Life As It Is

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Maybe

The greatest madness 

is to see life as it is

rather than

what it could be. 

– Cervantes

 

Summer is for growing.

Lately, the deep green and life that comes with summer inspires my goal-driven personality. A few summers ago, when we sold our first home, I was inspired to return to simplicity in my parenting.

It was in this return that I found myself.

And what started as finding simplicity has developed into a full-fledged journey. While once I may have adamantly insisted that you need to know where you’re going in life, now I can sit back and recognize that the unplanned adventures are the ones really worth setting off on.

And so this summer began, so full of new life. And yet, I felt like I may lose myself again. Having finished grad school, I was feeling such a sense of loss. I know, I know who the heck gets sad about finishing school? 

I could feel a part of myself slipping away amidst the worry and the fear of what comes next?

Having been down that road before, I sincerely do not wish to travel it again.

So I decided that this will be the best summer of my life.

Hey, we can all have goals.

But truly. This is going to be the best summer of my life.

I’ve been reading a lot, per usual. A lot of my informal research, conducted in an effort to improve my parenting game, has centered on growth mindset. Such a fun little topic.

But really, growth mindset isn’t just for kids!

So I thought to myself: what are some areas where you need to grow? 

Tagging along in the research with growth mindset is this little thing called mindfulness.

Now I’m not talking about meditation.

Mindfulness, at its basic level, is being aware of or being conscious of something.

It’s super useful to use mindfulness as a mom….”You see, my child, when you whine like that, it makes me want to curl up into a ball, sink into the ground, and turn into an earthworm because I am afraid that I will never get you to stop. Of course I realize that this is a completely irrational response to your attempt to express a need. So please, my child, could you KINDLY STOP WHINING?”

Just kidding. That’s not the best application of mindfulness. Although, being honest, I really have used it to help myself be aware of what it is about my children’s behavior that triggers a less than ideal parenting response.

Anyhow….so off track here…

Learning about mindfulness reminded me a bit about minimalism. The premise that #theeuropehouse was built and designed upon.

Minimalism has helped me to recognize the little things. It has helped me to be more aware, and to seek out meaning.

This idea has helped me to recognize this summer as the best summer of my life.

Really, this is going to be the best summer of my life.

So many summers have passed me by…ones wasted on wishes.

Wishes that I would be a different person, live somewhere else, do different things, see different people, go different places…wishes that I had enough money I didn’t have to work, wishes that my children would behave like cherubs and not track so stinken’ much sand into the house. Wishes that I had a different job, wishes that I could afford an exotic vacation, see beautiful places, wear different clothes…wishes that I didn’t have so much laundry, that my windows would clean themselves…

I wished for a life I could never have. A life that would never be.

I spent years hoping that some day I would wake up, and all the things I could ever have dreamed would be true.

I spent years looking at life as it could be.

Not as it was.

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams. Trust me – I have them. Tons of them, and a load of goals as well.

The danger with dreams and goals is that we humans tend to hyper focus on them. In the words of the infamous Albus Dumbldore: “it does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live”.

This summer, I realized that I have spent my time looking at my life as it could be rather than as it is. 

I tried to be more mindful about my thoughts and attitudes as well. Instead of getting upset when my five year old wakes up at 6AM and interrupts my coffee-Bible-quiet time, instead of wishing for life as it could be – him sleeping until 8 AM on all my days off, I took a step back.

My five year old likes to wake up at 6AM and have coffee with me.

I mean seriously. How adorable is that.

So now, we wake up by 6 AM and snuggle on the couch. He drives his trucks around the cushions, and I drink my coffee and read my Bible out loud to him.

This is life as it is.

I used to dream about traveling to places and hiking to places with Instagram worthy, breathtaking vistas. I would naturally be wearing the cutest hiking clothes, with perfect hair, and wouldn’t be sweating at all. Yes, life as it could be.

But my life doesn’t allow for me to travel. So this summer I decided, I was going to hike to Instagram worthy, breathtaking vistas in my own backyard. 

So I did.

The picture at the top of this post was taken from our latest excursion. It is the view from along a 21 mile trail which I can view in it’s entirety from #theeuropehouse

I never knew that my own back yard offered such views. The rolling green hills, the crisp blue sky, and hardly a house to be seen. Hiking from the valley, where civilization lays nestled among the forest, it would seem that all you would see is civilization – that boring small town, the sites you drive by every single day, the monotony of small town life. I could hardly have been more wrong! The expanse of green and sky offer little evidence of human life, birthing a new appreciation for a beauty that I never knew existed in my own little piece of the world.

