Why Didn't I Do This Sooner?

As a mom, do you ever have those moments where you think, Oye, why didn't I do this sooner?
I've said that at least five times this week.
Gosh, if I would have known Megan would have done so well through the weaning process I would have started months ago!
Why in the world did it take me so long to coordinate new house chores for my boys? They're so capable!
I can't believe I dreaded getting back on the Weight Watchers wagon. I'm feeling so much better!
But I suppose that's normal, right? You make a big deal of the thing you're avoiding, very aware of the work it would take to make a change. At least I do. So I do research online, ask my friends, consider my options, complain about it to my husband, get freakishly overwhelmed/depressed/annoyed/confused, and then decide there's nothing left to do but to just start. And amazingly, it almost always works out really really well. 
I get this way about housework, too. I don't WANT to load the dishwasher. My hands would get wet, I have to stand at the sink and that food has been caked on for a whole hour. I don't want to do it. Forget the fact that it really only takes me about three minutes. I'd rather just sit down with some Oreos and an oversized glass of milk staring at my laptop screen. So I do. And then I find that I've gained ten pounds. My jeans are starting to pull tighter and I get frustrated at myself. So what do I do? Grab another brownie. Vicious cycle.
What I'm beginning to realize is how everything goes back to what I'm eating. Donuts, Oreos and frequent trips to McDonalds where Gosh, I can't let this Happy Meal go to waste were literally weighing me down. So Andy and I decided to get back on Weight Watchers and try and discipline ourselves. Again. For like the third time.
Today is Day Three.
While preparing dinner tonight, I had that feeling of, Wow, I actually feel pretty good about things in this moment. I wonder why that is? that I realized how much of myself I had changed when I adjusted my eating.

Dinners are organized again because I am forced to plan ahead. We pack our lunches the night before - for all five of us - and so there's no question about what I'll need to prepare when I've got three kids to manage. No daily stress there.
My entire family works to get the house clean throughout the day because I actually have the energy to hold them to do it and work alongside them. A huge help.
I'm finding little projects to tweak and little areas of the house to organize, now that I'm trying to distract myself from junk food. Great feeling.
My husband has been bonding with Megan so much more now that she's not tied to me for nourishment and comfort twenty four hours a day. Added bonus is that I let her cry through that normal 4am feeding because I'm not breastfeeding anymore. Know what Megan did? She fussed for a few nights and now sleeps straight through until about 6:30am. Straight through. And she's asleep by 7:30pm. That means I get a wonderful night's sleep and I'm able to function better all through the day. (Mental note: try getting to bed before midnight to fully take advantage of that sleep.)
And this is all because I started eating better.
Weight Watchers, I think I love you.


The Power of Perspective

Perspective can be a scary thing.
Watching thousands of people as small as ants from the top of a skyscraper. Realizing just how big an airplane is up close. Or learning that someone you love has just been diagnosed with a deadly disease. It's tough. Sometimes it's easier to observe things from a far than experience them up close. Perspective can be very very painful. And it's usually very uncomfortable.
I believe one of the most humble doses of perspective one can experience is that of having kids. Very few things have the capability of bringing you to your knees quicker.
One moment, you're on top of the world. I mean, like Mom of the Year eligibility. Everything is going well, you've hit your stride, your kids are charming, beautiful and intelligent. You even look thinner in Target's dressing room mirrors. Your husband loves what you made for dinner and your baby practically puts herself to sleep. Life. Is. Amazing.
And just when you start thinking about how easy it would be to add another cherub to the mix... BAM! You're hit with a healthy dose of perspective.
I had one of those amazing days this past week. And consequently, it was the excitement of today that brought me back down to reality.
I think it was Wednesday that was just awesome. My boys were especially charming in the morning and fell over themselves with appreciation for every little thing I did. They sat nicely in the double-cart at Walmart that afternoon and when I offered Jack a Band-Aid for a cut on his finger, he said, "You take good care of me. You're a good mommy."
I could have died and gone to heaven, right in that moment. Gosh, what a wonderful life I've been given. Could my kids BE any sweeter?
And then it became Saturday.
Admittedly, I stayed up too late finishing a project in the basement, so I was in no mood to start off the day pretending I was up for this. Andy went to work and the kids immediately starting screaming. Over nothing. Literally. Nothing. "Ben said he didn't like me!" Jack yelled. "Jack said he won't listen to me, Mom! MOM! Did you HEAR me!?" Ben screamed. Oh, my.
I should have thrown the towel in right there, but I tried to muster enough energy to rally them in cleaning up and getting out of the house. Sometimes, it's easier for me to "fake it till I make it" if I get out, just so I could have a change of scenery. They begged to go into McDonald's PlayPlace so I lazily appeased.
They were surprisingly good while we ordered and ate. They played for a bit and then I gave them the "ten more minutes" countdown. I reminded them again at five minutes, two minutes, one minute, etc. This is nothing new. It should not have been a surprise. But to my boys - in that moment - they were not having it. Full blown (double) tantrum. Oye.
I tried staying patient as we got a few things at the grocery store (after all, one of their first meltdowns of the day was because we were out of milk) and then I threw them outside to play when we got home. My patience at this point was warily thin, so when they both bolted to the front of the house against my wishes, I was full-blown mad. I chased down Ben and carried him back into the backyard. I went around for Jack, but couldn't find him. Oh, that is not good for a mommy's patience. I walked around the house four times, with no luck. I couldn't see him and I couldn't hear him. I started getting worried. Oh, no. Did he run off somewhere to escape my wrath?
I didn't know where else to look. My first thought was to call Andy and see what he thought I should do. Call the police? Oh, geez. I opened the back door and there was Jack, sitting on the couch. "Sorry for running, Mom," he said. Ooooh, this kid.
When Andy came home a few hours later, I practically threw the kids at him and asked for a few minutes to myself to make dinner. What a wonderful fifteen minutes that was. At least I was able to calm down enough to think about going through the craziness of the bedtime routine.
Sometimes, we are the family that other people complement in stores. "Oh, my! What wonderfully behaved children you have!" and "Are they always this sweet to their sister?" But I'm always mindful of the fact that we are always just a HAIR away from the looks, stares and negative comments about how horribly my kids are behaving.
Parenting brings out the best and the worst in us, I guess. Makes you want to call your mom to thank her for all of the sacrifices she made for you and your siblings while also apologize for all of the ways you made it difficult.
So don't be too hard on the mom whose son is screaming because his mom won't let him have a candy bar or whose 14-month-old daughter is flailing her little body on the floor of the McDonalds PlayPlace because you took the straw (she had in her mouth while she was running) away from her. That mom is doing the best she can. On any given day, that mom could have easily been me.


