Why parenting never gets easier – and why it’s amazing.

The countless diaper changes, sleepless nights and dirty dishes create a blur of beautiful chaos those early years of parenthood. Add in siblings close in age and you lay your head every night thankful everyone survived another day. The kids get older, you become a bit wiser until eventually one day goes by unnoticed as anything other than unremarkable. And it becomes two and soon a few weeks and then you realize that without the pomp and circumstance that celebrated your entry to parenthood, you’ve entered an entirely new phase that involves noticeably fewer tears from everyone.

I am never so naive to think that I’ve got this parenting thing down. But we seem to have travelled through the survival phase known as babydom and toddlerhood and arrived at the other side: school-aged.

And things become markedly calmer and you think, “This is easy! We could totally have six kids.”

Then you’re kid does something awesome like break her arm in such a way that it’ll require surgery, pins and a full arm cast. Because, you know, God is hilarious and has awesome ways of gently reminding me when I’ve become too big for my britches.

The kids get bigger and so do the problems. I’m not talking strictly about physical injuries. While I’m no longer concerned with the perils of potty training, I’m now facing the challenge of raising two young girls with healthy body images and leading them through the maze of mean girls and self esteem. While this chapter of parenting is typically less physically demanding – although the shuttle service between school carpool and ballet classes and traffic is exhausting – it is a race of emotional and mental endurance. I’ve shifted my energy away from the day-to-day and toward the long task of character-building and emotional development.

They ask Big Life Questions that I usually feel wholly ill-equipped to answer. You must formulate a concise, spur-of-the-moment response when your five year old explains that sometimes she feels like God isn’t close and wonders if I’m sure He really thinks she’s special enough. Or when she confides that she isn’t sure she’s pretty enough. Or if I’m sure there isn’t even one thing that would ever make me stop loving her – what if she steals a rainbow? Because to a five year old, there is nothing worse than stealing a rainbow.

I want to blame the influence of peers and society but truthfully, I’m confident most women struggle with the same questions regardless of our age, social circle or upbringing. The lessons that we instill now – or don’t – will have a lasting effect far into adulthood. Nurturing a sense of value and self-worth, cultivating grace and generosity and taming arrogance and superiority. Are we ever good enough? Interesting enough? Thin enough? Strong enough? That stuff is hard.

When Josh and I decided to have kids, it was a pretty short conversation and a sudden shift from my career-oriented life goals. And my view of parenting was very short-sited and I, embarrassingly, didn’t think what it meant to be a parent past the first year. I never entertained the idea that God may bless us with daughters instead of the enviably less dramatic male option. Instead, He gave us and one then another incredible little female human with tender hearts that need guarded and guided and given a safe place to flourish.

I want them to grow strong – physically and emotionally. I will teach them to shine brightly and boldly. I will show them that vulnerability is not weakness. I will encourage them to embrace difficulties and remain joyous through the challenges.

I miss the simpler days of parenting when snuggles and Momma milk made everything better. But how fortunate am I to be tasked as steward of such precious gifts?

Please, please don’t let me screw them up.

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Becoming a mother.

Four years ago, I sat in a rocking chair in my unborn daughter’s nursery and cried. Hysterically. Josh stood in the doorway and stared at his very pregnant wife, unsure of exactly what to say or do and uncertain if perhaps something he had already said or done was what had spurred such an incredible display of emotions from his typically poker-faced wife.

Although the pregnancy was planned, it wasn’t very well thought out.

“Maybe we should have a baby.”

“Okay.”

I’m certain we’ve had lengthier and more serious discussions about shower curtains and tire tread.

Four weeks and four pregnancy tests later, we were pregnant. Pregnant.

I was just 24 when Emery was born. I had been playing grown up longer than most other women my age and after 3 years of marriage, it felt like Josh and I had been married for ages. Now, after 7 years of marriage, I can’t believe we were so naive to think we had this marriage thing mastered so quickly.

Cooking for two, clean laundry and balancing a budget. Check! Next up – Babies!

By the time that June evening rolled around, it all seemed like a very, very bad idea.

About 18 hours after my rocking chair meltdown, Emery was born on a rainy June afternoon to two utterly clueless parents. I had no idea of what was ahead. Honestly, I didn’t think much past wee babes wrapped snuggly around my chest and tiny bits of lace on bloomers.

