Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Survival Mode

It's 9:30 pm. All three girls are sleeping, Michael is working and researching, and my feet are aching. I'm letting my hair air-dry a little more before turning on the hair dryer, and then I will be crashing. These days, it takes me approximately three seconds to fall asleep. Life with three little people underfoot is exhausting!

Yet, we're making it. God is so good to give me sufficient strength for each day. There are days when I am standing over the sink washing dishes, thinking, "There is no way I can do one more thing tonight." But little miracles happen every night, when God grants the energy to fold one last load of laundry or put away one more stack of books. We also celebrate the miracles of letting go, for leaving things undone is so challenging for me! His grace is enough.

Having three children this close in age is no walk in the park. It is as hard as you think it might be...and possibly harder. But we're making it work! Every day, I learn something new about juggling the needs of three little girls, a husband, and a dog. We've figured out some tricks for making life work. So for posterity's sake... here are some of the little things we're doing to survive! (These are in completely random order.)

  • Get up early. I try to get up at least fifteen minutes before Ruthie's first feeding. I wash my face, take my vitamin, and start a load of laundry. Depending on my need for caffeine, I may go ahead and make a cup of coffee. Ruthie also starts her day early (6:15) for my benefit; right now, it's the best start for her schedule that allows me to tend to the other girls most effectively. (I'll hopefully bump her to a later start when she starts stretching to four hours between meals.)
  • Speaking of coffee...I am loving my insulated coffee mug. It keeps my coffee warm for over an hour, which is about how long it takes me to drink it. And because it's got a lid, I'm not as worried about drinking coffee while Ruthie's around.
  • Right now, I'm reading my Bible while I feed Ruthie in the morning. Now is not the time for in depth study, but I'm so thankful that the Word does not return void! (I also keep a Bible open on a cookbook stand in the kitchen, which is a great way to catch God's word while I'm doing other things.)
  • Popcorn at Target. $1.50 buys popcorn and a coke, and they're always kind about giving me extra little cups to divvy up the girls' share. This keeps everyone happy and occupied while we shop!
  • The Moby Wrap. A-mazing. Ruthie is in it at least once a day.
  • Blanket time for at least one feeding a day.
  • When we grocery shop, I wear Ruthie in the Moby. Nora sits in the traditional "kid's seat" of the cart, and Phoebe rides in the big part. She gets to walk after we add milk to the cart. (I've also been known to distribute snacks at Publix. Last week, we cracked open a box of Teddy Grahams... I was unprepared.)
  • A fenced in backyard is an incredible blessing. I shoo the girls outside, and I can see and hear them from the kitchen. Many a lunch has been prepared thanks to the backyard. (Favorite entertainment? Sidewalk chalk and bubbles.)
  • Cedarmont Kids and Miss Pattycake.
  • Exercise. I try to get in at least some sort of aerobic exercise every day during naptime. This doesn't always work because Ruthie is still a little unpredictable with her naps, but it makes a HUGE difference in my mood and energy for the afternoon. I'm also eager to shed this baby weight!
  • My laundry sorter has revolutionized laundry at our house. I do at least one load of laundry (but usually two) a day, and this makes it easy to throw one in without having to go through the sorting process.
  • I use naptime to get some meal prep done. This streamlines the dinner hour... because frankly, I haven't figured out how to juggle the whole getting-dinner-cooked thing gracefully. It's all I can do to stick something in the oven on time!
  • A running to-do list on the fridge helps me remember to do important things like make coffee and wash bottles.

I should also add that Michael is the best partner in parenthood...ever. I literally could not function without his help. Not only is he incredible at handling the big girls, diving in as soon as he gets home and they tackle him at the front door, but he often sends me to bed early and gives Ruthie her bedtime bottle. AND Mr. Wonderful gets up with me in the middle of the night to help get me situated when I'm feeding Little Bit. But more than that, Michael is such an encourager. He points me to Christ daily, if not hourly, and reminds me that my hope does not rest in well-behaved children, scheduled naps, or a clean house. I am so thankful for my sweet, sweet husband!

These are very hard, very happy days. And really, we're doing more than just survive... we're really enjoying life as a family of five!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sowing and Reaping

Yesterday was hard. [This has taken me four days to pretend this was yesterday.] It would be easy to look at the pictures I just put up the other day and assume that everything here is all sunshine, all the time. Although I am content - even delighted - in my calling, there are still days that are incredibly challenging, humbling, and exposing of the rampant sin in my heart.

My attitude was foul from the beginning. The night before had been unusually difficult with Ruthie, especially since she had been going longer stretches more consistently. I was sleepily washing bottles, disappointed that we were still out of coffee creamer, trying to get geared up for a full day. I especially dreaded the trip to the grocery store, which would include all three of the girls. Although I was whining in my own heart, I was particularly intolerant of the whining that emerged from the big girls' room. Phoebe seemed particularly sensitive, and Nora just wanted to be held. Ruthie, who goes back to sleep about the time the big girls are getting up, was unusually fussy and unsettled. I grumbled and stewed over breakfast.

