Another Humbling Experience

It's December 10th, definitely time for an update. I'm just feeling grateful that I actually have something new to report!

Today was Day One of Phase Two: Operation Sleep On Their Own. For the past (fill-in-the-blank) months, we have been struggling with the boys' sleeptimes. It started off with the boys discovering their brother/partner in crime just inches from where they slept. They would take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to soothe themselves to sleep, then I'd have to wake them up after they had been sleeping for just a short time. They were obviously still exhausted and the rest of the day was a nightmare.

Then Jack began waking up between 2-4am seeming to have nightmares and being afraid to go back to sleep. We did what we could to soothe him, we altered our nightly routine to be calming and reassuring, put another nightlight in their room and responded to every cry through the night. But that turned into much more comfort than we could handle on a regular basis. Andy would wake up through the night, multiple times - letting his pregnant wife stay warm in bed - in order to comfort Jack and try to coaxe him back to sleep. He eventually took a twin mattress and put it on the floor so he would be more comfortable in waiting it out. Jack just liked to know that daddy was there. And that's even after Andy would lay in the room with them until Jack fell asleep (usually about an hour and a half.) For naptimes, I would also sit in the room with them until they fell asleep and then muster enough energy to get ANYthing done before they woke up crying. This was incredibly draining. For all of us. The boys weren't getting the rest they needed and Andy and I were frustrated to know what we should do to change the bad habits we had acquired.

I sought the advice of a good friend, who also happens to have twin boys (as well as another boy after them.) She recommended the book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. In the book, he suggests enforcing sleep rules for toddlers between 2.5 and 3 years old, complete with consequences and rewards. Not only did it make us feel better that we weren't alone in our struggles, but it gave us a solution to work toward. We researched, planned and talked and talked and talked until we were confident that both of us were on the same page. With another baby coming in about four months, we had to get back on track. We didn't want them in our beds with another baby on the way and we certainly didn't want to spend every night in their room. We decided that we would begin our new plan on a weekend, when Andy wouldn't need to worry about working during the day. We were all set to go. I had gotten poster board for the posters and a ton of prizes from the Dollar Store... and then the boys got sick. We would have to wait until they were healthy to start training.

Two weeks later, their colds disapaited and all that's left is a slight cough. We were FINALLY ready!

This morning, I worked on creating Sleep Rules posters with the boys while Andy emptied their room of the recliner and the mattress, two modes of comfort we have relied on. We talked about the rules as I wrote them and I drew corresponding pictures for each. We joked about the difference between quiet and loud, eyes open and closed and they seemed genuinely excited about this new game. I let them color their posters with markers and decorate with stickers, all while making a HUGE deal about our new rules. And they're really simple, too: 1. Stay in bed, 2. Close our eyes, 3. Stay very quiet, 4. Go to sleep, and 5. Stay in bed until you hear the music. The boys clearly understood the concepts. We hung our new posters in our room and eagerly communicated our excitement to Daddy.

We were ready for a battle. Well, ANDY was ready for a battle. He asked that I stay locked in our room during the training so he could do the fighting. What a great friend. The process encourages you to silently put them back in their crib whenever they get out, which is extremely difficult (if not forbidden) for a pregnant mommy of almost six months who's not supposed to lift more than fifteen pounds. I am more than grateful to have married such a wonderful man who is 100% invested in the day-to-day lives of our family.

The nap went better than we had anticipated: Ben got up once, Jack got up four times. They finally fell asleep (after a lot of jumping, goofing around, crying and calling for daddy) after an hour. Victory! The alarm clock in their room was set for 3:30pm, which was set to go off with music. Pure joy. The boys were still pretty sleepy when they each got to choose a prize from the prize box, but we were sure to stretch the praise all night long. Obviously, we would get more of a struggle at night.

Tonight went even smoother than this afternoon. They didn't even jump in their cribs when we put them down. I am, once again, locked in my room and Andy is sitting in the hallway where they can't see him. It's been about 45 minutes and it's STILL quiet. I'm telling you. For a process that has lasted for about three months, this is heaven. I haven't talked to Andy yet, but I'm sure he's ecstatic, too!

Now the real struggle will come tonight, when Jack wakes up between 2-5am and remembers that Daddy isn't sleeping on his floor. I'm sure he'll cry out and expect Daddy to come running, just like he has for the past few months. But tonight, he won't. He'll wait for Jack to get out of the crib, remind him of the rules once, and put him back in the crib. The biggest question will be how many times Andy has to silently return him to his crib before he finally gives in and goes back to sleep. Two times? Twenty five times? One hundred times? One hundred fifty times? We have no idea. But as long as he DOES go back to sleep and wakes up to the music at 7am, he'll receive another prize. Oh, how I pray this goes well!

So, anyway, thanks for walking this journey with me. What a humbling experience this has been. We are no where near the finish line yet - I have a feeling this is a process that will constantly evolve as the boys grow - but I am so grateful for good friends, good advice and prayer.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'd like to go watch a movie with my husband - something we haven't been able to do in a loooooong time!


Feeling Like a Fraud

We hosted a small dinner party last night with Andy's aunt and uncle. We hadn't seem them and two of their three grown children in a while, so it was nice to catch up. They were amazed at how much bigger the boys were and how much they are developing. "You're doing such a great job with those boys," she said. Immediately, a feeling of guilt swept over me like a flood. Oh, if she only knew.

I felt like a kid getting credit for his homework project when he knew his mom did it all (and as a former public school teacher, you can guarantee that I never saw that! ;) Like I was taking credit for something I didn't deserve. A fraud.

The past few weeks have been extremely difficult it in our house. Mostly the naptimes and bedtimes. For whatever reason, Jack is struggling to go down on his own, stay there on his own and come out only when it's time. And for a routine that has worked for us for over a year, this has been extremely frustrating. In an effort to come to a solution, we decided that perhaps it was time to give the boys their real beds. We've heard a lot of stories where this was successful so we prayed it would be the same for us. Having our day begin at 4am because we can't get back to sleep after fighting with Jack for an hour just didn't seem like a positive solution. So we tried to build up the excitement and transferred them to their new beds on Saturday.

They loved them. They were so proud of their new blankets, their new beds and their new room. But later that night, we started to wonder if it was just too many new things at once. After another day, we were almost positive of it. Since our bedrooms are so small, we decided to set up the boys' new room into where we had planned on situating the baby. Not only would it allow us some time to keep their cribs set up in their 'old' room, but the second room only had one window and one doorway, as opposed to the two windows and two doors (including a closet) in the other. The second room gave us more options on how we wanted to set up the beds. Our plan was to use their cribs as a threat; if they got out of their beds, they would have to go back to their cribs.

One problem. Jack wanted to go back into his crib. Huh? This wasn't how it was supposed to happen!

Perhaps the most frustrating part of it all is how well Benjamin seems to have transitioned. I swear, that boy could fall asleep in a tornado. He's slept through Jack's screams, our late-night talks (or should I say ANDY'S late night talks - he's been doing the late night shift for almost two weeks!) as well as the move into a big boy bed. Ben was following the rules, was falling asleep quickly and stayed in bed until I came to get them. Why wasn't Jack? I thought they were identical twins, for crying outloud!