I Married a City Boy

I married a city boy. He picked me up at school where we were working... or perhaps I picked him up... I've always been fuzzy on those details. But nonetheless, this country bumpkin was smitten the moment I saw him.

I tell him all the time, I never believed in 'love at first sight' until I met you. He thinks I'm kidding.

I'm not.

It was his confidence. His smile. His "honest" eyes, as I called them. When he was around, I felt comfortable. Happy. Like myself, but better. I was absolutely elated when he finally got the hint and asked me to marry him!

Six years later, I still feel lucky.We're raising three great kids and still consider eachother to be our best friends. My confidant. My support. My love.

There are a lot of ways Andy shows me he loves me. But every week, I'm reminded of one of the biggest: when he mows our lawn.

We have a riding lawn mower. It sorta came with our house, although I suppose we did pay an additional $200 for the seller to leave it for us. And what a help it has been! We have just under an acre in the backyard and a small plot in the front; having a riding mower not only allows Andy to give the boys frequent rides around the yard, but it also allows him to get it done in half the time and energy it would have normally taken. Every time I see him on that mower, my heart skips a beat.

My city boy.

When we met, he was living in the city. While we dated, it was clear to me how much he loved living there. He was a sixth-generation city-dweller and wore his heritage proudly. Working in real estate, he had a heart to restore the city to what it had used to be, the community he heard his dad and grandfather talk about. I agreed to marry him, knowing full well that I needed to be okay with living in the city with him for as long as we both shall live.

I knew this was the man God had intended for me and I trusted Andy's heart, so this wasn't a really tough choice. Except it kinda was. I grew up in (what I always thought was) the country. People nowadays tell me that it's really the suburbs. But the fact that my parents live next to a big red barn, own several acres and our road wasn't paved (nor did we receive access to cable television) until I was in high school are big indicators of "country" to me. I dreamed of building a house with tons of land, letting my kids stay outside all day until it was dark and having campfires during the summer. But I had to let those dreams go in order to follow my husband's dreams. Not hard, but still kinda hard.

Andy renovated a beautiful apartment for us, even installing same-floor laundry and a walk-in closet for me so I wouldn't suffer in any way. And it was wonderful! We walked to restaurants, rode our bikes to the park and grilled on our balcony as we chatted with the neighbors. Truly a phenomenal place to start a life. We sold our house about four years later and moved into another apartment just a few blocks down because we didn't have a peace about any of the other houses we saw. We were within walking distance to the zoo, had memberships to the museum and went to the park every few days. I found that I had really come to enjoy the city not just because my husband liked it, but because I was discovering all of the good things it had for our family!

About a year later, Andy found a great house. But it wasn't anything I was expecting. It was in the suburbs, just two miles from where I grew up! It appealed to him because of its community-feel... sidewalks, houses were close together, and you could walk to the post office, bank, diner, coffee shop and a couple stores! We won an intense bidding war not on price, but on terms. The Lord completely paved the way. And. I. Was. Still. In. Shock. It was such an amazing house because of its ability to cater to both 'city' and 'country.'

That was this past July. We've been in this house for about ten months. And every day, I pinch myself. I'm living my dream. The dream I abandoned. The dream I never thought was possible. We're doing it together. And it's even better than I imagined!

I know that Andy would prefer to live in the city. He tells me that he really likes it here, but I know he misses it. But he did this for me. For our kids. Because he knew it would make me really really happy.

It used to take him five minutes to mow our front and back lawns in the city. Because they literally were the size of a postage stamp. Here, it takes at least an hour (and that doesn't even count the amount of time he spends weed-wacking.) It's a labor of love, for sure. In the fall, he'd laugh that all of the leaves that fall in our backyard - which was quite abundant, by the way - would have covered an entire city block. And he's right. But he does it anyway.

This afternoon, I watched him give the boys rides on the lawn mower as he worked to mow our entire lawn. Back and forth, back and forth, my city boy smiled with one of our four-year-olds on his left knee as he manuevered our big old mower through our property. I know he would rather not be mowing. But the fact that he does - and with a good attitude - is one of the most romantic things he does for me.

My city boy. Mowing our lawn. Swatting at the flies, ducking at the low branches and carrying bags of cut grass to the curb. For me.

Daddy and Jack, September 2012

Now THAT'S love.