While I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I was ready to throw in the towel. And it wasn't even 8:30. Michael kidnapped Nora and brought her to the girls' room for a little one-on-one time before he left for work. And as I scrubbed the counters, I tried to scrub out my nasty attitude. (I failed, by the way.)

By 9:00, Michael had to get out the door...and I had to get those girls dressed if we were going to ever make it out of the house. Ruthie was already crying to be fed. Michael set up the big girls on blankets for blanket time and I hurried to get a bottle ready. Feeding time was uneventful, but it wasn't long before Nora figured out how to take the top off my water bottle...and then pour it all over herself and the couch. The slipcover came off, and Nora got a wardrobe change. I also needed a wardrobe change, since Ruthie had spit up all over my back. And then, it was off to Publix.

We made it all the way to the dairy section before Nora had a complete come-apart. I am certain she could be heard in the deli, crying "hold you" over and over. (Holding was, by the way, almost impossible; with Ruthie in the Moby, I just didn't feel like I could haul an additional 23 pounds through the store.) We arrived back home intact, although I managed to forget the milk. (Remember? Complete melt down in dairy.) Phoebe accidentally dips her dress in the potty, resulting in another wardrobe change. The big girls got a little angsty over personal space with their coloring books, but the rest of the morning was relatively uneventful.

Mercifully, naptime had arrived. Except Phoebe didn't nap. Emotions were on high for the rest of the afternoon. It was more of the same all the way until bedtime, but I'm thankful that the details are now hazy. It was an all-day exercise in doing the next thing.

When the girls were all in bed, I got in the shower. When I came out, Nora was rowdy. I dressed and had the privilege of being the bedtime disciplinarian.

I was tired. No, I was exhausted. My muscles ached. My head throbbed. I was so ready to throw in the towel. And the tears came. It was as if I was too exhausted to hold them in any longer. I wasn't sad, just really, really tired. I'm thankful that Michael and I were able to decompress and process the day together.

All day long I meditated on Galatians 6:9, which says, "Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." And that is so a truth I need to hear these days. In the midst of the non-stop do-gooding that goes on all day long, I need that precious reminder that we will reap a harvest in its season. Now is the season for sowing - and right now, I'm sowing in heaps of laundry, heart training, bubbles and tickles, eight bottles a day, and sleepless nights. But what an abundant harvest, in God's graciousness, this will produce!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Full Days

Nineteen diapers.

Actually, the number was seventeen. But I'm including two pull-ups in that count, since they were definitely not dry upon their removal. In one day, I changed nineteen diapers. So if you're wondering what I'm up to these you know.

Of course, I'm doing more than changing diapers. The past few weeks have been full of laundry, which multiplies by a factor of ten with the addition of a new baby and outside play. And fortunately, the days have not been full of much cooking, at least at suppertime; our sweet church graciously provided meals for us for three weeks. (These started after Mops left, so I'm just now having to figure out what's for dinner. And in fact, a friend is bringing us something delicious tonight! SO thankful for community.) And not much cleaning, either -- at least not the bathroom scrubbing kind, because I'm still enjoying the gift of Pam, who does the deep cleaning every two weeks. (If only she was here for whole-house pickup three times a day!) But our days have been sweetly filled.

With dress-up.

With dancing.

With popsicles.

With castles and dragons and playhouses.

With kisses.

With Spring wardrobe change.

With sprinklers.

With spa treatments.

With birthday parties.

With treats.

With slides.

With flip-flops.

With grandparents.

With baby smells.

And with lots of love.

Between all of those things, I'm finding it hard to even sit down these days -- much less write about our days. (And all three even nap at the same time, at least for a little while!) But I'm so thankful that pictures are worth a thousand words; it's certainly easier to snap a picture of giggling little girls than to write about them! I'm having to remember that this is a season, a time when all of my children are incredibly dependent and needy; I know I'll grieve their independence a little bit when it comes. For now, I'm oh-so-thankful for the blessing of very full days.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nora is 18 Months Old!

