It’s rare these days that I get any one on one time with my kids. It’s the nature of our season of life. So it was a nice little surprise when I got to go to the store alone with Landon last week.
One of the joys of having a baby with older children in the house is the small amount of freedom it offers. Annika was asleep last Thursday, and I needed to pick Tia up from gymnastics, so I left Sloan home with the sleeping babe, and Landon and I scooted out, swinging by the store to grab some milk.
As we walked the store aisles, I felt a moment of pride sort of puff me up. Lee had been out of town all week, and I had managed the chaos without any major meltdowns. Somehow I didn’t even feel terribly overwhelmed despite going on five days flying solo.
“I’ve got this. I’m doing good,” I thought. And yes, I felt proud. Not the healthy “Atta girl” sort of pride, though. More like the unhealthy, thinking-more-highly-of-myself-than-I-ought-to sort of pride.
I grabbed Landon’s hand as we walked, because he’s 7 and he still likes to hold my hand, and I looked down at his little freckled face and smiled.
“I’m glad I get this time with you, buddy,” I said with a smile. “I sure am glad I get to be your mom.”
He grinned, his loose front teeth hanging at a sort of odd angle, and blinked back up at me, big, adoring blue eyes trained on my face.
“I’m glad you’re my mom, too,” he said with a grin.
“Thanks!” I said. “I think you’re awesome!”
He smiled big. “You’re awesome, too. And pretty.”
Aw, I thought. What a sweet boy.
“But not as pretty as my friend at school’s mom.”
“Her mom is cuter than you.” He looked up at me. “No offense, mom. I’m just saying.”
Happy Tuesday, everyone! May your day be filled with grace, peace (yes, I am praying for peace), and the perfect dose of reality to keep you humble.
Tia walked into the kitchen and opened the cabinet, pulling out a small bowl, which she filled with a little oatmeal. I watched as she got out the formula, and together we mixed just the right amount in to make the oatmeal the right consistency.
“Should I give her Pears or Sweet Potatoes?” Tia asked.
“Um…” I was so baffled by what was happening that it took a minute to register what she said. “Sweet Potatoes.”
She mixed the food together, then picked Annika up, put her in her high chair, and proceeded to feed her the entire meal.
As she did this, I cleaned the kitchen, because sometime over the course of the day it had exploded, and I wanted to see if we still had countertops under all those dishes.
After dinner, Tia changed Annika’s diaper (with a little help from me when it was discovered that her sister had had a bit of a blow out), and then put on her pajamas.
“Do you need anything else?” Tia asked.
“Only a promise from you that you will never leave me, ever,” I replied. She laughed.
She thought I was kidding.
This time last year, I was still in freak out mode. Every time I thought about having another baby, I’d have moments of intense panic, followed quickly by moments of intense excitement, which were usually followed again by panic. And round and round I went.
Here’s the deal: I was set to have all my kids out of the house by the time I was 48. I’d be under 50 and have my husband all to myself again, and we had plans, man. Most of the plans included travel, which when you think about it is quite laughable since we’ll have three kids in college at the same time for at least one year.
So realistically, we’ll probably be living off Ramen Noodles again when we get those three out of the house. Good times.
It’s not that having a fourth kid was ever a huge surprise. I mean, we weretrying to adopt a child. We knew we wanted four. But when we adopted, we would have brought home an older child, which is like buying yourself time.
So starting from scratch with number four set us back in our big plans (of eating Ramen Noodles so we can pay for college). But you know what?
Annika is the greatest thing that ever happened to our family.
I don’t say that just because I think she’s awesome (which I totally do), but also because seeing our older kids with a baby is quite possibly the sweetest part of bringing home our new addition.
As Tia scurried through the house helping me get her sister settled, and make all the preparations to head out to Sloan’s baseball game, I couldn’t help but think what an amazing mom she will be someday. She’s getting so much practice right now, and she’s just a natural with her sister. It floods me with warm fuzzies to watch them interact.
There are so many wonderful things about this surprise fourth addition to our home, but the biggest surprise of all has come in watching her brothers and sister fall madly in love with her. And when they speak to her and her face lights up in a smile? Hands down, the best part of this entire experience.