This morning, Andy had his second night of five hours or less and I had no idea what else we were supposed to do. So for naps, I decided to ask the boys if they wanted to sleep in their cribs. They both said yes. Okaaaaaaay. They both went in relatively well and although they wanted me to sit on a chair with them, they both fell asleep within a half-hour. We'll still keep the beds set up, but it appears that I encouraged the switch a little too soon.

Hence, that feeling of guilt. How can I receive praise for what I'm doing when I feel like I'm not doing anything right? Confession: I am a mom and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Can I get an amen?

But here's the truth. I don't have to know absolutely everything. Right? Sometimes we need to struggle through something and make a million and one mistakes in order to find out what the best solution is for our family. Right? Sometimes we'll do well and other time we will fail. Right? So perhaps I should stop being so hard on myself and begin to simply accept where I am and what I'm trying to do. Right?

So, thanks for the compliment. I know I'm probably doing a million things wrong, but those two smiles in there tell me I'm doing at least a few things right. I think ;)


Kids Say the Darndest Things

I have been LOVING the recent language explosion coming from my toddlers! And they talk to eachother just as they would an adult. They took a good nap today, so I think I was in an especially good mood to document some of the cute things they said today :)

The boys were in the backseat of the car this morning, talking to 'eachother.' Amongst the silliness, I heard Ben say, "Nana says, 'oooooOOOOOOoooo," just as she does in her sing-songy voice. I had to laugh. He said it just like she does.

We were driving home from dinner tonight (at a restaurant - yes, mommy was just that exhausted,) and the boys were talking about the moon and the sun. "Sun sleepin'," Jack said. "Moon wakin'," as in the moon was awake. (A few weeks ago, when Ben couldn't see the moon amongst the clouds, he said, "Moon not workin.'") I just love how their little minds work!

Also at dinner, Ben asked for more bread. I could see that he already had a piece on his plate, so I told him that he could have another piece when he finished that one. But he pointed to his brother. "No. Jack, bread." I broke off some bread, gave it to him and watched him hand it to his brother who was ready for another piece. Oh, these boys.

While reading books before bedtime, we came across a picture of bacon and eggs in Jack's Elmo book. I pointed to the bacon and asked him what it was. "Bacon," he said confidently. "Yes," I said, "Do you know who really likes bacon? Daddy." He paused and looked at me and said, "Bacon. On bottom." I think he was confusing the word 'bacon' for 'spankin'!'

Thank God for these moments to help drown out the times that I wonder if I'm doing anything right! Motherhood is a wonderfully humbling profession.


The Half-Way Point

Tomorrow, we will be 20 weeks pregnant. Do you know what that means? That is the half-way mark. Woah.

What is it about the second pregnancy that goes so much faster than the first? Oh. Perhaps it's the chasing of two other toddlers while still trying to maintain order in the house and perhaps a little sanity. Yup, that's probably it.

At this point with the boys, I was on bed-rest. My doctor's note required the middle school to hire a replacement for the remainder of the year and I was wondering what I was going to do with all of my time. But all of that 'spare' time I thought would be spent preparing the nursery was eaten up by doctor's appointments, sonograms and sleep. I surprised myself by how much of the day I slept... and still slept through the night! Well, except for the late-night visits to the kitchen for cereal and to the bathroom.

That was three years ago.

It was my first pregnancy. I had two babies in my belly. I knew they were two boys. No other kids at home. We were living on the second floor of our apartment. I was an eager new mom-to-be, reading up on everything I could get my hands on.

With this pregnancy, I have one baby in my belly (and I will not lie how EXCITED that makes me!) We know she is a girl (can I get a WOOOHOOO!) I have two toddlers at home. We are living on the first floor of my great-aunt's apartment, just six blocks from our old home. I am a very proud mom, but wish that my boys would just give in when mommy wanted a nap. I do get updates on my phone of how big the baby should be, but sometimes I forget that I'm pregnant. Just kidding. I lied about forgetting that I'm pregnant. I feel like I've got a bowling bowl glued to my midsection, already making it uncomfortable to bend down to tie my shoes (and making it absolutely impossible to get on the floor to obtain the boys' lost golf balls under the couch.) I need to sit down a lot.

One baby. A girl. And we're only about 20 more weeks away from meeting her! If the second half goes any where near as fast as the first, she'll be here before I know it!


Never Too Busy

As an incentive to get my boys into their cribs, I'll often praise them. Like crazy. "Jack, you're making me so happy! Look how you got into your crib by yourself! I am sooo happy!"

"Mommy, 'appy!" they echo. My boys love knowing that they're pleasing us. And they're glad to tell us. Trust me. They thrive on it.

Well, with things being a little more complicated lately, I decided to enlist the encouragement of my family members. "Ben, Nana is going to be so happy when she hears that you're sleeping in your crib! Sissa is going to be happy, too!" Then I decided: why not call them?

So that's exactly what I've done. I'll call my mom so they can tell her how they got in their cribs by themselves, how they're going to sleep in their cribs and then get a sticker when they wake up. And they truly eat it up. "Nana, 'appy! Sissa, 'appy!" they exclaim.

This afternoon, I decided to bring my dad into it. At around 1pm, I assumed he'd be home for lunch. He picked up after two rings. "Hi Grandpa!" I said, with the phone on speaker so the boys could hear. "Where'd we get you from?" As the manager during a busy season, I never know exactly where I would be interrupting him.

"I'm just in a meeting. What's up?"

I immediately tried to hurry it along, "Oh, it's not a big deal. We just wanted to tell you that Jack and Ben were in their cribs." I intended to hang up after a little, "Okay, we'll talk to you later," but Dad amused us.

"Jack and Ben are in their cribs? Oh, I'm so happy! Good job, boys!" he said. I'm sure he could see the boys' smiles through the phone. And hear the relief in my voice. He gave us exactly what we were looking for. Even though he was in the middle of something.

After the boys woke up (from their best nap in a week!) I called my dad to apologize for getting him during a meeting. "Oh, it's no problem," he said. "I knew it was probably important if you were calling me. And it was."

Aww. My dad loves me. And at 30 years old, he's never too busy to talk to one of his kids. Thanks, Dad. You may never know how much of a difference you're making in our lives.


So Many Changes

So many changes in so little time.

The past month has been a whirlwind of activity. At least for a pregnant mommy and her two toddlers. We learned that Baby #3 is a girl (can I get an AMEN?) and we've continued in our sleeptime struggles. For a mom who's used to getting a nap everyday, this unexpected change was not a welcome one.

A few months ago, the boys started resisting sleeptime. Especially naps. Not because they didn't need them - they're honestly quite difficult to be around when they don't sleep - but because I wasn't putting them down early enough and I was letting them sleep too long. Alright, hertle cleared. But then a few days ago, things got progressively worse. Jack started waking up at 4am from what we later gathered were nightmares. And he didn't want to go back down. He insisted on being held - only by mommy, mind you - and refused to go in his crib. Well, this was a problem. A huge problem. We tried a TON of different things, but what's seemed to have worked best was having daddy go in to comfort him and then sit against his crib. And that was after we threw out the Winnie the Pooh book that was thought had been scaring him (it was one about Piglet getting over his fear of the dark.)

Oh my word. This all sounds so obvious when I summarize it like I did in that last paragraph. But I assure you, the last few days were some of the most stressful days we've had since the boys were newborns. Andy and I were both exhausted. Irritable. Frustrated. And confused. What was wrong and how could we get things back to normal? I was trying to hold BOTH boys on the couch so they would sleep (which is really uncomfortable when you're pregnant, by the way) and sitting on their floor and holding them to try and coaxe Jack back into the crib. I tried spanking him into submission, but that only seemed to make it worse. We were hurting for a solution.

