Thursday, June 28, 2018

Ways to encourage moms of multiples/several young children.

Hello! I wanted to share some practical tips and ways you can encourage those moms (or dads or caregivers) around you who have multiples or several small children. These are from my experience and what people have done for us that I thought were so helpful and kind.

1. Bring them a meal. I totally get that cooking for your family is a big job that you have to do on repeat, all the time, but I think it's so worth the extra effort and cost to make extra to love on others. It's a very personal way to say that you care, and what a blessing it is for the recipient to not have to make dinner. I have several recipes that I always make double of whenever I make them, and then I can save the other one either to bring to someone else or to freeze myself for a later time. It's not that difficult and it doesn't take much extra time to make a second of something you are already making and have the ingredients out for anyway. Norah (my oldest) loves to help me in the kitchen, so this is also a fun way to spend time together, practice cooking and math skills, and to tangibly model serving others. I like to ask before bringing the meal if there are any allergies/strong dislikes and if they would like me to bring the meal hot and ready or ready to freeze or reheat at a later time. There were many people who brought us meals, both after Norah's birth and after we came home from the NICU with Lucy and Ellory, and it was so helpful. I will never forget the generosity shown to us during those newborn days. With all the newborn feedings, I was starving, yet had very little time or energy to cook, so having a hot meal was the best.

2. Bring easy to access snacks or baked goods. Maybe this is just me (I do have a sweet tooth), but when anyone brought any sort of baked good, whether muffins, cookies, bars, etc., it was amazing. Having a baked treat, especially when nursing, was great because I was hungry all the time because I was nursing all the time. My favorites to receive were muffins and protein balls, because they are already individually prepared so you could just grab one and go, and both of those options are a bit healthier than cookies or bars. I think this is a fun treat to include with a meal, or I sometimes just bring a baked item to a family if I just want to let them know I am praying for them during a difficult time, or maybe if it's someone I don't know as well so I wouldn't necessarily bring them an entire meal.

3. Bring something for the older sibling(s). If I am bringing a new baby a gift, I like to also include something for the older siblings. The new baby often receives many things, so it's fun to the siblings to get something too, even if it's something very small like chalk, bubble wand, hot wheels car, stickers, etc. Almost all these things can be found in the dollar section, so it doesn't have to be big!

4. Tell them they are doing a great job. I cannot tell you how many times people say, "Wow, you have your hands full!" or, "You sure are busy!" when we go out in public. I'm not offended by this, as I know they mean well and I just smile and say yes, but the times where someone has specifically stopped and told me that I'm doing a great job are what stand out to me. Hearing that I'm doing a great job is more encouraging to me than people telling me my hands are full.

5. Do something nice or lend a hand. Stop and hold the door open for someone with many kids or with huge strollers. Almost all people are very helpful with holding doors for me and I'm grateful for that, but there are occasionally a few who just stand and watch instead of helping. Our local grocery stores here push your cart of groceries out to your car and load them up for you, which is a tremendous help while I am loading up my girls into the car, but if you are at a store that doesn't do that, maybe offer to help if you're able! Or you could offer to dump their trays at a restaurant or something like that. I don't usually feel comfortable letting people I don't know hold my girls or do the child related tasks (and also none of my girls have never been open to going to strangers anyway), so I've always felt encouraged when people offer to help do the non-child related tasks like loading bags or taking trash. I don't mind if people ask to hold them or something and I just kindly say no thanks, and sometimes people say no to my offers for help and sometimes I say no do others offers, but I at least really appreciate the offer!