How it All Went Down

If someone would have told me four days ago that my baby would have slept through the night last night and taking naps in her crib today, I would have... well, I don't know. I guess I would have... just started crying or something. Because I would have thought you had confused me with someone else. And I would have been mad with jealously, desperately wishing that was me.
Except it IS me! And my baby IS currently taking her afternoon nap in her crib!!!!
I had a plan to sleep train Megan months ago. We trained our boys to soothe themselves when they were 10 weeks old out of necessity - and we were happier parents because of it! But I just couldn't justify it this time around. Why, oh why, would I let my little girl cry? I couldn't do it! She's only one baby. It felt so much easier to let her nurse to sleep and then I would gently lay her in her crib. Sure, she'd wake up at least four times a night. But I'd feed her again and lay her back down once she fell asleep. That whole process took about 25-40 minutes each time - not a huge deal. But add those minutes to the time I had to hold her during her two daytime naps (because she'd inevitedbly wake up if she heard her brothers while transitioning to her crib) as well as the hours I'd feed her in the evening before she'd fall into a deep milk coma... and I was exhausted.
This hit an all-time low about a month ago when I started sleeping on the couch with her all through the night so she'd be able to sleep sitting up - to help with the cough, the stuffy nose, the pink eye, the earache, the runny nose, etc. Transitioning her to the crib at night was no longer an option and I felt like I'd get better sleep this way if we just nursed all through the night.
We both kept getting sick. And more exhausted. I wish there was a word worse than exhausted to describe just HOW exhausted I really was. I was leagues beyond exhausted, beyond sleep deprived. I was restlessly dehydrated.
Last Friday, I was mumbling nonsense to myself.
Last Saturday, I was putting the remote in the fridge and the car keys in the cupboard.
Last Sunday, my eyes wouldn't stop twitching and I was a hair away from rocking myself back and forth in a locked closet while my kids screamed for their mommy.
So I'm sure you can just imagine what poor shape I was on Monday.
I'm being a little silly, but in all seriousness, Monday was the lowest I have been in a long time. I was drained. Completely empty. I couldn't think straight. I was having lustful thoughts about sleep. Thinking, 'I don't necessarily want to kill myself, but if I were dead, at least I would be sleeping.' Andy and my mom were willing to help, but I didn't know where to accept their aid. I was the only one Megan wanted. I was the only one who could nurse her. It was the only way she could go to sleep. The only clear thought in my head that made any real sense was: I. Can't. Do. This. Anymore.
I wasn't ready to receive EVERYONE and their brother's advice about what I should do (or what I should have done differently.) So I knew I was way too raw for an open Facebook status message. Instead, I wrote a private message to a few of my closest mommy friends.
You know, the ones who know you're crazy, but still think you're a good mom? Yeah. Those friends.
I asked for prayer. Real prayer. I knew I was at a low point and couldn't bear to sleep on the couch with Megan one more night. I needed to make drastic changes THAT NIGHT, even though the circumstances weren't ideal. Megan was still sick. She was still on amoxicillin for her earache and had acquired a new cold and cough. Ideally, I would have waited for her to be healthy before expecting her to cry through a completely new routine. She might throw up. She might drown in her own snot. Perhaps I should wait. But I couldn't bear the thought of doing it one more day.
Side story: my boys were (obviously) giving me a hard time about taking a nap. Largely because I was too emotionally gone to foster the loving pre-nap ritual we usually follow. I was giving empty threats. Just wanted them to be quiet and do what I wanted. I just wanted to nap and sleep my sorrows away for a few minutes. Give myself some time to soak in the prayers of my friends. Ben wasn't going with my plan and so I threatened, "Benjamin, if you don't be quiet, I will spank you so hard you won't even know what hit you." Let me be clear. I don't usually talk to my kids like that. I'm going to blame a phrase like that on my severe lack of sleep. But my three-year-old, in all of his innocence and goofiness, said, "Yes! I will know what hit me! It was your hand!"
Oh, Lord, forgive me.
Thankfully, my boys did take a nap that day. And Megan - completely exhausted from our bad night on the couch - fell asleep next to me on my bed. My friends prayed. And encouraged. And wouldn't you know, I heard the perfect words I needed to hear when I woke up. One friend, who also struggled more with her second born than her first said, "It can't get much worse." She was right. That was it. I was going to start that night.
Andy came home early from work and we talked over dinner while the boys watched a movie. In all honesty, I was so sick about all of this I couldn't even eat. We came up with the final plan and talked through every step. We would start that night.
If you don't want to read the specifics of how we tackled this, skip this next part and continue at the **********
First, we had to change her schedule so she wouldn't be eating directly before bedtime. I fed her before bathtime with the boys and then lotioned her up, put her pajamas on, brushed teeth, etc. After we said goodnight to the boys, Andy proceeded with their bedtime story ritual and I went in Megan's room. We turned on the new noise machine and sat in the rocking chair. Since I had already mounted our new video monitor on the wall with Command Strips, I knew I'd be able to monitor her progress from my bedroom. That gave me a lot of much-needed peace.
We rocked for a few minutes and I told her what to expect. I'm not sure she understood exactly what I was saying, but I know she understood that things were going to be different (but alright) by my tone. We read a few books together and then I sang some lullabies. Then I stook up, turned off the light and sang "Jesus loves me" next to her crib. I prayed, said, "It's time for sleepy time," a phrase that I've tried to work into her sleeping schedule now, and then put her down in her crib. That is our new ritual.
Then I rushed out and closed the door behind me.
You wouldn't be surprised to know that she started crying even before my feet left the room. It was horrible.
But don't forget what kind of day I had. I never like to hear my baby crying (especially when I knew it was because of a process I've encouraged and enforced since Day One!) but my resolve was strong. There was no way I could sleep with her on the couch again. I just couldn't. Physcially. Emotionally. Spiritually. I was done.
So she cried. And cried. But I knew she wasn't dirty. I knew she wasn't really hungry. She wasn't cold. There was plenty of light in there. And so we let her cry.
Our plan was for Andy (not me) to go in after 5 minutes and soothe her before putting her down again without saying anything. And then he'd go in again after an additional 10 minutes. Then 20, then 40, etc. Each time, the crying got more intense as she realized she wasn't getting what she wanted but then all of a sudden, it rapidly decreased. Her cries weren't intense, just whiny and constant. She was getting it. She cried for a total of 65 minutes that night and she didn't wake up until after 4am.
For those of you that might have just skipped passed that information, let me say it again. She didn't wake up until 4am. She slept from almost 10pm to 4am. That is phenomenal! Andy had been ready to go in and pat her back through the night if she was fussy, but he didn't even have to do that. At 4am, I figured she was probably hungry (or just wanted to nurse) and so I fed her for 10 minutes before putting her down awake again. She cried for an additional 45 minutes and then slept until 7:45am. And this was just the first night!
I continued with this same schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday, although her progress isn't as impressive during the daytime naps. But the nighttime sleep has just been amazing. Since that first time, we start the routine earlier so she's in bed by 7:30/7:45am, which seems to be better for her. (Our first instinct is to put them down later so they wake up later, but that has NEVER been true for my kids! Good sleep begets good sleep!) Last night - the third night in our training - she slept from 8pm to 5:35am. I fed her (actually, she threw up this morning because of the mucus in her system,) but after outfit changes for the both of us, I held her another minute before putting her down awake. Then she slept until 7:30am.
These are miracles, I tell you. Modern-day miracles.
As I said before, her progress hasn't been as evident with the daytime naps, largely because she longs to be awake with her brothers. That's difficult when she tends to need two naps a day and her brothers nap once (and honestly, only about 3/4x a week.) But the fact that right now, at 2:24pm on Thursday, all three of my kids are napping at the same time... in their own sleeping arrangement... after soothing themselves to sleep... is just miraculous.
I reviewed a lot of books while trying to discover which process would work best for Megan right now. The best one I found was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. It addresses sleep issues that you might have from birth through adolescents. I am, in no way, a model parent for the methods he recommends in his book. But I can tell you, I have found a way to feel human again. To take control of my home again. To think clearly and enjoy my side of my bed at night. And I've gotta say: it feels absolutely wonderful.
I had told my friends that I would join Pinterest when Megan started sleeping through the night. My mom remembered my pact and so when I woke up after a restful sleep this morning, I saw an invite from my mom on Facebook. Hmmm, Pinterest, huh? Yeah, I guess it is time.
So I joined.
Oh, Lordy. What have I DONE?!?!?