Well, we're still not where we want to be. Jack is still hesistant to lay down unless we're right there with him. He screams for me to pick him up the whole time we're driving in the car. And the incentives we're offering for staying in his crib only seem to scratch the surface. But I do think we're headed in the right direction. Thank God for my husband's help.

We hadn't been planning on making such a big change, but I think it may be appropriate under the circumstances. We're going to get the boys twin beds and set them up in (what we had been planning on making) the baby's room. I'm still not sure how much of his fear is from shadows - even with the two nightlights that are currently shining in their room - and how much of those shadows could be from their crib. And since they routinely get in and out of their cribs on their own, it seems like they may be ready. So we'll set up two twin beds in the other bedroom. We'll see how they do while still keeping their cribs set up in their original bedroom; we may need to use those cribs as a bargaining chip in case they regularly get out of their beds at the wrong time. Then, after we're feeling good about the transition, we could begin to make the boys' room into the baby's room.

See what I mean? A lot of changes.

The last few days have, once again, humbled me as a parent. As much as we're learning, as much progress as we're making, I still have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. The circumstances around another child's struggle could be completely different from mine. What might have worked for another child might not work for mine. Circumstances, parents, backgrounds and experiences, everything is always so different. I just have to do what I think is best. Over and over again.

I'm also struck by this truth when I look at my toddlers. Twin boys that we believe to be identical. How could they be so similar and yet so different? Ben will sleep through Jack's tirades (unless he knows Mommy is holding Jack on the couch, then he wants to come, too) and is otherwise completely obedient when it comes to bedtime. He hasn't appeared to have nightmares as his brother, even though they experience almost all the same things at the same time. Just goes to show you: everyone. Every single one. Is soooo completely different. I should also point out the fact that a few weeks ago, it was Ben that was giving me a harder time with sleeptimes than Jack. Jack went right down and often yelled directions at his brother for him to do the same. They honestly seem to flip-flop. All the time!!

So as I sit and prepare for Baby #3, I really don't know what to expect. Not only is this a new child, completely different from her older brothers, but she's also a girl. And she's only one. In many ways, this pregnancy feels completely new and I'm going to have to relearn everything all over again. Labor, breastfeeding, caring for a newborn, carrying one newborn, raising a little girl... wow.

Let's just hope I can experience this one with a little more sleep ;)


A Humbling Reminder

Today I went to my OB in order to obtain the results of my nuchal translucency test. And yes, I did have to Google that in order to get the correct spelling.

I've got to admit, I was nervous. This prenatal screening was taken to see if there were any chromosomal abnormalities in the baby, including Down Syndrome or any major congential heart problems.

We're 15 weeks along. I'm feeling a lot better, I'm eating well and have a pretty good amount of energy... well, you know, compared to the first trimester. But with the exception of a few flutters I thought I felt this past week and my growing baby bump, how am I supposed to know if everything is healthy? How am I supposed to know if everything is happening according to the "plan"? How do I know if the baby is getting everything he/she needs? I really don't.

On my way to the doctor, I was thinking about how I might handle the results to this test.

What if?

You know what I'm talking about. It's that sudden realization where you have to conceed the fact that ultimately, you are NOT in control. You have little say in how this little one came to be, grows and matures into the little person God designed them to be. And whether God meant for them to be a child with Down Syndrome or with a heart problem, whether it's a boy, or a girl, you've got to be okay with that.

Well, my OB said that our chances of this baby having Down Syndrome were slim to none and everything looks beautiful. We're looking forward to (hopefully) finding out the sex on November 3rd! I was thrilled. My dreams of Baby Sauer #3 growing into a healthy, gifted and productive man/woman seemed to be coming true. But I still had to catch myself. God is still in control. God has the final say. God knows what we can handle and what we need most.

It was another moment of motherhood where I felt extremely humble. Grateful. Small. God is allowing me to carry this little one for Him. It is His child. He is the Master Designer, the Creator, the Mastermind behind this beautiful being. And my job is to simply trust Him to complete the work He started.

Thank you, God, for entrusting this little one to my care. We have already been so blessed by this new life.


One on One

Another post written by my co-author, my dad. Thanks for never hesitating to spend time with us, Dad.

When our kids were younger, it was rare that Donna and I would be away from home with only one child at a time. However, when we were able to take one at a time, we noticed that the child became more attentive and compliant. Once we discovered how well each child responded, we began to look for opportunities to ask each one to come along with us when we went out.

Don’t get me wrong. These weren’t elaborate trips to the zoo or Chuck E. Cheese’s. These were quick trips to pick up a car at the repair shop, the grocery store or any other routine trip that needed to be made. We spent time talking with them about things that interested them and would often buy a treat for them to enjoy on the way home (usually Anderson’s Custard because that’s what I liked).

We found this to be one way to deal with sibling rivalry as well. When their bickering would get to a fever pitch, we physically separated them; either in different rooms or I would take one in the car somewhere; anywhere. When it got to this point, we were desperate. But, the personal attention usually calmed the storm. Maybe that’s what they needed all along.


Adventures in Sleeping. Or not.

Ooh, the adventures of parenting toddlers. Just when you think you know what you're doing... BAMB... something happens to remind you how little you really know.

Sleeping - or rather, going to sleep - has been our biggest issue lately.

It didn't used to be. Well, you know, after we finally figured out a plan that worked in getting them to finally start sleeping through the night. We had to adjust our plan when the boys were sick, when we had a family getogether, when we transitioned from two naps to just one, but overall, things have been going really really well.

A month ago, however, things changed. It was as if the boys just discovered that their partner in crime was only five feet from their crib and they had a license to entertain them. They'd jump, throw out their blankets, do somersaults, stand on their hand, make crazy noises, scream, yell to each other... it was insane. "What did I do wrong?" I wondered. Perhaps the change came because of our move into the new apartment. But this began more than a month after. Were they sensing me to be too soft? Probably. It was around this same time that we learned we were pregnant and so I had been increasingly exhausted. I just didn't have the energy to follow through on much of anything. I was just trying to maintain status quo!

My husband and I talked relentlessly about what we should do. We tried various tactics, but were only met with short success. Should we just concede defeat? Separate them into two bedrooms and let them cry themselves to sleep? We did have an additional bedroom in our new apartment, but we wanted to make that into the nursery. What should we do? This mommy needed sleep (and my boys were monsters without theirs as well!)

We knew a lot of this was developmental. The boys have been trying to assert their independence in other areas of their life - perhaps this was just an extension of that. So my husband decided to talk to the boys. They're only two and a half, you say, how much would they even understand? True, I wouldn't have thought this technique to be as effective as it turned out to be. But as we were reading books as part of our regular nightly routine, Andy told the boys what was coming next. "We're going to read books, sing some songs, pray, and then we're going to bed. When you're in your crib, there is no jumping." He repeated this same concept a few times during our routine and then again as we were walking them to their cribs. "No jumping," Ben repeated. Hmm, they understood.

That night, the jumping seemed to have stopped. They still would yell each other's name, say, "Mommy, where are yewww?" and make noises, but no more jumping. This seemed to make sense: my boys always have liked to know what was coming. They want to know the expectations (even if they choose not to follow them.) They're not a fan of surprises.