It totally makes up for the fact that Lee will be almost 60 by the time we finally get the house to ourselves again.
I’m distracted today. We have visitors. The house is a bit of a hot mess. The laundry wants to strangle me in my sleep. And the baby keeps smiling and cooing at me, begging for interaction, which I cannot deny because of this:
See what I mean?
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t document our weekend, or at least the beauty of an unforgettable Easter. We have Lee’s mom with us this Easter, and it is bitter sweet. We miss Herb. We wish he was here with her. All the firsts after someone you love passes away are just so hard.
This is the first Easter. The first visit without him. It’s weighty, and we feel the weight.
But there’s so much in which to rejoice, too. The kids are happy. The baby has teeth, is close to sleeping through the night, and couldn’t get cuter if she tried.
Lee got a new grill and we have so much food in our fridge right now, we won’t need to grocery shop for awhile.
I mean, that’s reason in and of itself to do a happy jig.
And yesterday morning, Landon walked into the bedroom, his brand new Bible clutched in his hands, and he told his dad he wanted to know Jesus. He’s asked questions for months, trying to grasp the weight of Christ’s sacrifice and how that applies to him. He’s told us he believed, and I know that he did.
But yesterday, his faith was made sight.
He arrived at church hours after I did, since I was leading worship, and he grabbed my hand, pulled my face close to his and whispered with a grin, “I asked Jesus in my heart.”
So much pride. Such grace for this freckle-faced little boy of mine. It’s an answer to prayer, and now the prayers continue. Prayers that he will grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Prayers that he will truly grasp who God is for Himself. That his will not be a blind faith, but one in which he really seeks to know God deeply.
There is something so marvelously joyful for a mother to see her children grasp faith and make it their own. There will be trials as they grow, and there will be more testing of the faith. I expect it, and even welcome it. Because I want my children to know God, and to know Him you have to look for Him.
Easter 2015 was special in so many ways – ways that far exceeded the pain of our recent loss. And I couldn’t help hoping that maybe, somehow, Herb got to experience the joy of his grandson’s salvation as all of heaven rejoiced. I don’t know how that works, but there’s comfort in knowing that he may have gotten the ultimate view of yesterday’s joy.
“Mom, I don’t get this problem. I need your help.”
“Mom, does the ‘Y’ at the end of this word make the ‘EE’ sound like ‘happy,’ or the ‘I’ sound like ‘cry?’
“Mom, I can’t find my (fill in the blank).”
And then the baby screamed for an hour.
It was one of “those” days. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of day that doesn’t contain enough coffee to make life not feel like a freight train crashing around on a Tilt-a-Whirl. Like you’re being squished and pressed in from all sides, and also on top and from the ground up.
It was a day that came after a night that was too short, and several times interrupted by a baby with a bird mouth who couldn’t find her sleeping groove, and so eating was her go-to coping mechanism.
And so many cries for “Mom.”
As the day drew to a close, I found myself dragging through each motion. With daddy out of town, it all falls on me. Gymnastics, soccer, meals, homework. On a good day, I can rock our schedule with gusty flair, but on a fatigued day, I move a bit like an elephant in quick sand.
I slogged my way through the showers and the late night studies of multiplication tables, my eyelids so heavy that Tia finally looked at me with deep concern.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “Your eyes look weird.”
We’re working on tact with that one…
As I warmed up the baby’s bottle, while quizzing Tia on her math, and listening to Sloan tell me about the new book he was reading, Landon tugged on my shirt.
“Mom?” he asked, eyes all big and hopeful.
“Just a minute, buddy.”
“But…Mom?” He pulled on my shirt again.
“Hang on, babe. I’m listening to Sloan right now. Tia what’s 8×4?”
He leaned against my side and waited for a brief moment before tapping my arm again. I sighed and look down. “What, Landon?!” I was exasperated. He could tell.
He motioned me down so he could whisper in my ear. “I love you,” he said softly, then he smiled wide, thin lips stretched across soft cheeks.
You can’t have him, friends. He’s all mine.