My own little piece of the world is beautiful, and amazing, and it is life as it is. 

And this is the greatest summer of my life.

Not because it, in itself, is great. But because I, in myself, have chosen to recognize beauty, and happiness, and life. Life not as it could be. But life as it is. With a deeper appreciation and positive mind set, a soul willing to grow and change.

An adventure not sought out, but one worth embarking upon.

Life, as it is. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Living My Worst Nightmare: Kreade, The Colicky One

Babies. So many people just “oooh” and “ahhh” and fawn over infants whenever they see one. Babies, you know those sweet little bundles of joy.

But not me. I am a self-proclaimed “not-a-baby-person”. My worst nightmare, other than the obvious fear of losing a child somehow, was having a colicky baby.

Meet my worst nightmare.

IMG_8117Kreade Aksel. The one who was supposed to be peaceful. The one who was supposed to be the content little cherub who sat around in his bouncer while his sister and I enjoyed the opportunities of summer. The little side-kick who would “watch” me do my homework, and sit with me peacefully while I read my textbooks.

And that picture isn’t even his full-blown cry face.

Things never started out easily with Kreade. Even in the hospital the problems began. He began spitting up volumes in that tiny plastic bassinet the hospital provides. We had to tip up the side his head was on to try and get him to keep things down. And unlike his sister he really didn’t sleep much in that tiny plastic space. I ended up taking him in my bed, right there in the hospital just so that I could sleep. Otherwise he squeaked and sputtered… We should have known then. But we hoped for the best and took him home.

Home to where he continued to projectile vomit LOADS of unidentified liquid matter. He lost a considerable amount of weight. He had trouble latching and nursing. He loved and hated his pacifier. He always wanted to be held. And he cried.

A lot.

A lot. A lot. A lot.

Honestly, after having such a perfect angel baby as Ellie was I kind of thought that he was simply a normal baby. But when he would fall asleep and then wake up wailing after 5 minutes I began to wonder. Truly though, it wan’t until  I was bouncing him on my hip standing in our camper when my mother-in-law suggested that he might be colicky that it all came together…

Now other people were beginning to notice that he was not a normal baby. And around the time he was five months old I began to piece the events of the previous five months together. I know, I know…how could you live five months and not know your baby is colicky?

You have a colicky baby. That’s exactly how. You don’t have time to think about anything else except “the baby is crying, I need to do something” or “the baby is about to cry, quick do something”.

Kreade was the baby that lived in my worst dreams, and soon became my reality.

He was clingy. He refused to let anyone by me hold him – and if they did it was quickly followed by ear-piercing screams. He needed to constantly be on the move…in the swing on the highest setting, in the stroller careening down the road, in the car – but you better pray and hope you don’t get a red light, in your arms – but don’t you dare stop moving or God forbid have to sit down and pee (because yes, when you have a colicky baby you hold them while you pee).

And the crying…the crying that doesn’t stop. Sometimes even when you’re holding them. But at least when you’re holding them they only cry instead of scream…that ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping scream.

According to leading health professionals colic affects 40% of infants. It usually starts between 3 and 6 weeks and improves around 4 and 5 months of age. There is no obvious cause for an infant’s colicky behavior…but lot’s of people want to offer their advice. And I spent loads of time walking around with a crying baby on my hip and a frustrated two year old dragging her blanket and following us while reading about the possible causes and suggested solutions that people freely offer via the internet.

Your baby is probably allergic to dairy…you’re spoiling your baby…they’re gassy…they just need a diaper change…change your diet, feed them laying down, swaddle them, burp them more, play music, don’t overstimulate them…bla bla bla.

But colicky babies…real colicky babies cry a lot. And they can’t be settled. This is the foremost symptom of this mysterious infant problem that affects breast and bottle fed infants equally. Some babies may cry for predictable periods of time at predictable periods of time. Their crying is generally intense and inconsolable and appears to be for no apparent reason. And colicky babies tend to have tense bodies, curled fists, and curled up legs when they’re crying.