6. Go out of your way to do something bigger. I know this won't always work out with your schedule or whatever you have going on, but the moments where someone has gone out of their way to do something grander are what are so deeply encouraging and what I remember most. There have been several times where Kley was playing on the worship team at church, so I had all three girls by myself and he couldn't help, and there have been a couple Sundays where people really stepped up and helped me when I needed it. There was one Sunday where everyone was losing it (myself included), and Lucy and Ellory were fussy and Norah was throwing a complete crying fit and I still had to run back and grabbed my diaper bag, and this kind soul who I knew of but didn't know very well came and helped. She got my diaper bag for me, walked outside with me and helped me load them up in the car. There was someone else who brought us not one meal, but three. There was someone who brought us a meal after we announced we were pregnant with twins (they hadn't even arrived yet!), but this was also during the time where we had to travel for our trainings because we were in the process of becoming licensed for foster care, so her meal came on a perfect day. There was someone who was bringing us a meal who texted beforehand that she was running to the grocery store and asked if we needed any basics. That was so helpful! At first I felt bad, but she texted that she would really love to and to please text her some items, so she brought us a few extra things we were running low on in addition to the meal. Whatever it is, do something big if you can!

7. Offer to watch their kids for a date night, especially if they don't live near family. It can be hard to get date nights in, especially with the cost sometimes, but they are so important and so nice to have a break away together! It would be so nice to offer a family a free date night. Also, it would be nice to offer that you can come to their house or that they can come to your house (or take them to the park or something). Sometimes getting out is nice, but also sometimes having a date night in your own house where you can watch a movie in your pajamas in bed is amazing too. Maybe you could set up a swap night with a friend where you watch their kids for a night and then they watch yours. Even if it's something small, like taking some of their kids while they take one to the doctor is so nice so they don't have to take all of them with. One time there was a weekend marriage conference happening near us (we couldn't go because I was nursing), but someone from our church offered to anyone with young kids that they would watch them for free for the whole weekend so they could go. What a kind blessing!

8. Help with household things. Maybe you don't enjoy cooking, but maybe you could offer to mow their yard, shovel their driveway, trim bushes, do their laundry, clean their house, etc. Whatever your gift is, offer it! Someone from our local MOPS group offered to come clean my bathrooms several times when Lucy and Ellory came home from the hospital. (It never actually happened because my mother-in-law gifted us a bi-weekly house cleaner after Lucy and Ellory were born and it's AMAZING, but the offer was so touching.) Our friends had two foster girls for awhile, and a couple times I did their laundry. Whatever it is, there are plenty of small ways you can use your time and talents to do nice things!

A lot of these ideas can be used to bless anyone, not just moms with young kids, but these are some things that people have done for us over the years that have been really encouraging. It's a beautiful thing when we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to our friends and community around us!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Lucy and Ellory- Sixteen Months.

Lucy and Ellory are 16 months! What a fun age to watch them explore, learn, and move. They definitely keep us on our toes, but it's absolutely worth it. They are loving summer and being outside. They are both generally quite happy babies! (How long can I keep calling them babies? I want to keep it up for as long as I can.)

Stats/Doctor visits: No doctor visits this month. They both caught a fever/cold from Norah, but it wasn't too bad. They had a fever for two days, and then just a cough/runny nose for about a week.

Teeth: No teeth. Lucy has 16 teeth, so just waiting on two year molars for her, and Ellory has 12 teeth, so still waiting on her four canines anytime.

Feeding: These girls love to eat, especially Lucy! It's so funny to watch because most of the time they eat more than Norah does! We went to Pizza Ranch buffet they other day, and we joked that we made them rethink their “0-3 kids eat free” policy. Lucy ate three plates! Ellory is still more selective, but is a pretty good eater. She doesn't really like bananas, avocados, or meat, and has definitely decided she wants to eat by herself and doesn't like purees. She will eat applesauce and yogurt, but even fights that in the beginning until we shove a bite in and she remembers she likes it. She will eat (almost) any kind of pouch, but doesn't like to be spoon fed. Lucy eats everything and makes more of a mess when she's eating. They sit in their high chairs really well, which we love! Their favorite thing that they get quite excited about is crackers. Lucy also really loves muffins.

Diapers/Clothes: Wearing size 3 diapers during the day and size 4 at night. I just noticed that size 3 is starting to look a bit small. They switched to 18 month and 18-24 month clothes right after turning 15 months. Occasionally we have to roll up the pants, but overall it fits well.