Chomping at the Bit

I feel like the newbie on the team. I'm jumping up and down excitedly, saying, "Put me in, coach! I'm ready! I'm really ready!"
Because it's been more than ten months of nursing my baby to sleep. For every single nap and all through the night. And I am ready for it to END! I'm chomping at the bit to start. I've read a ton of books, talked to a ton of moms, and read a ton of stuff online. A ton. It's taken me a while to feel 100% ready, but now that I've got a plan, I can't start. Because I have to wait until Megan is 100% healthy.
Two weeks ago, it was pink eye. For all three of my kids. Last week, it was a nasty cold. For all of us. And this week it's been an earache for Megan. Oye. I am so anxious for this child to not be sick anymore! Poor baby has had four teeth come through on top, most likely a big part of her recent shenanigans. I spend most nights on the couch with her so she can be upright, counting down the hours until the sun rises and the rest of the house wakes up. My back aches and the bags under my eyes are so not attractive. I long to sleep in my bed again and wake up to the soft coos of my loves after more than four hours of sleep at a time.
I'm ready. And as soon as Megan is healthy, it is GAME ON!


The Value of the Truth

You know when you have those A-HA! moments? Those moments when you stop and think, Wait a minute. I did just something good right there. I've gotta remember that!
Well, they don't happen a ton, but when they do, I tend to take notice.
I've learned that I can get my boys to do just about anything if I'm completely upfront and honest with them.
I've always tried to be honest with my kids, when I can. If they're going to get a shot at their 3-year-old well visit, I tell them. It makes it a lot easier in the long run. So maybe it's just what they're used to. But when all three woke up with pink eye on Sunday morning, I knew it would involve a 'dreaded' visit to the doctor. Well, I wasn't positive it was pink eye, but when I consulted my reliable sources on WebMD, I knew that had to be the case! I didn't think the pediatrician would be open, so we planned on going to Immediate Care. We changed our outfits from Sunday Formal to Saturday Comfortable and piled the kids in the van. On the way, I explained what I knew about our current situation.
"We have to go to a new doctor's office today to get some medicine for our eyes."
"But I'm not sick," Ben said. Yeah, right. His eyes were the reddest of the bunch.
"Well, the doctor wants to look at your eyes anyway. We may need some medicine to help us all get healthy again."
We exchanged a few more questions and answers before having to say, "I know you don't want to go, but sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do." I'm finding many occasions where that's appropriate lately. They don't like it, but they have to learn that's part of life. I'd rather them have a fit in the car than in the doctor's office.
A few minutes into our carride and I took my sister's advice to call the pediatrician - I hadn't realized they were open! Plans changed. She was calling in a prescription for us, over the phone! Oh, how lovely. We were all grateful not to have to drag all three kids into the pediatrician if we didn't have to. We changed our course to pick up the antibiotics at our grocery store. Eye drops. For all three kids. Which would need to be administered three times a day.
Oh, Lordy. Eye drops. How am I going to explain this one?
I explained that we would no longer be going to see the doctor, but that I'd be picking up some medicine instead. "Our medicine is eye drops," I told them. "It will help our eyes feel better. It will be like I'm splashing your eyes with water and I'll have to do it a lot of times."
They were, obviously, a little unsure of this new method and immediately threw a fit. I kept calm and emphasized our goal: being healthy. They asked a lot more questions until they were a little more comfortable. Then they were fine. We were barely out of the car and the boys were BEGGING to have their first eye drops 'splashed' into their eyes! Oh, the tumultuous life of a three year old little boy. Or two.
Now, I've never done this before. I knew I wouldn't like it. I've never had glasses (much less contacts,) but the thought of me - or other people - poking around my eyes makes me sick to my stomach. So I had to suck it up and just do it. Another part of life where it kinda stinks being the adult.
Knowing my boys, I let them gain some kind of control. I let them choose whether they wanted to stand or sit on my lap. Which eye was first. If they wanted to cover the other eye or not. And they were the ones to tell me "GO!"
I've gotta be honest. It was not the devastating situation I had imagined. They flinched, but they took their medicine so much better than I would have. Not even twenty four hours later, we were able to be excited together to see how much their condition had improved. "The medicine is working! The medicine is working!" we all jumped around the kitchen this morning. It was so rewarding to actually SEE their virus improving. Their 'hard work' had begun to pay off.
I know I sorta came the long way in explaining my point, so I'll say it again. My boys like knowing what to expect. They don't like surprises. I tell them what they need to know before it's staring them back in the face. Because I'd rather have a little time to answer questions and relieve their nerves than get to the doctor's office when that huge needle is aimed at their bloodstream and it takes a fleet of nurses to hold them down. There's no time to explain then.
I believe this helps nurture trust.
I want my boys to know that I can be relied on. Trusted. Counted on. That if they ask me a question, I will do my best to answer it. That I won't spring something on them the last minute in an effort to catch them off guard. Because I want them to be as emotionally and physically prepared as possible. It's for this reason that I try not to tell them if someone is coming over for a playdate until a few minutes before when I know they're on their way. As much as disappointment is a part of life, I try and limit the number of disappointments I have to explain. That's just me.
As always, you know your child best. Some of your kids are better off not knowing they're going to get a pint of blood drawn a half-hour ahead of time because their nerves kick into high gear and make them nervous beyond functionality. This is just something I've learned about my kids.
Now, if we can get everyone healthy again, then perhaps I can start reading about how to get my sweet baby to sleep through the night. Because sleep would just be a DREAM now. Literally. Or figuratively. Or... whatever. You know what I mean.
I want sleep.