Ah yes…the inconsolable crying…it seriously doesn’t stop. And you wonder if there will ever be a day when he just. stops. crying. Even when he is not crying, you hear crying. You might begin to resent your baby and the fact that he cries all of the time.

Because a baby that cries all of the time puts load of indescribable stress on everyone in the family. Your own mental health. Your marriage. Your children and their well-being.

I was depressed. We talked over screams. Ellie began singing to herself in an attempt to drown out the sound of his cries.

It was awful. So awful. You feel as if you’re trapped in a snow-globe…and the cries and screams echo back off the walls of your glass-encased existence…and you can’t get out. There is no end in sight…because you’re not in a tunnel. You’re in the globe of colic, where your entire world is that inconsolable crying baby.

The baby that you feel unattached to…but who needs you so much. And you can’t get out.

So you cling to the hope that age will improve your reality…and four months, five months, six months pass…and still he cries.

And cries and cries and cries.

You have re-designed, and re-defined yourself and your life. While the first child was never held, this one is never put down – and that’s okay, because I just can’t take the crying anymore.

While the first child sat contentedly on the couch while you watched TV on volume 10, this one is bounced furiously in his bouncer with your foot with the volume on 40 because he is still making noise. And if you get up off the couch you do this perfectly-timed switcheroo where you husband starts bouncing the bouncer exactly as you stop.

Where the first child experienced the front-pack maybe once or twice, the second child practically lives in it.

The first child drifted off to sleep peacefully in her crib, while the second has to be nursed to sleep, rocked for a while, and gingerly placed on the mattress while you tip-toe out praying that his pacifier doesn’t fall out of his mouth. And while the first one slept for eight hour stretches, you know this second one will but up in an hour again (two if you’re lucky). And you had better be prepared to repeat this ritual all night long.

You spend all day on your feet simultaneously walking and bouncing, or on the front porch rocking at the speed of light. You learn how to cook supper one-handed, and use the bathroom while holding a child. You become “fine” with nursing all of the time…because it’s probably the only time that the crying ever truly stops. You learn how to time grocery shopping with the thirty minute naps he takes. You look forward to bedtime, and the hour or so of actual quiet that you might get.

You learn to let go of perfection and all of the expectations you had of yourself and your children.

And you survive.

My favorite part of the day was the nighttime, when I could finally be unattached from my baby while he slept in his crib and I slept in my bed. This was my sanity – my baby and kid free sanity. I would spend all day trying to console the crying-one and entertain the frustrated-one…ending it with an easy to make while one-handed supper…then to the front porch to pass the time until bed-time, after which I would run around cleaning my entire house because I just. can’t. function. in a mess.

And you survive.

You begin to seriously believe that the crying will never end. That he literally will just keep on crying forever. That you will have to hold him forever. That you will feel depressed forever. That you will never feel attached to this crying little face. That your life will never be the same again.

And you’re right. Your life never will be the same again.

I remember a play-date at the playground with a close friend who has experienced colic first hand. She told me that eventually, the bond you have with  your colicky baby will be so much stronger than with an “average” baby.

It doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

Somehow, that crying, tense little body that has basically welded himself to your own body also practically cements his heart in yours. Maybe it’s the fact that he just needs you so much. Or that you feel like you’re his one-and-only (which sometimes is overwhelming and frustrating, but eventually becomes precious). Maybe it’s the fact that you have spent every waking moment trying to love and care for this tiny little being…and eventually the time develops into a bond.

A bond that really is stronger than anything you can imagine.

And while the crying may never stop…eventually it will. For us it wasn’t until Kreade was about seven months old.

Yep, seven months. Two months past the far end of the ‘span of colic’.

And slowly, life begins to fade into something that seems more normal.

Instead of holding the crying baby while you pee, you can actually set him down on the floor to watch you and HE DOESN”T CRY!!!!

You might still be cooking supper one-handed, but at least he isn’t fussing the whole time.

And slowly…slowly…the crying fades even more. And you can eventually walk out of the room and he will continue to play with his toys while you cook dinner.

Until finally, you have a recovered-from-colic baby.

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And your world feels right again. Finally, your body begins to relax. And you feel like a real person.

A real person, with a baby you love, who loves you back.

And when he starts crying you know you can get him to stop. Usually with a hug and a kiss, and a snuggle from the one person who has loved him through…well, through everything.