Andy continued doing this same thing for the next few nights until the jumping stopped completely. Then we noticed they were doing a crazy amount of somersaults and standing on their heads. So last night, he added something else to our bedtime routine. "When you go into your cribs, there's..." (Boys interrupted to say, "No jumping.") "Yes, that's right. No jumping. And there are no somersaults."

I've been repeating this same technique at naptime, too, trying to stay consistent. And they've been responding! Today when I put them down, Jack said, "No dumping. No saw-salts. Mommy 'appy!" (Translation: "No jumping. No somersaults. Mommy happy!") Yeah, I'd say they're getting the message.

Last night was wonderful. Tonight was wonderful. Both nights, they layed down without a problem and didn't make any noises. It took us a while to get here, but I'd say progress is happening!!

Throughout the past two and a half years, I've learned that there's nothing more humbling than attempting to raise your own children. No other job in the world reminds you just how much (and how little) control you have over certain things in life. We've had our share of successes and our share of failures, all of which have been humbling. But we're learning. And I believe we're getting better. At least until the next kid comes and reminds us how little we know!

I should also mention that the boys decided against a nap this afternoon. Don't think we're 100% fixed. But I'm going to blame this afternoon on two dirty diapers and a mommy who was more interested in editing and uploading photos than going in to see why they were both still awake. Ya see? Humbling. But still, we're moving in the right direction!


Why I've Been Silent

There is a reason for my silence lately. Umm, for the past two months. First of all, I've been holding a secret I just couldn't spill. And you know how it is, holding a secret. If someone tells you NOT to think about something, that's all you can think about. So I definitely couldn't blog. And second, I've been too exhausted to make time to write. Well, that, and throwing up and all.

You guessed it: I'm pregnant!
Ben and Jack are going to be big brothers!
We're thirteen weeks today, which puts Baby #3's arrival date at about April 5th. We are THRILLED! The Lord seems to have worked out the timing perfectly... the baby should arrive about a month before the boys turn three years old and we now have an additional bedroom (in our first floor apartment) in order to accomodate our new little one. And yes, please notice that I said ONE. I'm only growing one baby this time. Kinda new for me. But it's been going great so far!

Well, actually, that's a lie. It seems as if carrying one baby is more effort for my body than when it was carrying two. Or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I'm already caring for two toddlers. Or perhaps it was because I stopped teaching after 20 weeks to stay home and care for my growing belly... naps whenever I wanted, that sort of thing. Or perhaps it's all of those things. They say every pregnancy is different and man, are they right! I was never sick with the boys. I gained weight on a steady scale, never had heartburn and never got swollen ankles. This time around, every little smell makes me gag and I've had to use a plastic bag when I'm driving to throw up from the awkward smell of exhaust in the truck ahead of me... more than once. My boys watched me hunch over the toilet on multiple occasions and tried to comfort me by saying, "Hi mom," over and over. Which, of course, just made me cry. Not that I've been extra emotional anyway. I lost more than ten pounds in the first ten weeks. Totally not like me! I ate what I could, but it is so difficult to eat when NOTHING appeals to you. Nothing. I forced myself to eat saltines so often that after a week, even the thought of them made me gag. Eventually, my OB changed my prenatal vitamins (I guess fish oil, when present in vitamins, helps the baby's brain development but is hard on your tummy - I switched to one with vegetable oil) and made a few other suggestions to make me more comfortable. One of her suggestions was to skip the saltines and eat Wheat Thins (a whole wheat) with cheese (a protein). Yogurt and granola. Plain Cheerios and milk. Those three foods have been a staple in my diet lately. Well, that and milkshakes and French fries, which always appeal to me. But raw meat? No, thanks. I couldn't stand the sight of raw meat much less the smell of it cooking. Andy cooked dinners outside on the grill and we've gone out for dinner more times than our entire dating life. We seriously could be food/dining critics with our extensive experience now.

But when I was about eleven and a half weeks along, I started feeling better. I gagged less times during the day and much of my food was staying down. I started to feel like I had more energy and I actually checked my email and Facebook before going down for my daily nap. It's kinda nice. I definitely still feel pregnant, but the fact that I can function on a more human level makes me feel... well... more human!!

In the meantime, I'm trying not to feel guilty about the extensive hours my boys logged in front of the television during the first eleven weeks. Especially since I never had the television on before the boys were two. Let's just say I made up for lost time.

I used to be so proud of my positive pregnancy experience with the boys when I talked to other moms. They'd tell me how sick they were, how difficult it was to get off the couch and how uncomfortable they were from beginning to end. "Oh, I was never sick," I'd admit, proudly. As if I had something to do with how my body responded to the aliens that were growing inside of me. Well, I've since thrown all that out the window. Every experience is different. Every mother is different. Every child is different. And there is absolutely NOTHING you can do about finding yourself in one category or another. That fact has offered me much humility and grace.

But here's the silver lining. In about seven months from now, the Lord will use all of these changes in my body to give us the fifth member of our family. Our third miracle. And that, my friends, is worth it. What an honor, for God to involve ME in the process!

Now please excuse me. I'm going to lay down while my boys still have an hour or so left in their nap. Baby Sauer needs to grow!


All Sorts of Emotions

We are moving in two days. I honestly can't believe it.

Laying in bed while the boys sleep, I've learned that I can only really have about three productive days a week. One day working and then next day, I'm going through the plan in my head for the next day, working out every detail. If you haven't guessed, yesterday was a productive day (my mom watched the boys so I could work in the attic) and I'm getting ready to tackle another day of productivity tomorrow.

But rather than make another to-do list, I'm trying to sort through some of my thoughts. There seem to be quite a few of them these days.

I feel anxious. Excited. Nervous. Sentimental.

Andy renovated this apartment three months before we got married. He put in stackable laundry. Redesigned the bathroom. Redid the kitchen. Installed a dishwasher. Layed down a new hardwood floor. Expanded our master suite to include a walk-in closet. Three months. He wanted this country bumpkin to be comfortable in the city. In our little apartment on the second floor. That was more than four years ago. And I've really enjoyed being here. We made our life here. As a couple, and then as parents.

My only idea of the city when I was growing up was going to the zoo. And my Aunt Mary and Uncle Ron's house. It felt like they lived in another state. The car ride felt like forever and we never left when it was light outside. They lived in the top floor of a house with an outside porch. Aunt Connie lived downstairs, though her porch was walled in. Even as a kid, I remembered liking that upstairs porch. It was amazing how much people watching you could do without leaving your front stoop. The houses were close together and we teased that we could run from one window into the other next door.

I would have never ever thought that I would be moving into the lower apartment of that house in just two days, my (late) Aunt Connie's old living area. After my husband had been working on it for only three weeks.

But leaving this apartment is bitter-sweet. This is where we lived after we were first married. Where we brought our boys home to after they were born. Where they first slept through the night, ate their first bite of cereal and where we fought to teach them how to share. So many memories have been captured between these walls. And now we will begin another journey, the next chapter of our story, just six blocks away.

This little girl, this country bumpkin is moving into her second city dwelling. And it excited about it. Very excited, actually. Gosh, I honestly would have never guessed. Not in a million years.


End of the Episode

My husband and I love watching home improvement shows. It is always neat to watch other people's dreams become reality! Since it's not always possible to see an entire show when it aires, we'll often DVR it so we can watch it later. And sometimes, I'll fast-forward to the very end just so I can see the before/after pictures.