When Sleeping Is My Best Option

Oooh, I have so much I want to do.
Why is it, that I think of so many things I want to do when I have the least amount of energy to do them?
I finished a big craft project for my Mothers of Preschoolers group this week. Like, huge. As in "use every free minute during the day and stay up until 1am for two solid weeks" kinda project. For the last few days there, I wasn't even cleaning my house. And let me tell you, dishes pile up pretty quickly over here. So when it was done, I was exhausted. Relieved, but exhausted. That's when I started making my wish list of projects.
You know what that means, Super Moms. The list of projects you want to do after you've made dinner, thrown a few loads of laundry in and fed your starving children. I like to think of it as extra credit.
First up, was my bedroom. I desperately want our bedroom to be a calming place. No paperwork on the dressers, no clothes on the floor, blankets on our bed, just a place to relax. But our room has never been that way since we moved in eight months ago. It's pretty embarrassing, actually. And after I finished that, I wanted to work on the dining room table. You know, the one that has been housing the craft supplies from my big project! Then it was the basement. Oooh, the basement. If the rest of my house is clean, it's only because I've stashed everything down there.
I was ONE day away from feeling like my room was almost clean and Megan got sick. Just a cold, but sick, nonetheless. So not only was I recovering from MY lack of sleep, but now I was caring for an adorable, snotty baby who just wanted to be held. All night. So that turned Mommy into a warm pillow with a backache. The couch was our makeshift bed for a few nights while she benefitted from the sleeping-in-the-upright-position sleep. And I just... well... you don't really sleep very well with an infant on your chest. Especially one that cried whenever she tried to nurse because she couldn't breathe.
I'm getting a book delivered tomorrow called "No Cry Sleep Solution." I'll give you one guess as to what I'm struggling with to need a book like that.
Normally, nighttime is my work time. I get so much done in the evening after all of the kids are asleep. But tonight, I can barely keep my eyes open. My throat is sore, my voice is barely there and my whole body aches. Andy worked late tonight and I did the bedtime routine on my own. And it was a really rough afternoon. I love my kids like crazy, but I am so over this whole screaming/tantrum/whining stage. It's good to see their angelic faces fast asleep in order to reaffirm my love for them. This. Mommy. Is. Exhausted.
My dining room can wait. My bedroom can wait. The basement can definitely wait. I'm not going to think about the fact that there are eight puzzles thrown all around my family room, puzzles that I was too lazy to make the boys put away. I'm not going to think about the possibility that I'll be up with my ten-month old again tonight. I'm not going to stress about how I will EVER get her to sleep through the night until after I've had a few minutes to peruse the book that hasn't even been delivered yet.
For now, I'm going to lay down in bed. Close my eyes. And hope sleep finds me soon.
I have so much I want to do. But for now, sleeping is my best option.


Being a Friend

This post was written by my co-author, my dad:
A husband works and plays to an audience of one: his wife. An older friend recently told me about a secret she had discovered about men. After her elderly husband had finished working on the outside of the house all day, she wisely asked if he would be willing to show her what he had done.
Admittedly, she had to pretend to be interested at first, but her interest grew as she saw her husband begin to blossom with enthusiasm and appreciation for the attention he was receiving from his wife. You can’t imagine how encouraging something like this is to a husband. Really.
Just for a moment, imagine a husband writing this letter to his wife:
I need you to be my friend and companion, even my buddy. During courtship you could hardly wait to be with me because you liked me. Please be more friendly toward me in the home. I feel that you scold me. I need a lover not a mother. I want you to see me as your ally, not your enemy. I like it when you want to be by my side. I like it when you want to be with me just because. I like it when you want to watch me do something without critique.
I want you to be with me at times without talking. I want you to like me not just love me. I want to be close to you; shoulder to shoulder. I like being alone in solitude but knowing that you are in the next room. Please don’t view me as the tin man who has no heart. Don’t pass judgment on the quality of my friendships because I don’t relate to my guy friends in the same way you relate to your girl friends. I would (be willing to) die for some of my buddies. Would you die for your girl friends? When we greet one another in the evening, could you do so positively? Can you hold off the complaints of the day? And when I leave in the mornings, would you express something positive to me? I married you because I needed your positive companionship. I want you to be my friend.
All this creates such deep feelings in my heart for you.*
Be a friend.

*Excerpt from Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich

Nine Years Later

I took my kids to eat dinner at Subway tonight since my husband was working late. They were being so charming, so thoughtful, so delightful. I picked up my cell phone to write a cute exchange they just had as a Facebook status update when I saw someone approach our table.
"Miss Albrecht?"
I looked up. It was a boy. A teenager. A somewhat familiar face, but I couldn't place him. The fact that he called me by my maiden name gave away the fact that he was a former student who I had within my first three years as a teacher. (I met Andy during my third year and we were married at the end of my fourth; all of those kids would have known my married name and called me "Mrs. Sauer.") That would put this young man as about 19-20 years old.
And yes, every bit of that information crossed my mind within the millisecond before I responded.
He had to tell me his name, but as soon as he said it, I looked at him as if he were eleven years old again. Ryan.
Ryan had been quiet. Short. An average student. Never really talked much. A nice kid. I can't say that I made a huge difference in his life as a student, but I suppose with 125 sixth-graders every year, you can't make a perfect connection with each one, right?
I asked what he was up to, if he was in school, etc. No. He was working at a pizza place up the street. "Are these your kids?" he asked. Realizing I hadn't introduced them, I exchanged names and then he surprised me with his next sentence. Seemingly out of nowhere. "My girlfriend is two months pregnant."
I see.
I had a million different thoughts, but I didn't want to come across as too judgemental. "Wow, that's a lot of responsibility."
Honestly, I don't remember what other small talk was said after that little exchange because I was completely lost in my thoughts. He left after picking up my napkin that had fallen on the floor.
I finished writing my status update and put my phone down to see Jack offering some of his bread to Meg. I felt so incredibly proud of my kids. MY kids. These are not my students that I invest myself in during the workday and then send home to their families. These are MY kids. Gosh, how did I get so lucky?
I have my Master's degree. I am permanently certified to teach pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade in New York state. I have five and a half years experience as a classroom teacher in the district rated second in the state. While these are great things to be proud of, they are not my greatest accomplishments.
Still, it makes you think.
When you give up a career in order to invest yourself in your family, it's easy to question whether or not you did the right thing. Gosh, I could have offered so much to those kids. I could have made a difference in their lives. I could have done so much.
But at the end of the day, you know that there was nothing I could have done differently to see that Ryan stayed in school or didn't get his girlfriend pregnant at such a young age. I taught him about ancient civilizations. Read his essays. Helped him organize his homework schedule. 
I choose to invest everything I've got into these three beings I helped bring into the world. Three. Some may see it as a waste of talent, of resources and of time. But here's how I see it: I've got ONE shot. One. And I don't want to mess that up. I know that by staying home, it will not mean my kids won't find trouble outside the house someday. They're kids. With free will. I'm counting on them having their own life experiences. But I am praying that my influence, my dedication, my love for God and their daddy will make them more willing to stay open to the Lord's leading.
That's my prayer.