Sleeping: Ah, how precious sleep is. Their first few rough months of sleep still make us so grateful for good sleepers now! As we mentioned last month, they are down to one nap now and we were working on moving bedtime/nap earlier bit by bit to get ready for Norah's preschool schedule in the fall. They go to sleep at 9 and they are so easy to go down! We sing and pray and lay them down and they usually don't make a peep. It's amazing. Ellory doesn't need as much sleep as Lucy, as she usually takes a bit longer to fall asleep and also wakes up a bit earlier, but lays in her crib content. They are up in the morning about 8:45-9, and take an afternoon nap from 1-3:30ish, occasionally waking a bit earlier and occasionally a bit later.

Words: Ellory can say many words- it's so fun to hear! She can say dada, mama, Norah, bath, bye bye, nye nye (night-night), baby, ball, love you, thank you, please, nose, mouth, eyes, shoes, sigh (outside), dog, more, cracker, bite (when she's biting her food), and maybe a few others I'm forgetting. She just started saying Lucy and it's so cute! Lucy isn't saying many intelligible words, but her language exploded this month too in that she's trying and “talks” a lot! She's always making noises and pointing at something; you can tell she's really trying to say things. She doesn't like to try to say words if we are intentionally trying to work with her- she'll just stare back at you- but babbles a lot on her own will. Her two favorite words are dada and cracker! You can tell they are understanding so much even if they can't speak it.

Developments: There aren't many new developments this month. Lucy's climbing is always reaching new heights- we always call her our monkey. She's always moving and on the go! She loves to climb on anything and everything. She also thinks she can go down the stairs frontwards now, but we are still making her go backwards on her tummy. Ellory is more reserved and tentative. I don't think she's ever climbed anything! She gets scared trying to climb the stairs, so she always just waits for us to carry her down or waits at the door for us to put her in the car or stroller. If we set her on the play table chairs, she will wait until we help her down, even though it's not that far and she could do it. They are both really picking up on routines and where things go, like they'll go to the door if we say we're going outside, they know what new diaper means, they will sit down by the door to get their shoes on, etc. The other day Lucy found a chip clip on the floor and just walked over to the drawer in the kitchen, opened it and put it back in where it goes, closed it, and walked away! They are picking up on so much! Ellory is showing very beginning signs of potty training (though that's far off still), of going away from people to poop and sometimes she'll point to her diaper and say poop if we asked her if she pooped. This is a fluke, but twice when she was a bit constipated I sat her on the toilet and the squatting helped her push it out! She's sat on it a few other times too just because she was interested to, but didn't actually go.

Favorites: Lucy really took a liking to puzzles this month. I got some of our easier ones out that I had put away from Norah and she loves them, still working on the matching, but loves to explore the pieces and practice. Ellory loves stuffed animals and is holding one often, and she loves to walk around with blankets or dish towels and wrap them up in it or cover herself with it and play peekaboo. Ellory likes to play intentional games more, like pat-a-cake or have close, interactive conversations, while Lucy's on the move more (not that they don't do both, but just in general). They both love to find different body parts, especially belly buttons, and be chased! They love going outside, swinging at the park or backyard (Lucy especially), going for walks, and playing in the sand box and water table. They both love taking baths and playing in the water, though they don't love the pool outside as much.

We love you, Lucy and Ellory! I was so scared to be a twin mom, but now I'm so very thankful for it. It's so fun to see two personalities and have twice the love!

Getting a picture of the two of them sitting in the same chair and even looking remotely in the direction of the camera together is a win!

Lucy can't stand on the ground when there's a chair to climb!

Norah wanted a picture of just her as I was taking these. This is the newest smile she's been throwing out recently. :)

Love all my girls!

Friday, June 22, 2018

The best me in what matters most.

Sometimes I think about ideas for blog posts, but then I don't have time to sit down and write them so they fade away, and/or I don't feel like I have the mental capacity to turn my jumbled ideas into intelligible thoughts. I love this season, but being mom to three girls (3.5 and 15 month twins) is high energy and requires lots of attention, so I don't have a lot of stamina left when I do get a quiet moment.

