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?

The Linen Closet Overhaul, Round 2

About a year and a half ago, I had spent a lot of time reading blogs about home organization, DIY updating and repurposing, and improving the functionality of your home. As one of my first projects, I decided to tackle the mess that was our linens closet. I don’t have any pictures from that initial reorganization, but I have noticed the past few weeks that it’s getting bad again, so I just decided to redo the initial organization and chronicle the process for you!photo 1

This is what it looked like right before I started. You can see the remnants of what I consider to be a pretty good system, but there are some people (ahem, Hubby) who just haven’t kept with the system quite as well as we did in the beginning. What did I start with? Cleaning the whole thing out.

Okay, so I left the vacuum and the mop down there...
Okay, so I left the vacuum and the mop down there…
That's a lot of stuff crammed in there. And we aren't counting what's on beds and in the laundry. Time to purge!
That’s a lot of stuff crammed in there. And we aren’t counting what’s on beds and in the laundry. Time to purge!

The first idea that I took from several blog posts about small closets or linen closets was using laundry baskets on the shelves. This worked perfectly for my closet because the shelves are really deep, and I wanted to make the most of that space while still being able to find everything in the back. Since then, I’ve used laundry baskets in organizing several other spaces… more on that later, maybe. You can tell in the first photo at the top that I had a laundry basket and a smaller basket or two leftover from my first stab at organization.

Next, I had to determine which way I would like things folded so that they fit in the baskets nicely. Pillowcases were the main issue – there are so many, there are two different sizes, and they take up so much room! I decided to roll them (cue applause from my father) after I had folded them, and stick them standing up in their basket. photo 4

The way I folded and then rolled caused the king-sized pillowcases to stick out above the queen-sized ones. Score!photo 3 (1)

Everyone loves a label, even if it isn’t a fancy little printable. That sharpie job there works just as well.

More sharpie labels for sheets.
More sharpie labels for sheets.

I continued to separate sheets and towels by sizes, and put them into corresponding baskets. Then I had an enclosed bin at the very bottom for our beach towels… we use those a lot less so I don’t mind them being a little harder to reach.

The finished product! Much nicer, right?
The finished product! Much nicer, right?

I still think the vacuum and mop look a bit silly in there, but I just didn’t really have much to do with them otherwise. That’s a fix for later!

By the way – the main thing that I purged from the closet were curtains. I always like putting curtains on our windows (we have no blinds) because it adds a finished look to a room, even if it’s not all the way there yet. So every time we’ve redesigned a room (study to nursery, girl room to boy room, etc) we’ve gotten new curtains (usually at Target). So naturally, I have a pile of curtains that aren’t currently in use that were taking up a lot of space. I moved them to the basement out of the way for now, but kept them… because who knows when we might need a change?!

I might have a window treatment problem.
I might have a window treatment problem.

Have you ever had to reorganize a closet? What do you think about using laundry baskets as organizational tools?

The Thing That Broke My Heart And The Thing That Saved It

Some of my people know this story… my family, close friends, prayer warrior friends of mine. I hope that by telling it, someone will be encouraged, someone will feel less alone, someone will be justified in their anguish. This story isn’t cute or sweet, and it doesn’t leave anything out. It’s just heartache and details and sadness and redemption.

Hubby and I tried for seven months to get pregnant with EK. I am well aware that seven months isn’t very long to try to get pregnant. It seemed long going through it, but as the cliché goes, God’s timing is always perfect. Hubby and I have always liked the idea of having our children fairly close together, so when she was born, we decided to “not not try”. Pardon the double negative, but that was our short way of saying we weren’t actively “trying” to get pregnant right away, but we weren’t actively preventing getting pregnant either.

When EK was ten months old, I got pregnant. I knew early on, told Hubby, and we somehow kept the joy and excitement of a sibling for EK to ourselves for two weeks. We finally told my parents (who were visiting at the time) when I estimated myself to be about 6 weeks along. With utterly cruel timing, the following week I started having terrible cramps. Not “implantation cramping” or “stretch cramping” or whatever other excuse they give you to tell you “it’s totally normal”. I was having honest-to-goodness, menstruation-like cramps. I tried to keep calm. I tried to monitor my body. I tried to wish and hope and pray them away. And when the spotting started, I called my OB’s office, heard the nurses say it was normal, read on various medical websites that it was normal. But I knew. Somehow, deep down I already knew what was happening.

I went in for an ultrasound, because my OB wanted to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. He was able to rule that out but said it was too early to tell much else. I went home. Cried a little lot. Rested. Tried to pretend everything was fine. Hubby was preparing for a ski trip with his brothers and some buddies, so I tried my best to put on a happy face and not share my darkest concern with him. But two days later, I knew for sure. My worst fears were all but confirmed. My cramping was a lot worse, and so was the bleeding. Even though my head kept wanting to hope, my heart was resigned to the loss.