This is - in no way - belittling the hard-working moms who work outside the home out of enjoyment or necessity. We are all doing the best we can with what we have. Simply put, this is just the best fit for my family right now.
Some may think I'm doing those 125 kids a disservice by not being their social studies teacher. Perhaps they're right. But I've got three pretty special kids sleeping upstairs right now that would beg to differ.
Best of luck to you, Ryan. May God give you all the wisdom, grace and stick-to-it-iveness to be a great daddy to that precious little one.


My Son, Jon

Well, the day has come.
I honestly can't believe it did.
I thought I had more time.
My son, Jonathan, who we've affectionately nicknamed "Jack," now wants to be called "Jon." And he's breaking his mama's heart!
Jonathan is my firstborn. Except I've never had to tell him that. He proclaims himself to be the leader and Ben gladly follows. The other day, he told me that he was the boss. Surprised, I asked him to repeat himself. Then seeing my smile and raised eyebrows, he added, "I am the boss when I am a daddy."
He's three, folks.
We knew that he was serious about his name-change when his Sunday school materials came back today with his new desired name written on the back. I almost cried.
My little brother was fifteen when he decided to make the switch from Daniel to Dan. I remember being sad, hoping he'd change his mind and not sure if it would ever feel right. Eight years later, though, and it feels just fine.
My smart, inquisitive, determined and "I want to do it the right way, Mom" firstborn is making his own way. In a very three-year-old sense, he is asserting his independence. He wants to be called Jon and so I will try my hardest to accomodate (even though I will secretly be praying that he does change his mind!)
In the meantime, this is my son, Jon:

No matter what I call him, he will always be mine.


Venturing Out Into the World

As I've said before, I love getting out with my kids. As much as I would classify myself as a "stay at home mom," I'm definitely more of a "get out and venture into the world with my kids while also maintaining some kind of order at home" kinda mom.
Oh, I get looks. Lots of looks. When you see identical twins walk into a store, of course you give them a second glance. You wonder how similar they look, if they are indeed twins and how they're different. I get that. But you wouldn't believe some of the facial expressions that come my way when I enter a store. Disgust, curiosity, amazement and perhaps a little bit of insanity. I'm trying not to be so sensitive about it. Can you tell? ;) It's just a side effect of having twins. I know my kids are super cute. Go ahead, give 'em a look. Point and stare at their long eyelashes. They're adorable, I know. At least that's what I tell myself they're saying.
When I had Megan, the looks got even more frequent. And expressive. You'd think I had four heads and three arms with how obvious people are with their double-takes. Yes, I have three children. Yes, two of them are twins. Yes, they are identical. Yes, I am proud to have 'finally' gotten a daughter. No, I am not some kind of breeding experiment gone wrong. Geesh. An older gentleman in McDonald's saw me enter the restaurant a few weeks ago with the boys holding onto my jeans pockets (a rule we have for crossing a parking lot) and the baby on my hip. As I tried manuevering my crew to the restroom, he gruffed, "Ya got enough kids there?" I was so appalled by the abrasive nature of his comment - especially when my kids were behaving so well - that I responded with a straight face, "Oh, this is nothing. I've got five more in the car." That shut him up.
One of the best comments I've received came from a middle-aged woman in the grocery store last winter when I was pregnant with Megan. She pointed to my boys and then pregnant belly and joked, "Girlie, if I were you, I'd sleep with one eye open." It still makes me laugh out loud!
But I digress.
I like taking my kids out with me, so I have to be intentional about how I want them to act. I thought I'd share some of the things that seem to work with my kids, making them pleasant to be around when we're out in public... most of the time anyway. ;)
First thing: we talk about it. As we're getting our shoes on, getting into the car and driving to our destination, I tell them what will happen and how they're supposed to act. "Okay, we're going to the library today. We're going to borrow some new books and DVDs! What do we do when we're in the library?" We talk about how we have to be quiet, walk and not yell or they will ask us to leave.
Second thing: we joke about what we're NOT going to do. I sorta started this on accident because I felt like all I was doing was lecturing my kids about what they should do. I started being silly about the behavior I would NOT expect from them. "When we go into the library, are we going to run around the bookshelves and throw the books into the air?" NOOOO! "Are we going to hit the computer with our boots and do somersaults on the floor?" NOOOO! "Are we going to yell at our brother and hit him in the head with a video?" NOOOO! All of this is received with uncontrollable laughter. They get it. And they always ask for more. "Mom, tell more jokes!"
They know what to do, they know what not to do. So now, comes praise.
This is the last thing. I praise them like crazy. The moment I see them do something I asked, I jump on it. "Uhh! Benjamin! You're whispering in the library! What a good listener you are. Everyone will be so happy you're being quiet so they can read their books." "Jack, you held the door open for me without me even asking. What a gentleman you are! That is so helpful to me when I'm holding Megan!"
It sounds silly, but it totally works. Sometimes, they'll ask me to call Daddy to tell them that they were being a gentleman, a concept he started encouraging a few months ago. So I do as soon as we get into the car. If he's not available to talk, we call my mom, my dad, my sister, anyone that will answer their phone so I can brag on my proud toddlers. And. They. Love. It.
I suppose I forgot to mention this one. It's a biggie. When I'm in the store, the library, the museum, wherever, my total attention is on them. I don't talk on the phone, I try to shop quickly and move fast. I keep them stimulated in conversation (or with a game of "I Spy") so they don't get bored and start making trouble. Trust me, that can happen quickly. Just give me one minute of looking up a recipe on my phone and I've got two boys spitting on eachother and pulling their brother's hair.
Alright, I forgot another one. Perhaps I should have organized my thoughts a little better before I started this post, huh? Always keep an ace in your pocket. Not literally, but figuratively. Give them something to look forward to when they do well. And be prepared NOT to give it to them if they don't. It doesn't have to be food and it doesn't have to be expensive. "Boys, if you are good listeners today, when we get home, I will make each of you your own paper airplane." or "If you act like a gentleman this morning when we're at the store, we can fingerpaint before your nap." or "If you keep your socks on in McDonald's Playplace today, I will give you your Happy Meal toy when I buckle you into your carseat." And believe it or not, they go for it. It seems to work well when I give them something to look forward to. Something I know they like.
I should have also prefaced this with the fact that we DO have meltdowns in public. Gosh, I really should have written an outline before I started this post. Hope I haven't lost you completely. We have bad days. We have crying fits. We have impromptu wrestling matches in the middle of Target. It happens. In those cases, I just try to keep my eyes down and get out as quickly as possible. When I have a moment to recollect my thoughts (usually, when they're sleeping,) I try and reevaluate what I could have done differently and make a plan for next time. Well, that and usually a good venting session with my husband :)
I like getting out of the house. I like being with my kids. These ideas help make both scenarios possible. 
Because as we all know, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."