I have been thinking about the idea of "the best me" and motherhood recently in the last weeks, and it's funny because (without talking about it together), my friend actually just wrote a post about the same idea. I do feel like motherhood has made me the best version of myself, but there is a lot of expounding on that topic too for it to really make sense. It's something I think is true, but hard to describe.

In a lot of ways, on the outside, the idea that motherhood has made me my best is laughable. I wear my hair in ponytails way more than before kids. My wardrobe has drastically changed. I do like to "get dressed" in the morning, but why wear fancy clothes when I am on the floor so much during the day and going to end up with food bits and drool/snot smears anyway? When our twins were newborns, if I brushed my teeth before noon it was a good day. I am happy with my body and so thankful that I was able to carry three babies, but my stomach will never be the same again.

Our house looks very different. I am a stay at home mom, so there are many hours spent in our house. I try my best to keep it clean and I love a clean house, but wow, three small kids produce a lot of dirt and messes. If you come over unannounced (which you are welcome to do), be prepared to step around mounds of toys on the floor. All the sippy cups that say they are leak proof still manage to dribble out some drops here and there. There is almost always at least one load of laundry sitting on our table, whether it's waiting to be washed or waiting to be folded. At least one child needs something from me almost all the time. Cleaning up their high chairs and the floor around them after a meal feels like a full time job in itself. I also feel like I can't get the smell of poop out, whether it's coming from the trash can, a dirty diaper laying around I hadn't had the chance to throw away yet, or actually in one of their diapers. (How do babies have the talent to almost always save their poops for right when they get a clean diaper on? It's astounding.)

I love having a calendar, being organized, and trying to stay on top of everything. Before kids, I almost never forgot anything. I used to be able to just put something in the oven and not have to set a timer because I would just remember. Not anymore. I still would like to pride myself in not forgetting much, but it happens sometimes. The other day I asked my sister if they had looked at any more houses recently, when they had moved into their new house already and lived there for over a month. I was face timing her, in her house, when I asked this. Giant face palm. (To give myself a little credit, I had been up in the night several times cleaning up throw up before this conversation, but still, I was so embarrassed.) Recently at the park, Ellory had pooped, but it was one of those hard rock like turds that was just sitting in the diaper without leaving any smears. (Sorry, TMI alert.) In true mom-of-three fashion, I didn't want to get out the whole diaper bag and wanted to still keep my eyes on the other two, so I leaned her over the trash can (super discretely, of course), opened the side of the diaper, and let the turd roll out into the garbage. I am about 70% proud and 30% ashamed that I did this. I also really do like to be on time to things, but that's a rarity these days.

I really don't mean for the above to sound like complaining, because I'm meaning it as reality, and my days really are a lot of fun. While sometimes I feel like a mess, I also feel so much joy in this season. It's busy and loud, but that sort of chaos is beautifully rewarding too. I love being a mom. I love that I get to stay home with my girls. I love that I can be there for them all the time. I'm thankful for a healthy body to be able to care for and play with them. Being a mom has shaped, refined, and grown me in the best of ways. How dependent my children are on me reminds be of how dependent I am on Him. I am honored that He chose these three for Kley and I and that we are entrusted with their care. The love I feel for Norah, Lucy, and Ellory is so raw, whole, and deep. Our biggest prayer for our girls is that they would grow up to love and serve Jesus. The role we get to play in teaching them about Christ and modeling how to be a Christ follower is humbling. I get frustrated and I fail, but then we can talk about grace and forgiveness.

I will always be mom to them, but it's not lost on me that future seasons won't be as consuming as this one. My girls will always need me, but not in the way they do now while they are young. When I'm in a difficult moment, I try to remind myself that one day I will miss this. One day I will miss not having to snap little onesies anymore. One day I won't have to cut food up into tiny little pieces. One day they will all go to the bathroom independently. One day my girls can shower themselves and they won't need me to give them a bath anymore. One day they will ask to go play at friend's houses. One day they will go to school.