So after working only three weeks on our 'new' apartment, here are a few of the before/after pictures. In other words, I'm fast-forwarding to the end of the episode for you.
The dining room BEFORE on July 7th

The dining room AFTER on July 25th

The living room BEFORE on July 7th

The living room AFTER on July 25th

Another view of the dining/living rooms. My boys LOVED running around their new space!

Boxes are being packed, bins are being labeled and we're making plans for our big moving day in just four more days. There are still minor things that need tweaking at the new apartment, but it's mostly ready. I am very much looking forward to being settled once again! Thank you for your prayers!


Zucchini Patties

There are some foods that I will always associate with summer. Hot dogs. Watermelon. Freezie-Pops. Zucchini Patties. Wait a minute, you've never had zucchini patties? Well, then you've never LIVED!

Alright, that was obviously an exaggeration. But I guarantee you'd add them to your summer favorites after trying this simple recipe! Especially if you grow zucchini in your garden, a vegetable you know that's always growing!

My mom would make zucchini patties on a night we were eating dinner on the grill. While Dad cooked the hot dogs and hamburgers, Mom would whip up these zucchini patties and we'd all burn our hands while eating them straight from the pan! I never remember having any when we sat down to dinner because they were all gone.

Some call them zucchini pancakes - they're essentially the same thing. Pancakes with zucchini, eaten without maple syrup. We had them for dinner last night with hot dogs and sweet corn on the cob. Here's how easy they are.

Zucchini Patties
1 zucchini, washed and grated
1 small vidalia onion, grated
1 egg
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1 c. Bisquick
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. This is what it looks like before the Bisquick.
Then add the Bisquick. I had a few willing hands to help stir:
Heat oil in the pan and then add large spoonfuls onto the pan. Let them cook through.
Flip when they're done (I cooked these a little too long, but they were still good!) Once they're flipped, flatten them with a spatula to be sure there's no batter left inside.
Take off of the heat once both sides are cooked. Put on a paper-towel covered plate and wait until they cool to serve. They go quickly! My boys can't get enough of them!


Walkthrough Wows

We had our walkthrough tonight, where our new owner took his last tour of our house as a guest. The next time he comes, he'll be the landlord.

The dining room is lined with bins. Labeled bins, of course. There are eighteen of them, lined three high and six across. Plus six more in the living room. There are dozens more in the attic, but this is a start. If you have any doubt that the people in this house are making plans to relocate, you needn't look further than the front door.

Brian, the new owner, came tonight with his mom, sister and his realtor. After they left, Andy and I regrouped and chatted about their visit. We laughed about some of the "wows" we heard during the walkthrough. Each one made me laugh.

"Wow, you're young."

Brian's mom hadn't met Andy before - just me and the boys - and she obviously had her own ideas about what this handy man was like. The man that poured his blood, sweat and tears into every inch of this apartment to make it comfortable for his soon-to-be-wife. She was convinced that such a skilled man was mature in years. At least more than thirty-five years young. I thought this honest statement was absolutely hilarious (and definitely made Andy feel pretty good about himself!)

"Wow, you're really organized."

Hmm. Must've been the labels on the bins. I love my labels. I love my bins. Or perhaps it was the shelving unit in the boys' room with their toys in Ziploc bags inside canvas totes. Yeah. I'm sure it was because of one of those things.

"Wow, you really do have a lot of stuff."

This observation came from Brian's sister after she saw the crazy amount of bins and equipment and furniture and empty boxes in the attic. Yup. We've got kids. Therefore, we've got a lotta stuff. Andy teased that we were candidates for the show "Hoarders" and they all laughed. Hard. "Wait a minute," he teased, "it wasn't that funny!"

And so the journey continues. We will sign some papers tomorrow that will acknowledge Brian as our new landlord. We will pay him rent for the rest of this month and then move into our apartment by August 1st. After tomorrow, our house will not be our own.



Destination: Six Blocks Away

I'm not exactly sure where I pictured we would be when we first started this house process three months ago, but I never could have imagined it ending quite this way.

We still haven't found a house. We looked at hundreds of houses online, dozens of them in person and seriously considered three of them. For many different reasons, however, nothing felt quite right. It felt like we were the ones pushing it along, not the Lord. We looked at our calendar and felt ourselves pushing some more. C'mon, we thought, we've got three months. Three months for everything to fall into place and move ito the house of our dreams.

We wondered if we had made the right move. Was it too early to have sold our house? Should we have found a place first and then went through the process of putting our house on the market? No. We had had a peace about the timing of the process, we were acting within our real estate agent's advice and within both sets of parents' wisdom. It had been time for us to move on. We needed something with a kitchen on the first floor, more bedrooms and more living space. This family of four was simply outgrowing our two-bedroom apartment.

Despite our efforts, time kept closing in on us. My husband decided to build us a second option in case we weren't successful in finding a place in time. After some thought and prayer, he called my Great Aunt Mary and Uncle Ron, who live in my great-grandma's house just six blocks from us. They live on the second floor of a double, where the bottom apartment is vacant since my other great aunt died more than a year ago. It would need some work, but we knew it was a good back-up plan in case we needed more time to find our house. They were THRILLED about the prospect of having us rent from them, not to mention the work Andy would do to clean it up to make it more comfortable.

Fewer and fewer houses came on the market and we wondered if we would need much more time than we had anticipated. Andy called my Aunt Mary and started making plans to move in after our new buyer closes on our apartment.

Long story short? We've moving. In three weeks.

The buyer will have his final walkthrough in our apartment this Sunday and we're scheduled to close on Monday. Andy will continue working on our "transition apartment" and we'll move by August 1st. Thankfully, we had been able to stay here more than a month after closing, though we'll be turning in the keys a month early. Not only is he cleaning it up - an apartment that's quite a bit larger than our current one - but he's plastering the closets, tearing up the carpet to refurbish the old hardwood and installing a stackable washer/dryer on our floor, a dishwasher and a garbage disposal. Just to make it comfortable for me. Sigh. He loves me. And did I mention the apartment has a HUGE master bedroom? And three bedrooms? And it's on the first floor? And it has air conditioning? Yeah. I think we're going to be veeeeery comfortable.

So in the next few weeks, I am organizing cupboards, sifting through bins and making our weekly menus out of the items in my freezer and cupboards. It's not how I imagined things to work out, but it's better than I had expected. Now we'll have plenty of time to look for a house without worrying about a lease or going through the process of buying/selling until we're ready. And, we'll be staying in a house that has seen five generations of my mom's extended family, with a very grateful aunt and uncle upstairs.

God. Is. Good.


Identical, But Not the Same

People assume because the boys are (most likely) identical twins, they're exactly the same. It's true, they really are very similar. "But can YOU tell them apart?" people ask. Of course. Usually. I'd say most of the time. At least 99% anyway. Their faces do look very different to me - Jack has a longer face, whereas Ben's face is more round - but I have the hardest time when they're both wet and naked in the bathtub. Or they have hats on and they're in the same exact outfit. But the moment I see them make a face, run or talk, I know right away who it is. "So you can identify them from their cries?" Um, no. I honestly can't. The boys share a room and the only way I can tell who's crying is by locating where the sound is coming from. Or if they start talking. Even then, I can identify which one it is by what they're saying, not the sound of their voice.
In the womb, Jack was Baby A and ultimately, born first. He was a mover, constantly flipping, turning and kicking. I swear, my stretch marks are bigger on my left side because of my Jonathan! (No wonder the cord was wrapped around his body when it was time for them to come out!) Ben, my Baby B, on the other hand, rarely kicked. I counted his heartbeats frequently to be sure he was alright since I didn't feel him move like I did his brother! When they were born, there was more than a pound difference between them, Ben always being bigger. Jack had significantly more hair. Ben liked to be held, whereas Jack seemed to enjoy his space. Jack was an aggressive eater, while Ben fell asleep during feedings. Especially since they each had their own sac, I was convinced they were fraternal.