25 Things You Didn't Know About Me

I'm so glad my dad broke the ice with his post yesterday. It has been such a long time since I sat down to blog that I had felt overwhelmed, not sure of where to begin!
And since there have been many changes in the past few months, I thought I might further break the ice by writing a list of things you may (or may not) already know about me. You may not find them interesting, but it will give you an idea of what I'm all about. And appreciate just how... uh... unique I am.
  1. I was teaching sixth-grade social studies at a public middle school when I met my husband. He was the adorable aide that walked through my hallway between third and fourth periods every day. It was the time I was most faithful with my hall duty responsibilities! He introduced himself to me, asking where the library was. I had to make a really quick decision: he's either really bad with directions (the library was right around the corner,) or he was just desperate for a quick pick-up line. Either way, it worked. I was smitten from the first time I saw him standing in my classroom doorway. Almost seven years later and I still swoon when he calls my name.
  2. I've always wanted to be a mom. Jack, Ben and Megan are phenomenal kids and I learn so much about God, life and hope from their existence. And I really really love being home with them. Truth be told, though, I do miss my health insurance benefits.
  3. I have this crazy obsession about keeping my hands dry. I don't know if I've always been this way; perhaps I've only noticed since having kids. I buy Bounty select-a-size paper towels in bulk and I'd be embarrassed if anyone knew how many rolls I go through a month.
  4. I love my new house. Like LOVE my new house. Not that it's super amazing or anything, but the fact that it's in my hometown, in the burbs, and it has a kitchen overlooking the backyard. Marrying a city boy almost five years ago, I never thought he'd consent to living anywhere except surrounded by buildings and sidewalks. But that changed about eight months ago when Andy found this house - in the ONE neighborhood he said he wouldn't mind living - for sale. Honestly. Just amazing. My city slicker now owns a riding mower, a snowblower and has a three minute commute to work. I'm telling you. It's a dream come-true.
  5. I have zero self-control when it comes to eating sweets. Zero. Zilch. If there are sweets in my house, I will eat them. Especially Oreos and chocolate. And ice cream. And cookies. Did I miss anything?
  6. I'm thirty one years old and I still bite my nails. I find this very annoying. Unlike dieting, which you can start over after every meal, it takes months to start again after a big nail biting. Aye. I'm a work in progress.
  7. I'm shamelessly addicted to Diet Coke.
  8. Andy and I were on Weight Watchers last year and I lost all of my baby weight in just a few months! (I reached the weight I was when I first met my husband - it's just distributed a lot differently now.) We ate tons of vegetables, I was packing lunches the night before and we prepped all of our meals for the week. The holidays arrived, however, and I struggled to stay healthy. It's the cookies! I blame it ALL on the cookies!
  9. I'm afraid to try coffee. And cappucino. And other legal stimulants. Mostly because I'm pretty sure I'd like them and would add yet another thing to my list of obsessions. I already have a long list of obsessions. I'm not really interested in making it longer just yet.
  10. Since we moved, we are now dangerously close to Fro Yo Culture, a frozen yogurt shoppe that allows you to pour your own yogurt and toppings and you pay by the ounce. Hearing words like "live cultures" and "probiotics" give me permission to load up on the chocolate chips and peanut butter cups, as long as I add some strawberries to keep it healthy.
  11. I'm a little worried how many of these posts have to do with food.
  12. My three-and-a-half year old boys are ridiculously cheap to entertain. They don't even play with toys (well, unless you count blocks, cars and sports equipment.) Want to be their best friend? Ask if they want some tape, scissors, markers, paint, straws, pipe cleaners, beads, sticks or rocks. Out of those things, they will make a sword. Every time.
  13. I love taking my kids out with me. I never left the house during the boys' first year (because I pumped breastmilk exclusively - definitely don't recommend that!) so I'm making up for lost time. We have memberships to the zoo, science museum, play museum and we visit our library every single week. It's rare that I'm home two mornings in a row. I don't know what I love most: getting out of the house, having real-life conversations with my boys about their surroundings or watching people's reactions to me manuevering with identical twins at my ankles and a baby on my hip. I could write a book, the comments I get... and that's when my kids are being good!
  14. I don't really watch television, but I love my computer.
  15. My iPhone is the coolest piece of technology I own. My Canon EOS 60D SLR is a close second. That's a really cool camera, for those of you taking notes.
  16. I google almost everything. How to boil an egg, what's the best sugar cookie recipe, and is it normal that my 9-month old is still getting up multiple times a night? How did my mother survive without access to the information highway? I should be so much more messed up than I am ;)
  17. There are sooo many things I love doing: taking pictures, making (mostly digital) scrapbooks, stamping cards, computer formatting and party planning. The moment money is involved, however, it steals all my fun. I've been taking engagement photos for my cousins who've gotten engaged over the past few years. I've done five so far. This year, I will add three more to the list. And I absolutely love it. I make it a rule to only photograph beautiful people. That way, people will think my pictures are phenomenal.
  18. I don't consider myself a writer, but rather, one who enjoys writing. I'm not a cartoonist, but rather, one who enjoys drawing caricatures. I'm not a photographer, but rather, one who enjoys taking pictures. I like dabbling in a lot of things, but I'm not good enough at any one thing to be considered a professional. I don't like being put in a box.
  19. My car used to be really really clean. Always organized, stocked with the essentials, and nothing on the floor. I used to tease my mom about her car. "If you just took everything into the house each time you come in, your car would stay clean!" I'd scold her. That was before kids. Now, at any given moment, we could eat for a week with all the food crumbs under the seats. I'm just trying to embrace it. I'm sorry, Mom. I totally get it now.
  20. My husband is the most talented person I know. There isn't anything he can't do. This is our third dwelling he has fixed up to my liking (in all three places, he built laundry on the second floor!) and is a hard worker. He has a great perspective on life and a wonderful sense of humor. He's the guy you want to invite to your party: he'll make sure everyone has a good time and is comfortable. He brings out the best in me. Even with all of the responsibility he carries, he is never too busy for his kids and supports me in things I love to do. I am one lucky, lucky gal.
  21. I can get so much more stuff done around the house when my boys are home to entertain Megan. Seriously. You wouldn't think so, but since they are obsessed with their nine-month-old sister (and she with them,) I can leave the room to put in a load of laundry or take a shower as long as they're there to entertain her. I'm starting to get worried about this fall, when my boys will go to Pre-K. This baby is going to miss her big brothers. I will miss them, too. I just wish they would stop trying to pick her up. She's only nine pounds lighter than their skinny selves and she topples over almost every single time. The sound of that infectious laugh would keep me coming back for more, though, too.
  22. Andy and I were ecstatic when we found out we were pregnant for the first time. We found out they were twins at our 12 week sonogram. Andy jumped up and down. I cried. I had planned for ONE baby. Not two. I'm not sure if these points illustrate it at all, but I don't handle change extremely well. I stopped teaching at 20 weeks and spent the rest of the pregnancy at home. Again, NOT part of the plan. But I am so grateful for God's provision. Having two healthy babies born at 38 weeks (6.5 and 7.7 pounds) was such a wonderful blessing. I'm still enjoying these two healthy boys, though I'm always amazed how two little beings can make so much of a mess. They are the brightest parts of my day. I love the fact that I can't listen to the radio in the car because Jack is always asking questions and that Ben will give his coveted toy to his brother whenever he asks. I am extremely proud of my kids. They are, by far, my greatest achievement.
  23. The first hole I wore into the knee of my jeans was a year ago. Funny, I had to be a mom, playing on the floor with my kids, before I ruined any of my clothes! Growing up, my sisters mowed the lawn and filled propane tanks (for my dad's business.) I, on the other hand, was given "inside work." I'm just not a rough kinda girl!
  24. My boys tried sushi before I did. And loved it. It's one of our family favorites now! I especially liked how they said "spicy sushi."
  25. When I sleep, I always need to have a blanket. Even in the summer. I loooove to be warm. I blame it on the fact that my dad owned a home-heating company. Andy's dad used to refuse to turn on the heat until November 1st. Yeeeeeah, that's not gonna work for me. I don't care if it's in the middle of July. If I'm cold, the heat's going on! That's how I know Andy loves me; he lets me turn up the heat as much as I want. Hey, it's for the kids, right?
Okay, there you have it: you now know more about me than you would ever care to know! Tune in next time to read my top twenty pet peeves!
Just kidding.
Or am I? ;)