Was I going to co-sleep? Maybe? Breastfeed? I think so…? Did I research car seats? Pediatricians? Vaccinations? Bottles? Daycare? Diapers?

Most people misunderstood my approach to parenting as laid-back or flexible. In reality, I just had no freaking clue parenting involved so many decisions. I didn’t realize there were choices on how to discipline, educate, interact. And even if I made a decision, I failed to recognize that there would be this other little person with a mind and personality of her own who didn’t care I rushed my hugely pregnant booty to Target and spent an hour choosing the best BPA-free, latex-free, orthodontist approved pacifier. She hated those $12 pacifiers and insisted on the latex, tooth-snaggling variety. Pick your battles.

Throughout the past four years, this girl has changed me. Her fiery spirit is rivaled only by the size of her heart and learning how to raise her has forced me to study the deepest parts of myself to find and understand those things that I buried years ago. Doing this breaks me down to the humblest and most vulnerable of positions because the only way I can attempt to understand her is if I understand myself. This child is more like me than I care to admit. It’s the most awesome and terrifying responsibility to nurture such an amazing little being who carries such incredible talents and traits. Because I am most certain that this child will move mountains and defeat giants once she sets her mind to it.

The flip-side of such a strong personality is taming such an innate defiance toward authority and those silly things called rules (again, like me. Sorry, Josh). Some days, all I can do is throw my hands in the air and pray with every fiber of my being that above all else, I don’t screw this up.

First Birthday.

First Birthday.

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Third Birthday.

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Fourth Birthday.

Apparently Em’s second birthday was as rough as I remember because we have zero pictures together and only a few blurred snapshots of her running laps around our backyard in a tutu. Followed by many, many tears when she blew out her candles.  I’m so glad those days are behind us.

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SONY DSCI can say with great sincerity that I cannot wait to see what this year brings. I have high hopes that “four” is our year. She’s coming into her own and watching her grow and blossom is a pleasure and honestly, rather hilarious. Happy Fourth Birthday, sweet girl.

 

The time E turned 3 and I bawled.

My first baby, born so tiny on a rainy Ohio day, has turned 3 years old.

Turn off the lights, would ya?

Turning 1 was a milestone. Turning 2 was just exhausting. But turning 3 is fun, exciting and bittersweet all wrapped into one.

I’m not really an emotional person. I don’t get sentimental. Nostalgic, but never weepy. But today, I’m a wreck.

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Tossing the Toys, Part II.

Those kids of mine are smart cookies.

Yes, sir. They know when their Momma is up to something.

And chances are, they don’t like it one bit.

As I told you last week, I’ve had enough of the plastic, light-up toy madness that has overrun not just the playroom but every one of the nine rooms in this house. I set out to sort through the battery-powered piles and rid us of the chaos.

But my sweet girls caught wind. And do you know what they did? They started playing with their toys.

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Birthdays and general feel-goodies.

After enduring and (barely) surviving what shall hereby forever be known as The Worst Week of My Adult Life, today was exactly what this worn out Momma needed. Sun, friends, a new iPhone and early bedtimes.

We joined my friend Mariah and her clan at Jekyll Island to celebrate her little man’s first birthday.

Her boys and my girls match up pretty closely age-wise. The older two play quite well together when E isn’t breaking sticks over Miles’s head (during which he sits quietly, enduring the beating like a true little gentleman). The younger ones explore independently but I envision those two troublemakers sitting and scheming up some antics to torture their older siblings in very near future.

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Dirty Little Clean Secret #2 – I reuse my daughter’s diapers

To those who know me, today’s DLCS isn’t much of a secret but it is definitely a topic of clean living.

I use cloth diapers.

Cloth diapering has certainly gained popularity in recent years and a fair-share of my mommy friends are cloth-converts. And yet, I still get bizarre stares and remarks from some folks when they realize I actually launder and reuse the diaper on Little Chunk’s derrière. So, here’s the (lengthy) rundown on why and how we cloth diaper.

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Parties, cupcakes and babies.

One of my dearest friends is due next month with her second sweet baby and since we find any excuse for a party, we threw her a fun little shin-dig this afternoon. We had popcorn and cake pops and jalapeno poppers and soda pop and many, many lollipops. Because she’s about to pop, you know?

The food was a-ma-zing.

Three of us planned the shower but by comparison, I contributed barely anything (mostly because everyone realizes I often can’t be trusted with the most simple of tasks) but I did make these delicious nutella cupcakes.

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