With a lighter heart, I finally got all four (four!) kids settled into bed, and I stood in the middle of my kitchen for a few moments, relishing the stillness and quiet that is rather elusive in our home these days. I felt almost giddy at the thought of my own warm bed waiting for me, and I began preparations to make my way to it.
I turned to see Tia standing in her doorway. She came padding out and tossed me an impish grin. “I need to get a drink,” she said.
I sighed. “Okay, but be quick, alright?” I was exasperated. She could tell.
“Okay,” she said, then halted. “But I also want to tell you about the rainbow.” She looked at me, her eyes so big they made her look like a Disney princess. How could I say no? I nodded my head reluctantly.
“Did you know that the first color in a rainbow is red, but you can’t see it because just above it is blue, and the red and the blue blend together, and that makes the first stripe look purple? Isn’t that so cool?” Her smile was so wide, and her eyes so delighted to share this information with me that, once again, I felt my fatigue roll off my back like the droplets of water that streak across the windshield.
To all the exhausted, overwhelmed, stretched-too-thin moms out there, I raise my glass to you. We’re fighting the good fight, heels dug in, determined to enjoy this ride called motherhood. We’re told to cherish each moment, but the moments all blend together into chunks of time that feel like they’re just.too.much.
But like the red and the blue of a rainbow, those blended together moments actually make something new and beautiful. They make motherhood.
We’re doing this, friends. We’re living this mothering journey, and it isn’t really glamorous, and perhaps we get exasperated more than we should, but at the end of the day we know we’re loved, and we learn really cool things about rainbows.
So we tuck those brief moments deep in our hearts, and they become the fuel to get us through the next day, and the next night, and the one after that, until we find ourselves on the other side of this journey. I understand why older women tell us to cherish this time.
They know that on the other side of mothering young children, we miss the magic in a rainbow.
In roughly seven weeks, our life is going to change drastically. I think I’m ready for it, but I don’t know.
Are you ever really ready to have a baby?
This is the fourth time I’ve done this, so I feel like I’m a little more prepared for the process of transition. I’m ready to not be pregnant. I’m ready to meet her. I’m ready to see my big kids become big siblings, some of them for the second or third time, one of them for the first time.
I’m ready to to move forward, but I’m also not.
I’m not ready for middle of the night feedings. I’m not ready for the sleep deprivation. I’m not ready to try and get three kids up and out the door in the mornings with an infant in my arms, and then get those same three kids to bed at night with an infant in my arms.
I’m not ready to figure out how to fit eating and nap schedules into sports schedules.
I won’t really be ready for any of that, which is why I’m priming myself daily to just let it all go. Go with the flow. Ride the wave of crazy until it crests a little bit.
“You’re not going to die from disorganization,” I tell myself daily. Although with the nesting settling in full force, I am finding myself a bit twitchy at all the things that need to be done around here. The clutter – AH! The clutter. I want to get rid of all of it. I want to stop spending money (last bit of summer fun combined with school time preparations is making me feel like I’m just tossing stacks of bills into the wind…)
I want to hole up in a neat, quiet, organized house and wait for her to come.
But I can’t.
There are activities in which to participate, preparations to be made, messes to be tolerated, and bills to pay. Insurance confusion won’t sort itself out, and kids want to swim three times a day while they still can.
(I just wish they would quit swimming in their clothes because the laundry is killing me softly.)
There’s a season in which creating, working on my craft, takes a much more prominent role. And there are seasons when mothering my brood has to be given greater precedence.
There’s a season for a neat house and fresh, homemade meals, and there’s a season for dirty floors, dirty laundry, and take out and left overs.
There’s a season to keep up, and a season to fall behind.
I’m not sure if there’s ever a season for sleeping when you’re a parent, but I hold out hope as it’s the only thing that gets me through the days.
Right now, as we finish out our final two weeks of summer before school starts, I find myself in a season of activity. That’s okay. I’m going to be okay with that. This is a season with friends over, lots of noise, messy floors, and memory building. It’s not a season for extended hours of writing.
In two weeks the season will change.
And after that? An entirely new season will begin.
Embracing the crazy is my only option…because drinking’s off the table.
What season are you in right now? Are you enjoying the season, or are you, like me, talking yourself through it, clutching onto the joyful moments like a life vest?