So, for all the one days that are to come, I choose to embrace these days. And when I forget, I will remind myself and choose again, for what a gracious gift He has blessed me with in being wife and mom. While I always have room to grow, I do feel like I'm the best me in what matters most. I'm so thankful for the rich blessing of my family. Oh, how He loves us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Father's Day 2018.

Happy Father's Day! Very thankful to have a great father, father-in-law, and a husband who is a great father too. The Christian example both of our dads set and continue to set is a blessing, and I'm so grateful to partner with such a loving and hands on dad in this parenting journey. Kley, you are such a great dad. The girls look at you with such adoration. You play with them and laugh with them often. You teach and mold them in His ways. We all love you so much! Thanks for all you do for us!

We got to celebrate with a lot of Kley's family at a get together in the afternoon, and then we had supper with Kley's parents and Brett and Elizabeth (Kley's sister). Kley also got to play on the worship team at Church and golf in the afternoon with some uncles/cousins. He said it was a great day, and we thought so too! We got a great picture with the girls' wonderful Papa too!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Meeting sweet baby Jorie- I'm an aunt!

Big news- I'm an aunt! My brother Keaton, and SIL Rose, just had their first baby. They didn't know gender beforehand, and we were excited that it was a girl! Her name is Jorie Jeanette, born on June 5 and was 19" and 7 lbs 4 oz. It's really neat because Jeanette was our great grandma's name, who was our longest living great grandparent. She passed away the week before Norah was born at 106 years old. Keaton was so good about calling her and staying in contact with her, so it's special that that's her middle name!

The girls and I drove down early to spend some time in Des Moines and to meet baby Jorie. Norah was SO excited to meet her! We left Lucy and Ellory at my parent's (because they didn't understand what was happening anyways, and bringing two toddlers to a quiet maternity ward with no toys and lots of things they aren't supposed to touch didn't sound super fun), so Norah and I got to have some special time meeting her. We would have been happy either way, of course, but Norah was hoping it would be a girl all along. She also hoped they would name her Elsa, but she only got one of her two wishes. :)

Norah was so sweet holding her. She sat very still, stared at her, and gave her a tiny kiss on the forehead. She held her several times and never got tired of it!

I already love being an aunt! This is the first niece/nephew on both sides for us, so we are thrilled to be uncle/aunt and for the girls to have a cousin. Norah had been saying she was so excited for her cousin to come for weeks! It's so special to have another member in the family. We've already commented on how fun it will be to have her at all the family get togethers from now on and how fun it will be to watch our girls play together. Also, it's super sweet to get the newborn snuggles and not have to nurse frequently or wake up in the night!

We had some fun at grandpa and grandma's while we were there too with lots of playing and walks to the park. Ellory loves dogs and liked holding Daisy's leash.

We sure love playing and swinging!

Love getting a picture with Aunt Kayla, who is home for the summer from college.

We got to go to Keaton and Rose's house again to have some more Jorie time and Norah loved holding her again!

Lucy and Ellory got to come this time and meet her too. It was special to watch. Ellory was more interested right away and Lucy took a few minutes to show any interest, but then they both wanted to look at her and touch her. Lucy just wanted to poke her in the eye real quick in this picture.

Norah looks so grown up in this picture. She says she wants to be a mom when she grows up, which I think is the sweetest and I can already tell she will be a great one! 

My favorite picture. So much fun to have a cousin!

She's so adorable!

Uncle Kley!

Our paternal grandparents were so excited to meet her too!

My other sister, Karlie, was here for a couple days from Minneapolis too, so it was fun to see her, and Kley drove down for the weekend with my grandparents (who live pretty close to us), so they got to meet her too. The weekend looked a little different than hoped unfortunately, because Norah woke up Saturday morning with a high fever. We were planning on going to the pool, seeing friends, and having a big family dinner with everyone, so it was sad to cancel those things and I felt bad that we all didn't get to have dinner together, but oh well I suppose. All in all it was a fun time and we are so excited that Jorie is here and healthy. We already can't wait to see her again next time!