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Goodnight Moon (Or In My Case…Hello Moon)

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Life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep. ~Fran Lebowitz

Whoever coined the term” sleep like a baby” probably never had a baby. Or maybe my baby just missed this memo and behaves completely opposite what this phrase implies.

Kreade has been such an…we will just say interesting baby. He has certainly taught me a lot of things. Like it is possible to keep breastfeeding while you help your two year old on and off the potty. Or if you repeat the sounds “shhhh” over and over about a thousand times the baby might fall asleep. Oh yes, I’ve learned lots of things. And I was just starting to learn to feel human again when Kreade started sleeping nice long stretches at night.

And then he turned 4 months old.

And now the night feels like a darker version of the day time.

Instead of saying goodnight to the moon, I appreciate the light that it sheds so that I can see my way to his crib every hour or so without stubbing my toe on something that I forgot to pick up during the real day time. I mean really, who wakes up every one to two hours AT NIGHT?! Apparently babies do.

They never teach you about this in any child development courses. At least not the ones that I have taken so far. I’ve been desperate to figure out what the heck is wrong with this child now. If you look at the browsing history on my phone it goes something like this: why does my newborn only sleep for 15 minutes at a time, why does my newborn have difficulty latching, how much should a newborn be spitting up, how much spit up is too much, why is my one month old so fussy, why does my baby scream so much, how do I get my two month old to sleep better, why is my two month old crying so much…and now I find myself searching the internet for elusive answers again. Why is my four month old waking up so much at night? 

Don’t google this. You will only get depressed.

Apparently this is normal. And I had no idea because Ellie apparently was abnormal (why can’t sleeping 12 hours at night at 2 months old BE normal?). There is a term for this pleasant little turn in a child’s development: Four month sleep regression. It is as painful as it sounds. Regression just sounds terrifying, and I am here to say that it is. You just start to feel human again, sleeping more than three hours at a time, waking up feeling like you actually slept. And then its gone. Your 4 month old turns back into a newborn and you can kiss sleep goodbye again.

Some internet-experts say that you should appreciate this stage; it means that your baby is growing and learning new things! They usually learn to roll over or sit up during this time, and become very interested in the world around them. They are learning how to sleep for longer and enter different stages of sleep. He might be getting teeth, or adding inches and pounds to his little body. And all these experts talk about this like it’s perfectly O.K.

I get it. Development is important. Growing is important. Teeth are eventually important.

But why does he keep waking up even after he learns to roll over…and if he is learning to sleep longer and enter different stages of sleep…WHY ISN’T HE SLEEPING? And why won’t he take his pacifier and fall back to sleep without me having to nurse him? And really, WHO WAKES UP EVERY HOUR OR TWO?

Let’s just acknowledge what a ridiculous stage of apparently normal development this is.

And not only does he want to nurse, or I guess just be awake every hour or two. But he wants to talk and chat and flirt and smile and grab my hair. And as much as I’d like to just close my eyes and will him back to sleep this little man who has caused me so much stress, exhaustion, depression,  and tears  has managed to wrap himself around my finger just as tightly as he wraps my hair around his.

I really don’t like that he wakes up so much after teasing me with nice long stretches, especially since it is the start of the school year and I go back to work. I really don’t like that I get my (maybe 6 or 7) hours of sleep in one to two hour chunks. It’s like taking a series of naps, except it’s night time and you shouldn’t be napping you should be real sleeping.

But I do love those middle-of-the-night-smiles.

His whole little face just lights up as bright as the moon when he sees me. And he just lays there in my arms cooing and smiling and fluttering those adorable little eyes and I feel like he can just see into the depths of my soul and know that I love him so much, despite everything. And despite the fact that it is 11 PM, 1 AM,3 AM, 4:30 AM,6 AM…I just love these little moments with him. When he needs me and wants me and I feel like I am his whole world.

I never thought that I would agree, but yes, Life can happen when you can’t get to sleep. And if you are blessed with a precious little baby the Life that happens may not be easy, or what you prefer, but it is certainly rewarded by precious smiles and baby conversations that make it all at least half better. And as I sit there awake while the world around me sleeps I can’t help but thank the One who gave me Life for the little Life that I have the privilege of taking care of. 1:06 AM or not.

What Was I thinking? (If Only I Could Remember): On Having Two Children

“Mothers are all slightly insane.” 
― J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Insane. Noun, something that is very foolish or unreasonable. 