During months three through nine, however, I started to change my tune. That's when they looked the most similar to me and there was never more than a few ounces difference between them.
At their two-year well visit, the boys weighed and measured exactly the same. More recently, Jack has been eating like crazy, whereas Ben prefers to get his calories from liquid. This was exactly the opposite a year ago. They are constantly flipping. But even though they tend to flip-flop all the time, I'm finding there are some things I can always count on.
If I hear "oh-weeeo, oh-weeeo, oh-weeeo" coming from the boys' room, it's probably Jack. If I hear, "mom!" it's Ben.

Jack is usually chasing, Ben is usually being chased.

Ben is the first one to get up from watching television after twenty minutes to find me folding clothes, whereas Jack could stay there for hours, completely mezmerized.

Jack loves to dribble his big bouncy ball, but Ben has more patience with a mitt, batt and glove.

Jack is a jumper. Ben has remarkable balance.

Ben is more likely to make silly noises and faces into the mirror. Jack is more likely to carry a bug between his fingers all through the house.

Ben doesn't like to leave the house without (at least trying to grab) a small toy to take with him. Jack is usually ready and waiting at the door.

Ben is more likely to collapse into my arms with a hug. Jack is more likely to play with my hair.

Ben can hide for minutes without moving a muscle in order to scare his prey (i.e. his daddy.) Jack gets too excited and reveals himself once his daddy is within earshot.

Jack is more likely to go to his daddy, nana or grandpa, whereas Ben almost always chooses his mommy.

Ben is almost always smiling and loves hamming it up for the camera. Jack, on the other hand, seems confused why he's being forced to show his teeth for a big black piece of technology. Ben poses. I can only get candid smiling shots of Jack.

Jack likes protein. Ben likes carbs.

When they hold their sippy cups, Jack holds it with his left hand and twirls his hair with his right. Ben holds it with his right hand and twirls his hair with his left.

Jack has a fat roll on his right leg. Ben has a fat roll on his left.

When they're doing puzzles, Ben systematically pulls out each piece and places them neatly beside himself before replacing each piece into its spot. Jack, on the other hand, dumps out the puzzle between his legs, then enjoys scavenging through the pile to find the correct piece before returning it to its correct position. Then they switch puzzles and repeat the same process.

Ben likes to be chased, but only Jack likes being caught.

To convince Ben to get his diaper changed, I need only ask him if he's poopy or wet. "Wet. Poop," he responds and comes running over to be cleaned and he sits marvelously. To convince Jack, however, I must first deny him of an activity until he gets changed. "You want to color with markers? Okay, first, you have to get your diaper changed." They both have to want to be cleaned and do not like to be told what to do. They must get that from their daddy ;)

Jack will work at one activity until it is perfected. Ben walks up when Jack is done and expects to get the same result the first time.

Jack finds the activity, Ben joins him.

At times, I feel like Ben thinks Jack is his baby. He is such a sweet caretaker.

When they hear the door downstairs opening (signaling Daddy's arrival from work,) they both run in circles. Ben, however, lands in my lap while Jack finishes at the door and is the first to greet him.

As helpful as it is to categorize your kids, label them as "the outgoing one" or "the shy one" or (worse yet,) "the good one" or "the evil one," I really try and shy away from that. I don't want to be quick to place my boys in a box that they may feel forced to abandon one day. But it is helpful to make observations about the things each of my boys like so I can better channel their strengths for the future. In the meantime, I really am enjoying getting to know my little men. They are both such a blessing and I love every little difference - and similarity - between them!


The Power to Let Go

Have you ever heard the story in the Bible about King Solomon? How wise he was? "Oh, to have the wisdom of Solomon?"

Here's a story that explains his great wisdom: Two women (who were actually sisters-in-law) had a baby within a few days of eachother. Both of their husbands died and they were living in the same house. In the middle of the night, one of the mothers accidentally smothered her baby in bed. Rather than mourn for her lost child, she switched her dead son with her nephew, who was cradled safely in his mother's bed. The next morning, the woman awoke and was horrified to see that *her* baby had died in his sleep. But on closer inspection, she realized that it wasn't her baby at all. Her sister-in-law denied the act and they went before wise King Solomon to settle their dispute.

After hearing both sides, King Solomon suggested he cut the live baby in half. That way, both mothers would be appeased, right? The mother who had lost her baby said, "Good idea." If she couldn't have a baby, her sister-in-law shouldn't either. But the mother whose baby the king was going to cut in half said, "No, don't do it! Give her the baby. I would rather that my baby were alive and living with another mother than be chopped in two." King Solomon knew that this was the real mother of the child. He gave her the baby and sent them home. If you're interested, the whole story can be found in 1 Kings 3:16-28.

Crazy story, isn't it? Just a beautiful example at how sacrificial mothers can be when it comes to her children. She will do anything to see that they have life.
I've been thinking about that story lately. About how much a mother loves her children. How there isn't anything a mother wouldn't do for them to have life. For them to be happy. How she would never want anything to happen to them. But if a mother really love her children, she would need to - first - be willing to let them go.

Trust me, this is not something I enjoy thinking about.

But it is a harsh reality. Jack and Ben are not my own. They belong to the Lord. I'm only caring for them for a time. They are my responsibility, trusted to my care. But they are God's precious precious children. I try and remind myself of this fact when I don't know how to get them to NOT run directly into the street or obey when mommy says, "Stay on the sidewalk, don't touch the grass" and they intentionally do it. Again and again. I go to the Lord in frustration and say, "God, give me wisdom to know how to respond to Your children." Trust me, in those moments, it's not difficult to acknowledge them as NOT being my sons ;)

Nonetheless, it's the truth. I first must let them go before God can decide whether or not to give them back. I'm responsible for my actions and how I choose to raise these kids, mostly because I am performing an act on earth that the Lord entrusted to me.

Someday, this will mean allowing them to get on a schoolbus. Go through a day of kindergarten without me looking over their shoulder or dictating their speech. Giving them the keys to the car and trusting them to be home before curfew. Allowing them to go with a group of friends to the movies. Or to visit a female friend's house. All of these things require letting go. Giving up control. Because only then will our kids HAVE life.

Not to belabor the point, but I've also been thinking about this in relation to house-hunting. As you are probably aware, my husband and I have been searching for our next home. We've found a few that we liked and began the process of imagining ourselves there. Thinking about logistics and talking to our realtor about price. But there's always been a reason we had to walk away. Let it go. The first house had a bad foundation. The second one could only be accessed through a rickety bridge. And with another, we haven't seemed to be able to decide on a price with the sellers. We've had to let them go. Give them up. Because only then can God decide whether He'd like to give them to us or provide something better.