To me, eighteen months (a year and a half!) is so big...and yet, so little. Nora was having a little come-apart in the van this morning and was asking for her "naynee" (paci) and "nimee" (bunny). Sadly, I didn't have either (and oh, was it ever sad) because I felt like she was big enough to leave the house without her comforts. Michael sweetly reminded me that at eighteen months, Nora is still very much a baby...and is entitled to her comforts every now and again. There's something about becoming a big sister that grows a little girl up fast! Nora is so full of life, everything she does is BIG. She laughs big, eats big, cries big, and talks big. She lives life with gusto, and she encourages me to do the same -- it's hard to be bored when Nora's around! And at eighteen months, she really is doing so many big girl things, such as:
  • talking all the time. Nora jabbers from the moment she wakes up to an hour after we put her to bed. (She and Phoebe are usually up late "talking", and we're still trying to figure out how to handle that one!) In her jabbering are plenty of real words, and occasionally she'll string two words together. ("I do", "hold you", and "I love you" are two phrases we often hear.) Her words are becoming clearer, and we know it won't be long before she and Phoebe are having real conversations all day long.
  • has no more new teeth. She'll surely have her one-year molars before kindergarten, right?
  • loving her baby sister and her big sister. The novelty of having a little sister to love hasn't worn off, and Phoebe and Nora are now beginning to act like the best friends I tell them that they are. Anything Phoebe can do, Nora tries. And as social as Nora is, she loves having two sisters to play with all day long.
  • having some difficulty with her naps. While Nora remains in her crib for the full length of nap time, there are days where - bless her heart - she naps for about an hour and a half, and that's it. So much is going on with her developmentally, I have no doubt that her brain is in full overload. That or, maybe I can blame it on teeth? Or baby sister noise? Who knows! And with the trouble she's having settling down at night, I think that Nora's just too afraid to miss something fun.
  • letting me know when she has a dirty diaper...not that she's excited to get it changed or anything.
  • being fully blanket trained. I thought we'd never get there; it felt impossible to go beyond twenty minutes with Nora. But Nora spends at least 30 minutes a day in blanket time while I feed Ruthie.
  • dipping her food. Nora has now been introduced to the world of ranch dressing, sour cream, ketchup, mustard, and guacamole. She thinks dipping is the greatest thing ever, and will dip anything in, well, anything. She is not picky about her dips. In the world of food, Nora's favorite foods are grapes, eggs, broccoli, hot dogs, cheese, beans, rolls (with plenty of butter, please), and peanut butter.
  • knowing and saying the answer to Question #1 in the Catechism for Young Children. (Who made you? God.)
  • singing along with Holy, Holy, Holy and Jesus Loves Me. Cute overload.
  • wearing her first big girl pigtails. (Nora's hair is growing oh-so-fast!)
  • loving to play outside, especially climbing, sliding, and drawing with sidewalk chalk. Nora also really likes to paint with water... but she usually ends up painting herself instead of the sidewalk.
Nora keeps us laughing all the time. It's hard for me to remember that in spite of all the big things she does, Nora is still so little. I'm so thankful that God has given me such a sweet little sunbeam to brighten our days!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ruthie is One Month Old

Oh, what a sweet month it has been! Ruthie is a delight to all of us, and I can hardly remember what it was like with just two little ones. Before her birth, I was so nervous about the transition, the hormones, and the lack of sleep. God has been so gracious to us, giving us an easy transition and miraculous energy. We are all SO in love with our Ruthie girl!

At one month old, Ruthie...
  • eats every three hours, and takes 2-3 ounces at each feeding. I start her day between 6:00 and 6:30am (depending on our schedule for the day) and she remains consistent throughout the day. I often have to wake her to eat, and she'd probably go longer -- but I'm not willing to let go of our schedule.
  • is learning to fall asleep on her own in her crib, and does a mighty fine job. It usually just takes a few moments of fussing before she settles. (Her pattern is usually fuss for a few minutes - quiet for a stretch - fuss a little more - quiet a little longer - repeat - fall asleep.)
  • does a great job at night (I think!) for a one month old. Many nights, she will go one stretch of about four hours and, if she doesn't have a dirty diaper, generally goes right back to sleep after she eats.
  • loves the Miracle Blanket!
  • loves to be in the Moby Wrap, both in a cradle-type hold and snuggled up against my chest
  • does not like to be "messed with": bath time is tolerated, but clothing changes and lotion are generally not appreciated.
  • is a content, happy little baby when she is alert and awake (which is happening with more regularity now). She loves to go where we go, and I think she's amused by her sisters' antics. She also doesn't seem to mind when Nora makes repeated attempts to give her a nay-nay.
  • is eating the same sensitive-tummy formula as her big sisters did, but seems to have MUCH less tummy trouble than either of them did. She is soothed more easily and, at this juncture, doesn't seem to have the long crying jags in the evenings. (Praise the Lord... this is tremendous gift.)
  • wears newborn diapers and newborn clothes, but if we're being real here... she hasn't actually worn real clothes...just sweet cotton daygowns, really. All the time.
I've heard that the transition from one child to two is harder than going from two to three. For us, I've found that to be true -- at least, so far. I am so thankful for the way little Ruthie has just fit right in to our family. What a precious gift!