Kreade is two and a half months old and I’m fairly certain that I’ve already lost my mind. I started a class a week before baby boy was born and sometime after we brought him home I told my husband that I was okay with getting  ‘B’. What?! Did I really say that?! Surprisingly, I DO remember this. But really…what is happening to me? 

I’m pretty sure that it might have something to do with the fact that I have two children now.

Two children. People do it all the time. You have your first, love it, get pregnant with your second and are under the delusion that it will be a piece of cake. After all, you’ve lived through one baby already. How hard can two really be?

I WOULD RATHER HAVE AN ENTIRE CLASS OF EIGHTEEN SPECIAL EDUCATION PRESCHOOL CHILDREN WITH BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS.That’s how hard. I’ve seriously pondered whether I might be a little insane, and given the definition I probable am…foolish and unreasonable. Yep. That’s me now-a-days. 

Nothing could have ever prepared me for this. Of course it hasn’t helped that baby boy has had a myriad of little issues and quirks that have made for an…exciting transition. 

Now, when I go the the bathroom I don’t just have one pair of eyes staring at me, there are two. Same thing when I shower. I feel as if I am constantly being stalked. Except my stalkers rely on my to feed them, bathe them, play with them, and love them. 

If I happen to get a few moments of silence during the day (which rarely happens since Ellie has stopped napping) I usually reward myself with candy or ice cream to make the moment even (literally) sweeter. One time I left the bag of Rollo’s ‘within reach’. This was a big oversight on my part. After nursing baby boy I entered our living room only to find my two year old with a chocolate smeared face and a golden wrapper covered floor. I don’t know how many she ate, but I’m sure the dentist would rather not hear about this event. Hey, at least she wasn’t jumping on his head while he was trying to nurse.

When you have two kids you really learn the art of distraction. While you are feeding baby you have to distract number one with a variety of pointless but “fun” things in order to prevent being jumped on, or poked, or asked a million questions about what they baby is doing, and why he “wants to eat that side.” So number one vacuums the floor with her pretend vacuum, or looks out the window to see if there are any cars going down the road, or runs to the door and listens to hear if there are any birds outside.

Distraction. A mother-of-twos’ best friend. 

And if you want to go anywhere, logistically, it is 100 time harder. Do you have both sizes of diapers, both sizes change of clothes, wipes, sippe cup, snack, nursing cover, car seats? Whose nap time is it? Do you have enough time to get to both Wal-Mart and the grocery store? If you need to get gas, forget about making it to the bank too…someone will want to be eating by then. And you better hope that you DO have both sizes of diapers, cuz squeezing a size 1 on a size 4 bottom is basically impossible. And making a size 4 fit on a size 1 bottom is pointless. Oh, and don’t forget your list. Because that mom-of-two brain is incapable of remembering the slightest of details. Chances are, if you don’t have your list all you will walk out of the store with is milk and Lucky Charms. 

Seriously, what was I thinking?

My life now is a bit like survival. I could probably call myself the Lone Survivor of our Household. I go from one diaper to another, one toy to another, feeding one to feeding another, getting one down for a nap and scrambling to get all of my homework done in thirty minutes while distracting the other. Bathe one, bathe two…hopefully get a shower myself. Bounce the bouncer, stir the spaghetti sauce. Pop a pacifier back in, stick the bread in the oven. Drink the pretend tea your two year old brings you while simultaneously filling her sippee cup. I start out most days with a list of things to accomplish…and maybe one out of the five things get done. 

And some days I wonder…what was I thinking? A two year old and a two month old? No wonder I feel insane. 

It’s always in that moment when I feel myself approaching that edge of true insanity. And in that moment baby boy flashes his toothless grin, or Ellie breaks out in her contagious giggle. And I remember why. Because, in the end, it’s all worth it. After all the insanity of each day, after all of the stress and craziness, there is something about children that just gets to you. Their eagerness to be loved, to interact with the world is like a breath of fresh air. And I know that I would do it all over again to see their little faces learn and change and grow. 

Psalm 127:3 certainly rings true…”Children are the heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a reward.”

Yes, when I stop and really think, I see the reward. I see it in their eyes when I kiss their cheeks, in their smile when I give them their plate of food, when I help them get dressed, take them outside to play. The reward is found in the things that sometimes feel mundane. And you know that no matter what, you will always love them.