Giving up. Letting go. And trusting God with the future. Not as easy as it sounds, but it's definitely nice to know this isn't my fight. If I truly wants what's best for my family - and I desperately do - I will first need the power to let go. Walk away. And see if the Lord brings it back.


Never Eat Recycled Giraffe

Andy's mom tried to teach him table manners. With four boys in the house, you can just imagine what she was up against. Elbows off the table, trying everything on the menu and eating everything on your plate. Obviously, my husband took notes because he is a very grateful eater, not to mention wonderful (and polite) dinner company. My boys on the other hand? Yeah, I'm gonna need a few more years to work on that one.

At one point, his mom was trying to discourage them from drinking water before they had swallowed their food. "Drinking water like that ruins your salivary glands," she said. "When you drink before your food is gone, your salivary glands are drowned and you'll eventually lose the taste in your taste buds." Sounds scientific, doesn't it? Well, it was obviously enough for my husband, who refused to drink before swalling his food, wanting to preserve his taste buds for as long as possible.

He probably would have gone on to teach our own kids this same piece of (unverified) piece of information if he hadn't brought it up when we had his mom over for dinner a few weeks ago. "Remember when you told us that, Mom?" She was surprised. "Did I? I honestly don't remember." That made me chuckle. Us moms will come up with a host of (seemingly intelligent) information if it might convince our kids to stay on the straight and narrow.

Did your parents ever tell you something that you still hold onto today? Even though you're not quite sure of its accuracy? The truth is, we look to our parents to teach us how to live. How to think, how to work, what to believe. What we learn from them becomes part of who we are. And even if we begin to doubt its accuracy, it can be difficult to completely reverse that little voice inside our heads because it was a piece of information - or fear - that made us who we are today.

I was reminded of this fact yesterday morning, while we were having a MOPS playdate at the zoo. I had packed a lunch for me and the boys so we wouldn't have to buy anything while inside the park. My mom always did the same. If we were hungry, out would come a wonderful snack; if we were thirsty, she'd pull a water bottle out of thin air. My mom was always prepared. With four kids, she learned quickly that it paid (literally) to bring anything you could possibly need.

But just as I was setting out our food under the beautiful shade of a nearby tree, my friends were ordering a pizza for lunch and asked if I wanted any. Immediately, I was taken back to something I remember from my childhood. My mom would probably deny it now, but thirty years later, I can still hear her saying, "No honey, we're not going to buy any food at the zoo. What if they use the meat from their animals when they die?"

Add that to the fact that they call their restaurant a "Beastro," that's all I needed to hear. As a kid, I never asked about ordering a hot dog, hamburger or an ice-cream cone for crying out loud. The zoo can keep their recycled rhinocerous in their stands and save it for all of the kids and their parents that don't know any better. I'd rather have the prepackaged peanut butter and jelly sandwich my mom had made before we left the house anyway.

I'm almost thirty years old and I still remember that.
So when my friends asked if I wanted a piece of their pizza, my first response was, "No, thank you. I've got a lunch here for us." "Are you sure? We've got plenty!" I hesitated a moment and told myself there probably wasn't any truth to the idea of recycled dead lions in their meat and justified that it would be minimal anyway in a piece of pizza. Probably.

Well, the pizza was surprisingly good. My boys probably ate more than half of the two slices that were generously offered in our direction. And I just had to laugh. This is not recycled giraffe. It's just pepperoni. It was hilarous to think about the little discussion I had in my head as I ate my first EVER food bought from the zoo!
These little stories are pretty funny, but they highlight a truth I'm beginning to realize. Our kids hear EVERYTHING. They don't miss a trick. If we tell them the oven is hot, we expect them to take us at our word. If we tell them the water in Niagara Falls is made up of blue-tinted lemonade, they'd believe they could simply jump in to have a taste. I must choose my words carefully because they may be the words my boys remember for the rest of their life.

I told my MOPS friends about my mom's sage advice and Jackie said, "Oh, yeah. It's the same reason I still won't swim alone in the pool. Because I might get eaten by invisible sharks." Sharks that, apparently, only come out when you're by yourself.

Hmm, I might need to steal that one.


The Best is Yet to Come

While cleaning out my kitchen cupboards the other day, I found my old digital camera. I mean, where else would you expect to find your camera?

It's the camera I used to record videos of the boys. Except I haven't been able to find it for quite a while, so the videos were more than six months old. The memory card was full, so I had to look through the videos to see which ones I could delete before downloading my favorites and make room for more. But as I flipped through the videos... the boys wrestling with daddy, jumping in their crib, playing with my phone, drinking out of a cup... I couldn't delete a single one. I just couldn't. Once they are deleted, they're gone. Forever. These moments were far too precious to delete. I had to download every single one onto my computer.

I love pictures. I'm addicted to photography. But there's something about taking a video. It's real life, caught in motion. It instantly takes you back to the moment, draws you in and sweeps you with the emotion of the situation. Even six months ago, my boys seemed more chunky. Shorter. They weren't as coordinated when they ran, jumped or wrestled. I went nuts when they said "more" or "please." I was just amazed at how quickly they seemed to change, even in such a short period of time.

When I came home from the hospital with two newborns, people tried to encourage me, saying, "Enjoy this time. It goes so fast." "Really?" was my response, "I hope so!!!" The majority of my days were about survival. Just making it through. Pumping six times a day and leaving the house only for church on Sundays... that was a rough time. But now, life is so enjoyable. The boys are fantastic sleepers and great nappers, we can take them anywhere on a moment's notice and they eat normal food and drink regular milk. The last two years have gone quickly... relatively quickly ;) But I'm so grateful I have these snippets of video to remind me how far we've come. And to offer hope for the future. 'Cause the best is yet to come!


Making Better Use of "Me Time"

I've always known it was important to make time for "me." But that became especially clear when I had kids. With all of the responsibilities a mom balances - husband, food, cleaning, laundry, playdates, church, family, kids - it can be extremely difficult to carve out time for us to recoup our strength to do it all again.

Andy needs help with paperwork? I'm on it.
They need someone to come up with a craft for playgroup? I'm on it.
My mom needs help making copies of pictures? I'm on it.
Someone needs a meal? I'm on it.

"Me time" lately has been on my bed, flat on my back and with my laptop perched in front of me while my boys sleep. Usually I just zone out in front of Facebook or reading different blogs. It just feels good to do nothing.

This is not necessarily bad, but I've been noticing a trend. "Me time" amounts to laziness and unproductivity. I'm eating whatever I can get my hands on (especially chocolate) and my stomach is acquiring an additional flotation device. I'm sluggish and exhausted. I thought about all of the fruits and vegetables I give to my boys... about the beautiful lunches I make for Andy... and the well-balanced dinners I try and prepare... then why am I serving myself the scraps? That's when I realized I needed to spend more of "me time" DOING things for MYSELF.

I started last night.

When I packed Andy's lunch, I packed one for myself. Complete with a salad, drinks and snacks for the whole day. I do it for my family - why not myself? This way, I can snack on my lunch throughout the day - just as much husband does - and have a better concept of how much I am consuming. I feel better about the green peppers, cucumbers and cheese/crackers I'm eating because I put thought into them the night before. It's not an open-the-cupboard-and-see-what-junk-I-could-fit-into-my-mouth-within-a-ten-minute-time-period kinda thing.

