us. We end up putting her back to bed – sometimes staying for a snuggle, sometimes dumping her in there and running out – several times before she’s out for the night. Of course, there’s the odd night that she’s TOTALLY pooped and just goes right to sleep without trouble. But unfortunately even those nights don’t seem to be connected with what we do that day. Even on days where she goes swimming or to the children’s museum or something else different and extra energy-using, she might still get up a few times before she’s down.

((Side note: this is also happening at a time in her development where she’s toying around with getting rid of her nap altogether. Obviously, I say she isn’t ready for that yet, especially if she’s going to sleep late and getting up at the same time (early) so naturally I’m even more concerned about this weird nighttime routine.))

I can tell when we’re getting ready for bed each night that EK is tired. I can tell that she would go to sleep if she’d just let herself. She’s not even asking for anything when she gets up… she doesn’t want water or a snack or a fresh diaper. She just wants to wander around. One night earlier this week, Hubby and I did dishes in the kitchen (her room is at the far end of the house, across the hall from ours) for about 25 minutes after we put her in bed, and we were feeling so great because she hadn’t come looking for us. Well, when we went back to our room to get ready for bed, she was sitting on our bed, cute as pie with her blanket and Daddy’s pillow, playing a game on his phone. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Now I have to worry about her sneaking out of her room, instead of just coming straight for us. Little sneak.

Then there was last night. My grandmother, aunt and cousin are in town, so there are lots of extra hands. I snuggled J to sleep, while EK played with my family, and then I did her routine. She was being so sweet and cuddly (because snuggles are hard to get right now!) that I sang a few extra songs. Hubby obviously thought I’d been in there for a while, so he came back to her room, opened the door (RIGHT as she was falling asleep, of course) to come tag me out. Well she started to stir so I waved him off, thinking I could lull her back to sleep and leave. Wrong, wrong, wrong. She wrapped her arms around my neck so tightly I was pulled down at a weird angle and stuck there. She neeeeever does that. The combined body heat and her and another person is usually so much that she wants to lay on her own. Every time I tried to pry her off just so I could change positions, she would whine and hang on tighter. It was the weirdest phenomenon. I ended up just scooping her up in my lap, and she fell asleep on my chest… in the worst possible position for me to try to put her down. Finally, I got her off my lap, still awake, and I laid her down and told her I had to go pee-pee in the potty. She let me go and fell asleep, I’m guessing, 10 seconds after I had left. In one way, it was the most annoying and strange thing she’s done during this crazy bedtime thing we’ve got going on right now. But in another way, I was so glad to have those snuggles that I didn’t care if I should have left her 30 minutes earlier. She’s a daddy’s girl in a serious way, so the fact that she wanted to hang on me and keep me in there for the 4613th singing of “Oceans” was the sweetest part of my day.

Now for the real question: what do you do to keep your toddler in his or her bed at night? What’s your bedtime routine?