I had gotten up at 4:00am that morning when Hubby got up to leave for his trip. He had offered to stay, but what good would it have done? Whether he stayed or went wouldn’t change anything. As I sat in the bathroom, weeping, I could even tell the moment that was the peak. It was done. Over. There would be residual damage, of course, but the event was finished. When I was hugging Hubby and sending him on his trip, I told him it was over. He held me for a long time, and left. I knew asking him to stay, like I really wanted to, would be ridiculous. I had already seen that he felt helpless, and was miserable for me much more than for the situation.

Later we would talk at length about this, about how he was excited at the idea of the baby, but it was just that – an idea. For the partner, it’s just an idea until they start to see the belly grow, feel the kicks, see the movements. For the woman who is pregnant though, the motherhood starts the moment you know that baby is there, just a microscopic little bean. Your feelings in that moment, combined inevitably with your hormones, overwhelm you. You start thinking and planning, praying and seeking wisdom from those other mothers in your life. You love that little thing… that little nameless, shapeless thing, because that’s what the Lord created you to do. You begin to neglect other things in your life as you start to wonder what the baby will look like, how far along you (actually, officially) are, whether it’s a boy or girl, whether you’ll even find out until the birth. It’s incredible how quickly you love that little thing, and every possibility it has.

But to have that little thing taken, snatched from you without reason or ceremony, that will break your heart. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?” The answer is probably nothing. The poor little thing never had a chance. And neither did your heart.

In the next few weeks that seemed to drag, I held onto my first baby, my sweet Ella Kate, so tightly. I thanked the Lord for her, tried to believe that it was still possible for me to have a second such miracle. But if there wasn’t, EK was perfect, and I would do my best to be happy with only her. But I wanted her to have a sibling! I wanted her to experience that bond. I know many only children who wish they had shared their childhood with another. I didn’t want to keep that experience from her. I couldn’t help but wonder, no matter how hard I tried not to, if I had lost the only chance at another little miracle.

After the miscarriage, my doctor told me it could be 4-12 weeks before my cycle would start again. You guessed it – all that stuff about every woman’s body being different and all. He also said we should wait till the cycle started back to try to get pregnant again. And oh, did we ever want to try. I didn’t know there was a gaping, second-child-shaped hole in my life until I glimpsed it and lost it. But we waited to “try”. We took it slow, went about our busy lives. Then one day, chatting with two of my girlfriends, I started to count. I counted the days and weeks since my sadness had begun. There were so many… thirteen weeks, to be exact. How long had my doctor told me to wait? 4-12? Well heck, there ought to be something wrong with me if I haven’t started at this point. What could be the hold up? This girl needs to get pregnant!

When I got home, I found out what the hold up was. I was pregnant, there in that very moment. In the midst of my anguish and waiting and wallowing and praying, I got pregnant. Without trying, without stressing over dates and temperatures and wives’ tales. I couldn’t believe it – women don’t get pregnant like that, right? Our bodies need time and healing and rest, right? I guess sometimes not. And when I called my doctor’s office, the nurse I spoke to estimated (based on my miscarriage date) that I got pregnant about eight weeks after the miscarriage, and made me an appointment for when I should have been abut eight weeks along. At the appointment, the ultrasound tech (the same sweet Kayla who had walked with me through both my pregnancy with EK and my shorter, sadder one) burst out laughing and said, “You’re 10.5 weeks pregnant! Due before the end of the calendar year!” What an incredible surprise, to be that near the baby’s arrival! I was almost out of my first trimester, and I hadn’t even known I was expecting.

EK's big announcement!
EK’s big announcement!

Part of the beauty of my story is the way Joseph obliterated my raw sadness. His appearance showed me that my body wasn’t broken. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. A few short months later, he arrived the day before his due date, round and pink and perfect. He’s the symbol of redemption in the story. The proof that something blessed and sweet was on my horizon.

The night before J was born, EK still in her mismatched Christmas pajamas, snuggling her brother-to-be.
The night before J was born, EK still in her mismatched Christmas pajamas, snuggling her brother-to-be.

In my story, I just have one. Just one little being I lost and will one day meet in heaven. But I know there are countless women who have lost more, much more, more than even those little babies that should have been. I count myself lucky to have two healthy children, and just one comparatively brief time of sadness. I don’t sit here thinking I’ve had it the worst you can have. But every miscarriage hurts. It still hurts. It is such a deep sadness, in your bones. But look for the redemption. I won’t tell you the redemption will look like mine. It might not be a child at all. But it will be there. Every situation can and will be redeemed. Let yourself believe it.

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