Being a mom is sacrificial. Of course, there's nothing we wouldn't do for those we love. But I'm beginning to realize that I need to spend a little more effort taking care of myself so I have more to offer. Even if that means using up some of my "me time" to better care for ME.

After all, I'm worth the effort.


A Back-Up Plan is Still a Plan

My whole life, I've had a plan. I like having a plan. It makes my life less stressful when I know where I'm headed.

Now, just because I have a plan doesn't mean that things always go according to that plan. They rarely do, actually. I thought I'd meet Mr. Right in college, date for a few years, get married after we graduate, get a job teaching 2nd grade in my alma mater, live in the country, stay home with my kids and live happily ever after. Instead, God didn't introduce me to Andy until I had been teaching 6th grade for three years and now we live in the city with twins. Things turned out very different than I had imagined. But that's because I couldn't have imagined them to be this good! It's only because of God's goodness that I'm able to *try* and be open to changes in my plan because I know that ultimately, God's plan is better.

The past few weeks have been really difficult for this mommy, though, because we didn't seem to have a plan. Well, we did have a plan - to find a house - but that plan had an expiration date. If we failed in our mission before August 31st, we were being thrown into the streets. Or at least one of our parent's houses. Or finding an apartment somewhere and renting month-by-month. Somehow, this Plan With an Expiration Date didn't inspire too much confidence. I've been discouraged and listless. What's the point in packing up your stuff if you don't know where you're going to be? What's the point in organizing your stuff if you don't know what you're going to need? In fact, what's the point in preparing dinner? Or washing the dishes every night? Or doing laundry regularly? It just didn't seem important to do all of the mundane responsibilities of the house on any kind of schedule if I didn't know where we were going to be. Instead, it somehow felt better to just live in the moment and fly by the seat of my pants. Again, not a very comfortable place for this former teacher and perfectionist.

This is an immature way to live, I know. But my whole body wanted to shut down because of this horrible Plan With an Expiration Date.

Finally, we had to get serious. If a good house didn't come on the market before our deadline, we needed somewhere to stay. And wouldn't you know? God provided. If we don't find something we like before August 31st, we're going to stay with my Great Aunt Mary and Great Uncle Ron. Remember them? I wrote about them in this post. They live about 6 blocks from our house, in the upper apartment of my late great-grandmother's house. Their lower apartment was left vacant after my Great Aunt Connie died last year. Rather than go through the hassle of finding and managing tenants as well as making the necessary updates, they decided to leave it vacant to preserve their privacy. When we approached them about the possibility of using that apartment as a back-up, they couldn't even contain their excitement and wanted us to move in the next day. What an answer to prayer! We're going to pay them rent (including utilities) and my husband is going to fix it up a bit before our arrival, which will also be a blessing to them. It has three bedrooms, a bathroom and a larger family area than we have in our apartment. We're already familiar with the area AND family will be right up stairs. And the biggest blessing is that we'll be able to stay for as long as we need to - with no lease, no contingency, no strings attached - until we find our home.

We're still going to continue actively searching for our next house, but now I don't need to be stressed about the "what ifs" in our plan. We've got a plan now... and a Back-Up Plan. I can refocus and continue on the path forward. For the first time in weeks, I cut coupons, planned a weekly menu based on those coupons and have been preparing dinner during the boys' naps again. I just cleaned my kitchen and dining room and for the first time in a month, you can see my kitchen counters.

It feels good to have a plan. Or rather, a Back-Up Plan. Because as it turns out, a Back-Up Plan is still a Plan.


Why, I Oughta

There are so many options of things I should be doing with my time. Right now. The boys are sleeping and have been for the past two hours. I've got almost an hour before it's time to wake them up.

It's not like I've got nothing to do!

I really oughta run a load of laundry.
I oughta take a long shower.
I oughta make thank you cards for my cousin's bridal shower this weekend.
I oughta download pictures of the boys.
I oughta start dinner.
I oughta take up the rest of the groceries from the van.
I oughta clean out and vacuum the van.
I oughta clean my room.
I oughta burn picture files from the computer onto CDs.
I oughta work on the boys' baby books.
I oughta schedule their 2-year pediatrician visit (already a month late.)
I oughta fill out that ridiculously long questionnaire from NYS about their growth.
I oughta pack away their winter clothes.
I oughta work on the MOPS summer playdate schedule.
I oughta make something for our meeting tomorrow.
I oughta clean out my diaper bag.
I oughta write to my secret pal.
I oughta respond to some emails.
I oughta go through a few bins in the attic.

Instead, I've been browsing through old photos on Facebook and then perusing old listings of houses online, hoping to find the needle-in-the-haystack that we might have already missed. I didn't. I've still got nothin'.

And even after all of this excessive time-wasting, I decided that it would be a better investment of my time to complain about everything I ought to do and yet actually DO none of those things. I'm not sure if this accomplished anything. But at least I can cross ONE thing off my list... blog.


The Waiting Game

Do you remember how hard it was to wait as a kid? "Tomorrow" might as well as have "ten years" and "next week" is like saying "practically never." I remember! It's for that reason that I can't even tell my boys where we're going or who we'll see until right before we're getting ready to leave. "Let's put your shoes on, boys," I'll say. "We're going to see Nana!" And don't forget, we still have the thirty-five minute ride in the car. Every few seconds, they echo, "Nana? Nana? Nana?" as if to remind me of my destination. They probably think we're never gonna make it!

Waiting is tough on kids, for sure. But how about us adults?

As an adult, I have much more control of my situation. I am in charge of deciding where we go and when we leave. Though I could argue that my boys have more control over the speed of that progress... or lack thereof. We get our lunch in less than three minutes through the McDonald's drive-thru window and complain if the car ahead of us won't make a right on red. We bypass busy intersections, leave before rush hour and travel the side streets, all in an effort to keep us from waiting in traffic. We survey the lines at Wegmans, gambling on which cashier will get us through the fastest, keeping an eye on the size of carts and number of coupons in the hands of customers ahead of us. If you've got two toddlers with you, it becomes even more important to keep yourselves from waiting.

Trust me. I get it.

Perhaps that is why I'm having such a difficult time waiting on progress lately. I'm used to getting my way rather quickly! We sold our house at the end of April (praise God!) and are scheduled to close in the middle of July. And we still don't know where we're going to live. That's right. We've got nothing. Thankfully, we've got some time, my husband made sure of that. We're free to stay in our house until August 31st. But after that? We've got nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Our realtor sends us an email every morning with the houses that have just entered the market or have fallen into our price range. We consider ourselves to be pretty open minded when it comes to the condition of the house, but are rather picky when it comes to (what I've come to refer to as) the three "Ls." Location, land and layout. We can change pretty much anything else, but we've got to have those three Ls. It's been two months and nothing has peaked our interest. I know that God already has our next living arrangment all picked out, but is waiting for His perfect timing to reveal it to us. Alright, Lord. Aaaaaaaaanytime You're ready!

So we wait. Every morning, I open my email and browse through the new listings. My husband will go see many of them, but (as per my request,) will only bring me along when he sees something he likes. After those options are ruled out, we wait again.

Jack and Ben seem to be oblivious of our waiting game, though. They've never complained of having too little space or not enough room to spread their legs. They're not feeling overwhelmed about the amount of time there'll be to pack or how we'll ever renovate an area in time to move. In fact, they're as happy as ever. I guess ingorance really is bliss.

Ahh, to be a kid again.