"Boy Wanted"

This entry was written by my co-author. My dad.
Donna and I were very happy with three little girls. Actually, I was afraid to have a boy. Then one day, one showed up. We used to read, “Boy Wanted” to him occasionally from William Bennett’s, Book of Virtues (below) as soon as he was able to understand it.
Girls naturally become civilized as they grow up but boys need to be taught to be civilized. With all the confusion about what manhood should look like in our society, boys need direction. For example, we used to ask him how many children he would like to have when he grew up. This encouraged him to look into the future and to see himself as a grown up. Gratefully, he is all grown up now and has his mother’s gentle temperament. He remains a “boy wanted”.

Boy Wanted
This "want ad" appeared in the early part of [the 20th] century.

WANTED - A boy that stands straight, sits straight, acts straight, and talks straight;
A boy whose fingernails are not in mourning, whose ears are clean, whose shoes are polished, whose clothes are brushed, whose hair is combed, and whose teeth are well cared for;
A boy who listens carefully when he is spoken to, who asks questions when he does not understand, and does not ask questions about things that are none of his business;
A boy that moves quickly and makes as little noise about it as possible;
A boy who whistles in the street, but does not whistle where he ought keep still;
A boy who looks cheerful, has a ready smile for everybody, and never sulks;
A boy who is polite to every man and respectful to every woman and girl;
A boy who does not smoke cigarettes and has no desire to learn how;
A boy who is more eager to know how to speak good English than to talk slang;
A boy that never bullies other boys nor allows other boys to bully him;
A boy who, when he does not know a thing says, "I don’t know," and when has made a mistake says "I’m sorry," and when he is asked to do a thing says "I’ll try";
A boy who looks you right in the eye and tells the truth every time;
A boy who is eager to read good books;
A boy who would rather put in his spare time at the YMCA gymnasium than to gamble for pennies in a back room;
A boy who does not want to be "smart" nor in any wise attract attention;
A boy who would rather lose his job or be expelled from school than to tell a lie or be a cad;
A boy whom other boys like;
A boy who is at ease in the company of girls;
A boy who is not sorry for himself, and not forever thinking and talking about himself;
A boy who is friendly with his mother, and more intimate with her than anyone else;
A boy who makes you feel good when he is around;
A boy who is not a goody-goody, a prig, or a little pharisee, but just healthy, happy, and full of life;
This boy is wanted everywhere. The family wants him, the school wants him, the office wants him, the boys want him, the girls want him, all creation wants him.
Source unknown
Quoted in The Children's Book of Virtues
by William J. Bennet
This is our son, Dan and his wife Lydia dancing their first dance as husband and wife last July: