When God Speaks Through Grey’s Anatomy

If you clicked on this post after reading the title, it might be because you think I’m crazy and need to know exactly how crazy. You’re not alone. When I told my husband that I wanted to write about this, he laughed and gave me that Ethan look – you may have received this look at some point too. If you haven’t, it is a look that says, “are you serious?”

Over the last year, I jumped on the Grey’s Anatomy train after mourning the end of a different series, Friday Night Lights. I really had no expectation for Grey’s, but wanted something to decompress to at night. Well let’s just say after finishing seasons 1-14 on Netflix, the characters are basically my BFFs.

Stay with me.

There’s a character named April on the show who is a Christian. Throughout the show, she is open about her faith and most of the time she sees the good in situations. Well, then she loses a child soon after birth. She gets a divorce. She’s spiraling in a lot of ways and then she loses several patients in one day – where she just couldn’t see how God was present or fair. Her character soon evolves into a negative, grumbly, cynical character until months later when she has a patient who happens to be a Rabbi and is dying from a rare side effect to medicine.

As I watched this episode, I happened to be in the midst of some personal things. Things that didn’t seem fair. I’ll spare you the details because we all have our things, but the conversation between April and the Rabbi really hit me that night. April is explaining to the Rabbi that she has been a “good Christian” and God hasn’t been fair to her, or rather life hasn’t been fair, but she feels God is to blame. Here are his responses:

“Fair? Was it fair when Isaac went blind and then his child betrayed him? And where was the fairness when Sara had to wait 99 years before she had a child, and God said, “sacrifice him”? And Moses couldn’t even get past the bouncer to the Promised Land.”

“Nobody in the Bible lived a life free of suffering or injustice, or it wouldn’t have been a best seller.”

“Now, if people only believed in God when things were good, I guarantee you, after the Holocaust, not a single Jew would be a believer.” DANG

“Terrible, wonderful, devastating things happen. Who the heck are you to know why? Who are you to know why some people live and some people die?”

“God’s not indifferent to our pain. Listen tikkun olam – means that the world is full of brokenness and it’s our job to put it back together again.”

If you’re still with me, I wonder what you’re thinking. I think God is big enough to handle my emotions- anger, sadness, happiness, etc. Even Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” I think it is absolutely okay for me to have moments where I wonder the same thing. I have had my fair share of those moments – one being a few years ago. I can remember where I was driving, the song on the radio, and the words I yelled at God. I felt like He had forsaken me in a moment of pain. I felt like He wasn’t working in my situation.

Feelings aren’t facts.

I felt like God had forsaken me, but the fact is God has never forsaken me. That day after I yelled at God, I turned the radio to 91.9 and heard a word from God. He spoke directly to my situation through a song.

“I need a Father
Whose love will never fail me
A friend like no other
Whose trusted arms will hold me
I need a Father

I am wounded
But I tuck the pain away
Free me, heal me
I don’t want to be afraid
My heart cries out

Here’s my heart
Be tender, please
Let me know your love for me
Here’s my heart
I’m on my knees
I will trust
‘Cause I believe

You are my Father
Your love will never fail me
A friend like no other
Your trusted arms will hold me
You are my Father”

Again, God has never forsaken me. He has never forsaken you. I have no idea what you’re walking through right now, but I do know that God is right there with you. Pain and suffering are inevitable in this earthly life, but today I am grateful for the ways that God winks at me (or speaks to me) to remind me that He’s got me. He sees me. He is working in my situation. I pray you see God wink at you today.

 

 

 


		
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What does your kid want for Christmas?

Hey guys! Today I want to share my favorite toys (so far) with y’all. We have found it so helpful to be intentional about what toys are available to Ava and Hayden. I can remember last year around Christmas time feeling a little anxious about all of the stuff the girls would receive – and then again a month and a half later on their birthday. (keep in mind in our 1100 square foot house… extra space isn’t a term we use very often) With that being said, we have found some toys that are worth taking up space in our house and some toys that aren’t.

One thing that we have noticed is that battery operated toys are a one hit wonder… the girls love them for a second and then move on to their open ended toys. For that reason, we rarely put battery operated toys on their wish lists. They do come in handy at times, of course but just not as the primary toy option.

Here are my favorites:


Melissa and Doug Ice Cream Scoop

The girls love this one. The parts are magnetic, so the scoops stay on top of the cone as they walk around offering licks to any and all visitors. It’s awesome!

https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Scoop-Magnetic-Pretend/dp/B004JLNUZI/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218700&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=melissa+and+doug+ice+cream+scoop+set&psc=1


Melissa and Doug Farm Puzzle

The latches are great for fine motor skills and underneath there are different animals. It’s really been fun to watch their vocabulary grow with this one puzzle! It stays out all of the time.

https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Activity-Barnyard-Magnets/dp/B001R674GE/ref=sr_1_10?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218765&sr=1-10&keywords=melissa+and+doug+puzzles


Melissa and Doug Shape Puzzle

I love the big knobs on this puzzle because it’s great for those chubby little hands to grab onto when they’re still learning to control their grasp. The girls loved teething on this one when they were cutting their first set of molars – haha! They aren’t spectacular at getting the pieces to fit in the puzzle yet, but they can match it (the puzzle underneath the piece is exactly the same). They just become more and more independent with toys like this.

https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Shapes-Wooden-Puzzle/dp/B000EK59H0/ref=sr_1_11?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218800&sr=1-11&keywords=melissa+and+doug+knob+puzzles


Babydoll Stroller

Another favorite. I bought this toy when the girls were a little over a year old and they’ve used it ever since. They push their babies in it, the want daddy to push them in it, and they use it for hauling little items around the house (kitchen food mainly).

https://www.amazon.com/Precious-toys-Foldable-Stroller-swivel/dp/B00PKTQORO/ref=sr_1_13?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218833&sr=1-13&keywords=baby+doll+stroller


Ride on toy

This isn’t the exact one that we have, but you get the idea. It can be ridden on, pushed, and played with. The seat lifts and kiddos can put things inside their little car. Before the girls could walk, we received this toy and we would push them around the house on it. Then they walked behind it and now they ride on it and can push themselves. My personal favorite is when they push each other. This toy was a suggestion from a friend because it seriously works for children in lots of stages.

https://www.amazon.com/Radio-Flyer-Busy-Buggy-Red/dp/B07CN9T8RC/ref=sr_1_5?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218907&sr=1-5&keywords=ride+on+toys


Melissa and Doug slicing food activity

The girls don’t have this exactly because we have been gifted food from a friend and it works for us, but if not this is something I’d like for them to have. The food velcros together and littles one practice slicing it. I love the tray that this comes in because it gives this activity a place. Great fine motor task and overall just a fun way to see your babe interact with pretend food.

https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Personalized-Cutting-Accessory-x/dp/B074D2R23K/ref=sr_1_12?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218947&sr=1-12&keywords=melissa+and+doug+slicing+food

Melissa & Doug Shape Sorting Cube - Classic Wooden Toy With 12 Shapes
Melissa and Doug Shape Sorting
Shape sorting is still above their pay grade, but they have played with a shape sorter toy for a while now. They can remove the lid and put everything inside and they sure love to dump everything out. When I sit down 1:1 with them, it’s a good activity for us to work on the shape language and the fine motor.

https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Shape-Sorting-Cube/dp/B00005RF5G/ref=sr_1_4?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542218982&sr=1-4&keywords=shape+sorter


Any Kitchen
I’m not married to a specific kitchen, but we love love love having one for the girls. A friend recently gave us theirs and it’s been a really fun toy for this age. The girls use their kitchen multiple times a day and now we have moved it into our kitchen, so they can be “cooking” when we do. I have nothing but good things to say about having a pretend kitchen. The link and picture are just “amazon’s choice”, but seriously just pick one that works for you – maybe it’s a hammy down (yay), consignment find, or brand new…

https://www.amazon.com/Step2-488399-Friends-Kitchen-Large/dp/B07BLV6696/ref=sr_1_4?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542219014&sr=1-4&keywords=step+2+kitchen

Manhattan Toy Wee Baby Stella Sleepy Time Scents 12
Stella Doll

I have to say that we love the stella baby doll. I put it on here because it’s a great first doll with the soft material. The paci and other accessories are magnetic, so really easy for little ones to play with independently. With that being said, when the girls first starting getting baby dolls (at 10 months old- last Christmas) I wondered how long it would be before they got into them. For them, it was around their first birthday. They LOVE baby dolls and playing pretend with them. It’s truly amazing to watch… my husband says it’s their only shot at a baby sibling – aka – no real ones coming from us.

https://www.amazon.com/Manhattan-Toy-Stella-Sleepy-Scents/dp/B01C3I5CLI/ref=sr_1_5?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542219060&sr=1-5&keywords=stella+baby+doll


Orange Wagon

This wagon is just the best little toy. It can be used in so many different ways. When the girls were really little, we would pull them around in it. Now, they pull their baby dolls around. They collect things in it and drag them around the house. It’s just a versatile toy.

https://www.amazon.com/Green-Toys-Wagon-Outdoor-Orange/dp/B06W9JVM1B/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542219128&sr=1-1&keywords=wagon+toddler+orange


Little People Doll House

This little doll house is the perfect size for this age. They received this on their first birthday and have played with it more and more as they’ve gotten older. When they need some time away from us or each other, they’ll sneak away to their doll house and play. It’s really cute to watch!

https://www.amazon.com/Fisher-Price-Little-People-Surprise-Sounds/dp/B014KEDBJS/ref=sr_1_5?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542219750&sr=1-5&keywords=little+people+dollhouse


Little People Barn

My mom has this toy at her house and it’s the first thing the girls want to do when they go over there. They LOVE animals, so getting to engage with animal figurines in a cool barn is right up their alley. Just like the doll house, this opens up for play and folds up nicely for storage.

https://www.amazon.com/Battat-Animal-Playset-Toddlers-Pieces/dp/B01MUDW6FF/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542219671&sr=1-2-spons&keywords=little+people+farm&psc=1

Hape Pound & Tap Bench with Slide Out Xylophone - Award Winning Durable Wooden Musical Pounding Toy for Toddlers, Multifunctional and Bright Colours
Wooden Toy with Mallet

I have no idea what this is called, but it was a consignment sale find for us and the girls have enjoyed it off and on. It is 2 toys in 1… the mallet is used for hammering the balls through the holes and for playing music on the xylophone. It’s a cute open ended toy.

https://www.amazon.com/Hape-Pound-Bench-Slide-Xylophone/dp/B00712O2D6/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1542219903&sr=8-4&keywords=xylophone+wooden


Melissa and Doug Pull Back Cars

The girls have always loved these vehicles – they received them for their first birthday and at the time they needed help pulling them back and getting them to go, but now they are able to do so on their own. They are a soft material, so a really good first toy.

https://www.amazon.com/Melissa-Doug-Kids-Pull-Back-Vehicle/dp/B00EX5K1GG/ref=sr_1_29?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542220143&sr=1-29&keywords=melissa+and+doug


Tool Bench

This is a toy similar to the kitchen for our girls. It is outside, so when Ethan is working they can be working too. They play with it each day that we are able to go outside and I imagine this will be a toy that just grows with them as they are more able to use the tools.

https://www.amazon.com/Decker-Junior-Workbench-Workshop-Realistic/dp/B0016DE80I/ref=sr_1_4?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1542220442&sr=1-4&keywords=tool+bench+for+toddlers

This year’s Christmas wish list has more toys that are similar to these. I LOVE Melissa and Doug so when in doubt, I get on amazon and just search through all of their toys and day dream about owning all of them – hahahaha!

I hope this helps! For me, the key is open ended toys. Toys that are going to be used for more than just one stage or one day. Toys that will allow the girls to use their imagination and give them freedom and versatility in their play. I’d love to hear about your favorite toddler toys 🙂

All images sourced from Amazon.com

Toddler Activities

 

Hey, y’all! Today I wanted to share some of my favorite toddler activities with you, but before I do I want to tell you I am no expert on toddlers – I’m just a mama channeling my inner teacher when I can.

As most of you know, I was a teacher for five years before I became a mama. I absolutely loved teaching and watching students grow and these activities give me an opportunity to fuel that part of me. It gives me an opportunity to watch my own children grow in a targeted way. What I mean by that is, the activity targets a skill or several skills in a fun way. I get to see the difference in the girls’ interaction with the little activity from September to November – their language changes, their fine motor skills change, their attention span increases, etc.

Most of our day is spent with the girls exploring without me leading. Typically they hop from one activity to the next and by the end of the day they have played with every toy they can get their hands on – multiple times. Most of the time, I am watching, joining in at their invitation (“need help” being their invitation these days), or cleaning up as they go. This unstructured play is so necessary and really really good for them too.

Recently, I’ve been on a mission to create 5 work task boxes – one for each week day. My hope for this is that I can consistently pull out the same box on Monday and really see how the girls are growing and changing each week. I also know that life happens and it likely won’t always go the way I’ve planned, and that’s okay. Inside each work task box, (I am using clear 12 quart containers from Wal-Mart.) are three activities for us to work on together. This will evolve with time I’m sure.

Before we start with the box, I grab a small blanket and lay it down so it becomes a “work space” – kind of like the carpets in school that teachers use. I gather the girls (as of now they are excited when they see the box) and we open the box together. I follow their lead with which activity to start, but when they finish with one activity I remind them to clean up and put everything back. I LOVE THIS. So often they are just little tornadoes and it would take them 17 hours to clean up ALL of the messes they make, BUT they can clean up this activity and to me this is a feasible responsibility for them to have. In each box, there is one activity that will force them to take turns. It has been SO FUN to watch them really own turn taking by saying “your turn” and handing each other the item. Again, so often during the day they just duke it out for their turn, but in these structured moments I get to support their turning take in a really intentional way.

Below I am going to show you four boxes. Mainly because my photos are being difficult and aren’t saving as a jpg, so it is taking far too long for me to fix all of that. Please don’t hesitate to ask me for specific pictures or check out my instagram page for videos.

first box 1
Box 1 with three activities
  1. Cook out with friends – gallon bag with cookout type foods, 2 paper plates, 2 stuffed animals. The girls are loving imaginative play right now and this is a fun way for us to do that together.
  2. Creating – There are two quart size bags with paper, stickers, and crayons. One for each of them to have. The items in the bag are changed out as needed of course.
  3. Pom pom fun- These can be used in so many ways. Below, I will post some pictures of how we have used the pom poms so far, but these items are what will be in my box. The bag of pom poms, the pill container, and the paper towel roll = pom pom sort and pom pom drop.
box 1 pom pom drop
pom pom drop
box 1 pom pom
pom poms in the whisk
box 2
box 2

 

  1. Card drop: any type of container with the plastic lid that you can make a slot through will work and some playing cards! The girls work really hard at this one and over time are needing less and less support to get it into the little slot. I have noticed that they get overwhelmed if there are a lot of playing cards, so I have put 10 in a baggy for them to do and this has helped keep their focus.
  2. Slicing food: Okay, so I know that’s a spatula but they can use it to slice through these little food items. It’s another opportunity for me to work with them on a different fine motor task. I’ve noticed they need help steadying the food, so I will hold the item while they work the spatula through the velcro. Recently, I have noticed more independence with this task specifically and their face lights up when they realize they’ve done it on their own. GAH! I love that. It’s also a time for them to take turns… notice one spatula!
  3. Small books: There are two small books that just seemed out of place on their self and were just floating around our house so I put them in this box. When reading these books, most of the time I just point out things in the pictures and it’s really neat to hear them point out things they see. Each week I get to see changes in their language with this specific book.
box 3
box 3
  1. color sort: This can be done with anything, but I just had a really generous friend who gave us lots of kitchen food so this is what we are using for now. In addition, I will have an orange and green piece of paper for them to use as a specific place to sort. Right now, everything is yellow to the girls (haha) so I’m excited to work on this one!
  2. animal find: we will use the rice and farm animals in lots of different ways. For example, I will get a deep container for them to dig down inside of (could be a bowl) and look for the animals. We talk through animal sounds a lot with this activity. I can also use muffin tins to hide the animals – one animal per “muffin” spot. Usually the girls will come up with their own way to use the rice and animals, but I love the sensory benefit to this activity. Watch out for the mess at this age!
  3. small book: not pictured in the smaller icons are 2 smaller books. Again, these are books that don’t fit on our shelves and can be taken out and talked through during this specific time.
box 4
box 4
  1. wallet exploration: The girls are fascinated with pulling things out of my wallet. I used to let them dig through it and then scramble to put the cards and money back in without losing it all. A few problems here, they are great at destroying things and they didn’t like to share my ONE wallet – haha! Anyways, my mom “donated” two of her old wallets to my cause and filled them with old cards. This activity engages the girls and they can practice fine motor skills with pulling cards, placing cards, zipping, and buttoning. It’s awesome!
  2. color sort: Again. The girls are interested in naming colors right now, so I am really wanting to work on this with them in a structured way (along with the unstructured ways that we talk about them). It is so fun to see the growth in their language and later their application of this skill. Plus, yellow is one of my favorite words that they say – “lello”.
  3. creating: Again. I love when we get new stickers and the girls get to work on manipulating and creating with them. Think about all of the language that can be worked on with just stickers! Today I picked the girls up from childcare at church and they had created some sticker art. When Hayden showed me her picture she started by naming items on her page – “ball” and “heart” being first and foremost.

Other ideas:

  1. Bean scoop – beans with measuring cups or some item used for scooping. I like to do beans inside because once upon a time we did them outside and made a mess and lots of beans sprouted! 😉
  2. cleaning toys- you dirty them up and supply your kiddo with some cleaning items such as sponges, soap, water, wash cloths. I prefer to do this outside or in the bathtub with my girls.
  3. pill containers – yes those ones that have a compartment for each day of the week. These are great for fine motor skills. The girls will spend several minutes (which is comparable to hours in adult time) putting little items like pom poms into each compartment.
  4. puzzle foil- wrap the puzzle pieces in aluminum foil and have them unwrap them and then put the piece on the puzzle. This is a huge hit at our house!

Thanks for reading, y’all. If you read this and thought, you’re crazy and that’s too much work – that’s cool. If you read this and thought, hmm maybe my kid would like it – cool. At the end of the day, each parent is so different and that is how we were designed to be. I just wanted to share what I love doing with Hayden and Ava. Happy Hump Day!

 

First Comes Love…

Many moons ago, I was sitting in a sociology class learning about people and why they do what they do. Honestly, I don’t remember much from that class but I do remember this. Our professor mentioned male happiness in relation to marriage. This is what he said, in my own words.

When a man gets married to his special lady, his happiness peaks to an all time high. During their marriage, it levels out some to be a more steady happiness. Let’s say the couple decides to have children, when the baby is born the daddy’s happiness peaks to another all time high. WOW! Look at this amazing gift. Over time, the daddy’s happiness starts to go down because… wait for it…

He is jealous. The husband/daddy becomes jealous of the new baby who is stealing all of his special lady’s attention. OH SNAP.

Maybe you’re reading this and grumbling about the man who is jealous and wow, who cares. Or maybe you’re reading and thinking, wow that makes sense. Either way, what I said above is me relaying information from a college professor. What I’m about to say is my opinion.

Of course the daddy is jealous. If you know me well, you know how many pictures I had of the girls in their first year of life. SIX THOUSAND. SIX. THOU.SAND. I probably don’t have 6,000 cumulative pictures of my husband, Ethan, and I from the 10 years we have known each other. You may also know that I nursed both of my babies. They spent countless hours on my boobs each day, but the minute Ethan came in the door and put his arms around my waist… my body cringed. The thought of someone else touching me made me irritable and resentful, not of the two tiny people who attached to my boobs 10 times a day, but to my handsome husband who hadn’t seen me all day. When I couldn’t get my daughters to nap at the same time, Ethan got my bad attitude. Well, let’s change that to *gets* my bad attitude because my tiny people still wear me down every day. When I’ve given all of my physical and mental energy to caring for our tiny people all day, I rarely have time to see my husband’s needs.

Goodness. When we shared our vows, we knew that our marriage wouldn’t always be at the high that it was on the day of our wedding. There’s a reason they call the weeks after the wedding, the honeymoon period – haha! However, we didn’t realize that parenting would contribute to some of the lows. Marriage is hard and parenting adds another dimension. WE LOVE OUR DAUGHTERS. Please don’t misread what I’m trying to say. We love them so much that sometimes we forget that it took the two of us and the love we share to make them.

IMG_2729
June 15, 2013

So, how do we remind ourselves that “first came love, then came marriage, then came the baby in the baby carriage?” How do we make each other a priority?

Before you read this next part, I want to tell you that I am still learning. I am still failing. But, I am still trying. Here are some things that are working for us right now.

  1. 7:00 bedtime. Yep, you read that correctly. Ava and Hayden are in their beds around 7:00 each night. This gives Ethan and I a couple of hours to spend time together ALONE. We spend a little bit of that time getting the house in order, but afterwards we always watch a show together. We put our phones away. We need this time together to recharge.
  2. Little things. Ethan used to make a sandwich for me every day to have for lunch. This really made me feel loved because some days I wouldn’t eat because the girls’ needs seemed more pressing – this gave me no excuse. When I’m grocery shopping, I like to find one thing that I don’t usually buy that I know Ethan will like. It seems small and it is, but I want him to know that I think of him. We leave each other notes (not as often as we should) expressing our gratitude and encouraging each other.
  3. We say, yes. When someone offers to babysit, we usually take them up on it. One of our favorite things to do is go out to eat – without toddler disruptions! We don’t go anywhere fancy, but it’s fun to go sit and be together for an hour. If it isn’t during dinner time, we may go run errands together or take a long walk. The idea is that we are continuing to date each other.
  4. Sleepovers. When the girls turned one, we started to feel comfortable with the idea of them sleeping over at their grandparents’ house. WOAH! What. A. Gift. This consecutive time together was and is a life saver for us. One of our favorite things is to plan a weekend in advance and then anticipate it. The anticipation is almost as awesome as the alone time together. Almost. We love the extra time together doing fun things, some things, or NOTHING.
  5. We share responsibilities. Ethan is more than willing to do house work. I have no problem doing yard work. Ethan handles bath time most nights. I cook dinner most nights. He gives a paci during the night if the girls wake up. We both change poopy diapers. We both do laundry. The list goes on. We shared responsibilities before the girls and we both felt it was important to continue. This works for us. Ethan always jokes that he would make a great house wife – and he totally would! He jams out to Dixie Chicks while washing the dishes. ha!

I share these things just to give you some insight into what works for our marriage. What works for us may not work for you and your husband and that is okay. Just find something that does. You are worth it. Your husband is worth it. Your marriage is worth it. AND your children will be better for it.

I know the the days are long. I know that we both are tired. We both can be grumpy and not really feel like loving on each other. Some days we are just going to argue. That’s okay. That’s part of our story too. The point is, we need to wake up the next day and try to make each other a priority. It is so easy for me to prioritize our daughters because they are “needier”, but my hope is that I don’t forget that my husband needs me too. 

img_7657
Our first night away from the girls – Jan 2018

 

Mommin’ ain’t easy

On several occasions, I’ve had people ask me what being a twin mom is like. It is usually really difficult to sum things up on the spot so today I am going to share what life is like and what challenges I have faced in my parenting journey so far.

As a disclaimer, I would like to say I can only speak from my experience as a mother of twin girls. My situation may be different from yours, but I hope you can relate to something I share today. I would love to hear from you about your personal challenges as a mama and how you overcome those. I say overcome because for me, it is a constant action – I have to use the same tools again and again when feelings like the ones I mention below start to seep in.

  1. There was/is rarely a pause.

It feel so good to pause. Yet, I feel like I spent the first year of motherhood holding my breath, rarely exhaling. This has been a struggle for me since we learned we were pregnant with twins actually. We began our journey with the specialist at 10 weeks gestation and we went for a follow up every two weeks until the girls were delivered. When we went to the specialist, they would measure baby A and then move on to measure baby B. There was rarely a pause. There was rarely a moment to savor how baby A was growing because we needed to look at baby B. From the start, there have been two tiny people vying for our attention.

Having twins means that our babies have the exact same needs at the exact same time. Developmentally, they both needed to nurse every 3 hours in the beginning. They both needed skin to skin. They both needed to be burped. They both needed diaper changes. They both needed baths in their little infant bath thingy, etc. This seemed fun when Ethan was home in the beginning because we didn’t have to share, but when he went back to work… boy it felt like too much. I hated the idea of choosing who went first. This was my first pregnancy and with most people’s first pregnancy they have one baby who is the center of their universe and it stays that way until they choose (if they choose) to have another child. That’s how I imagined my life too.

From the start, we had to learn to balance the needs and wants of two people who were in the same developmental stage. When I recall the newborn days, I cringe a little and deep down I wish things were different. I wish I had been able to pause more. I wish I could have savored one sweet baby, but God didn’t ask me for my opinion on the matter.

Our little routine looked like this: I changed one baby’s diaper and laid them in a boppy while I changed the other baby’s diaper. Then I placed that baby on my big ole nursing pillow. Then I grabbed the baby in the boppy and laid them on my big ole nursing pillow (opposite side of her sister). I latched them one by one using a nipple shield. When they finished eating, I burped one baby. Then I laid that baby in the boppy while I burped the second baby. Rarely any pauses.

It makes my head spin a little. At times, I felt like a child who was thrown into the deep end of the pool before ever dipping their toes in! I had no idea how to be a mom, or what each developmental stage looked like for ONE baby, much less TWO.

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2. There were no breaks.

When Ethan would come home from work, he would take a baby and I would take the other. We would really use this time as an opportunity to give our little people as much attention as we could. This just meant there were no breaks. There was no, hey hold the baby while I shower… because there were two – ha! If Ethan had one, that left me with one.

I have a vivid memory of when the girls were learning to walk and they wanted to hold our fingers while we bent over to support them in this new skill. If you’re a parent, you’ve done this. Do you remember the back pain? I don’t think I will ever forget!!! Ava and Hayden wanted to do this all day when they were learning to walk, so when I was home alone I would walk with one babe and then walk with the other. My back hated me because hello, no break. When someone came over, it didn’t give me a break either because the girls were like let’s go.. there’s two of you and two of us and we ready to walk.

Another memory that won’t leave me is the process of cutting EYE TEETH. Hot darn, those teeth are the devil when they are cutting through little baby gums. It may come as a shocker, but the girls cut these teeth around the same time for TWO MONTHS. One night Ava would be up screaming and Hayden would sleep all night, the next night Hayden would be up screaming and Ava would sleep all night. There was a time that I literally felt like we wouldn’t survive this, which on this side of things sounds dramatic. At the time, all we wanted was a break. Good news though, we are survivors!

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Those two things are my biggest struggles as a mother of twins. What is the solution? My dad has always encouraged us to focus on solutions, not the problem… so let’s do that now because I’m tired of hearing myself whine. 

I feel like I spent way too much time feeling guilty that I couldn’t pause and savor my babies the way I wanted to. I spent way too much time feeling jealous of new moms who had one baby. I spent way too much time feeling ashamed of my jealousy. I spent way too much time feeling like I had to parent without breaks. I’m over all that, y’all.

There still isn’t much pause, but we embrace it when it comes. For example, when one of our daughter wake up early from her nap, we soak up that 1:1 time with them and really focus on who they are separate of their sister. We separate when we can, whether that is at the grocery store or on a special date.

We still have to work hard to carve out breaks, but we do it. We make the most of their identical developmental needs, and embrace their nap time being at the same time. Ethan and I fully encourage whoever is taking care of our girls (us or family) to rest during nap time because it’s a break, the housework can wait.

Being a mama is hard, whatever your journey looks like. Maybe you have one baby who has colic, maybe you have a baby who struggles to nurse, maybe you have multiple children who are close in age or spread out, maybe you have triplets, maybe you have no family support, maybe your husband works long hours and you are the primary caregiver, maybe __________________________ (fill in your situation). Whatever your struggle is, it is valid. It is yours.

My advice:

  1. Own how you feel. Name what would help you. Pray for that help to come. Accept it when it does. 
  2. Trust that YOU are the best mama for your child(ren). God will equip you to provide for their needs and most likely, their wants.

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Where does Jesus live?

In the last few weeks, I have started and stopped several different blog posts for one reason or another. Today I am starting a new one in hopes to finish it and publish it for you to read. Maybe just maybe it will happen.

On Sunday’s our family (like many others) gets ready to go to church. The girls wake up around 6:30 am and we do our typical morning routine while attempting to get dressed for church. The girls love Sunday mornings. It is so fun to watch them once they’ve put on their dress… they run to my full length mirror and say “see” and smile at themselves. They’ll find Ethan to show him how pretty they look. It really is a sweet moment that I look forward to each Sunday morning. Once we are dressed, we get the girls buckled into the carseats and then do a final sweep of our house for diaper bags, water bottles, coffee mugs, etc. – It feels like we grow another arm during this process, for real. Whoever said it’s easy like Sunday mornin’, clearly didn’t get children ready for church.

Once we arrive at church, we take the girls to the nursery where they are greeted so warmly by the people who will be caring for them while we are in church. It’s a blessing to have people love on your babies the way our nursery workers do. Ava and Hayden are usually excited to get down and play with their friends and Ethan and I are glad to be rid of the girls so we can focus in church 😉 It’s a win/win.

A few Sundays ago, we picked the girls up from the nursery and one of the workers came out of the door with us. She was so excited to show us something she taught the girls. The exchange went something like this:

“Hayden and Ava, where does Jesus live?”

At that moment, Hayden put her hand on her heart and attempted to say “heart”. Ava put her hands up as to say, “where?” and then she also pointed to her heart.

Wow. Just wow.

We have practiced this several times a day since that Sunday and each time the girls stop to point to their heart or my heart. Each time I am amazed.

What a simple question, yet such a profound answer. Jesus lives in our heart. When I think on this statement, it breeds more questions for me. Do I truly understand the power of this? Do I live with this truth at the forefront of my mind? I’ll answer those for you, no I do not. What would my life look like if I constantly reminded myself that Jesus lives within me?

My life is filled with dirty diapers, meal prepping, board book reading, doll house playing, pretend cooking, boo boo kissing, floor sweeping, dish washing, behavior shaping, bill paying, errand running, etc. Often I start to lonely in this heap of responsibility. Am I alone though? No no no. That is a lie that comes from the devil. It is a lie that can seep into the deepest parts of me and try to steal actual truths from me. Jesus dwells inside of me and for that reason, I am never alone. He doesn’t care if I come to him while driving to the grocery store… again. He doesn’t care if I pray mid diaper change. He doesn’t care if our meal prayers are messier than they used to be (also cuter). It isn’t inconvenient for Him. He chose me and He chose you.

I believe this revelation; God living within me also gives me a sense of responsibility to do the works He has set out for me.  This is going to look different for each of us. For Ethan, he has the great opportunity of working with young children and influencing them in ways that he may never know. For me, my primary sphere of influence is my children. I have to ask myself if the knowledge of Jesus living in my heart shapes my outward behavior. Do I grumble and complain about the mess my children make or do I get in that mess with them? (depends on the day 😉 The point is, I want this truth to penetrate my heart in a way that forces me to find joy in all things. The easy, the hard, the good, the bad, the happy, the sad.

I pray that today you mull over this simple statement: Jesus lives in our hearts. It is a choice He made when He came to earth to dwell among us. Andy Stanley says in one of his podcasts that God didn’t come to the earth to take over, he came to free us. Wow. He came to free us. What is binding your heart today? I truly believe that God wants to free me and you from whatever that is. Maybe it’s social media addiction, jealousy, anger, resentment, self pity, drug addiction, discontentment, fear, etc. Each of us have our own junk, y’all. God wants to take that junk from us.

Will we let Him?

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts.” Ephesians 3:16-17

Staying home, now what?

As relieved as I felt once my resignation was finalized, I also spent time grieving what I had lost: a teaching job that I loved. Up until this point, I had been on maternity leave – not unemployed. ha! I remember having a doctor’s appointment shortly after I resigned and on the questionnaire it asked what my occupation was; and y’all I LIED! I wrote… “teacher”.

Acceptance is a journey, right? Obviously I had not come to a place of acceptance about my new role as stay-at-home mom. It took time, but today I am going to share some things that helped me during this huge transition.

Distractions. Don’t think I wasn’t envious of my friends who were setting up their classrooms with fresh supplies and new borders, because I was. I needed distractions. I spent the first day of school with a college friend. This dear friend of mine had also resigned from teaching last summer. She was an EC teacher and we talked on the way to school every morning, yes you read that right… every morning. At 6:30 am, I would dial her number and we would hash out goals, lesson plans, how to deal with parents, and of course our personal issues. 😉 It seemed fitting that we spent that first day together of retirement together. Our time together reminded me that things change and that’s okay. 

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Retirement looks good on us

Take off the rose colored glasses. Another friend of mine who also resigned from teaching to stay home with her little ones, encouraged me to remember the negatives about my job. I know that sounds bad, but how easy is it to look back on something with rose colored glasses. For example when an older mom says, “You’re going to miss those newborn days.” Suuuuuure. They have obviously forgotten the sleepless nights, constant feeding, and thousands of diapers and only remembered the good from those days – aka good ole days. Another example is from traveling – how many vacations have you been on where the travel aspect is nuts? Happens to us about every time. After the vacation though, I usually only remember the incredible sights we saw, relaxation we felt, or memories we made. The travel pains are quite forgettable.

There were so many days that I wanted to be at school working on goals, coming up with lessons, watching my students grow, but I wasn’t there – plain and simple. I was at home. I had to remember that although I loved each of my students dearly and felt called to be their teacher, that there was more to the job. For starters, there was no planning period. (think about that for a moment) Most days I got to work at 6:45 am and worked until 4:30 pm with no actual breaks. This was a huge negative that I needed to remember on the days I yearned to be back in that school building. I’m not encouraging you to be a negative person – no one likes that! I am encouraging you to remember that in a transition or season of change, that you likely weighed pros and cons before making your decision. Be confident in your decision and practice acceptance. Just as I quickly forget travel pains, I can quickly forget stressors from my job that I loved. 

Developing Routines. I had a schedule for our day. Y’all this was and still is a huge deal for me. It keeps me sane and I truly think Hayden and Ava benefit from this. By schedule, I mean routine, so before you knock it… remember that we all have routines in life – even you spontaneous folks! As I’ve mentioned before, the girls were scheduled from the beginning as a means to create some calm out of our chaos. As they developed, we tweaked their schedule and much of it was trial and error. I talked to other moms, read about sleep needs, developmental needs, feeding schedules, and ultimately considered what I felt was best for our little family. I am in no way an expert of schedules, but I sure am a fan of them.

Below, I will show you a little snippet of our current routine. Some days we leave the house at 8:00 instead of 9:30 or maybe lunch is later or earlier. The point is there’s a predictable flow to our day and this keeps us all sane.

  • 6:30 am wake up
  • 7:00 am breakfast
  • 7:30- 8:00 indoor play
  • 8:00 walk in the stroller
  • 8:30 outdoor play in our yard
  • 9:15 snack/quiet time in cribs (books/puzzles)
  • 9:30 park/outside/somewhere
  • 11:00 lunch
  • 11:30 wind down with quiet activities
  • 12:00 nap
  • 2:00 wake up & go outside
  • 3:00 snacks & errands if necessary
  • 5:00 stroller walk with daddy/i cook dinner
  • 5:30 tv or outside play
  • 6:00 dinner
  • 6:30 baths
  • 7:00 bedtime

Getting out of the house. There were plenty of days that I didn’t see or talk to another adult until my husband got home – that’s enough to make me go crazy, y’all. I found it helpful to get out of the house at some point during the day, every day if possible. This might be a trip to Aldi, or maybe to story time, the park, or to a friend’s house for a play date. One thing I learned quickly in my time at home was that there was absolutely no way to keep my house in order while the girls and I were living in it all day long, so these outings got me out of the messy house and gave me and the girls interaction with others. Admittedly, getting out of the house was for my sanity most of the time, but it was also a time for me to encourage good social skills with the girls.

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play dates are so fun!

Communicating to my husband. This is always important, but I became increasingly aware of my need to communicate with Ethan during those first months at home. He needed to know if nap time was a bust, if the girls had been little angels, if I was feeling lonely, etc. so he would know how to punch in for his second shift; dad life. It is unfair for me to think Ethan will automatically know what kind of mood I will be in, what our families immediate needs are, and what my expectations are for the rest of the day as soon as he walks through the door.

I have learned in my marriage (can’t speak for anyone else’s) that my husband wants me to feel appreciated, loved, and respected, but a lot of times he is unsure of what I need because let’s be honest – its constantly changing. There are days that I need him to punch in immediately and let me punch out because it’s been a doozy. Other days, I want him to meet us at the park on his way home for a family outing. Occasionally, I will feel really good about the day and take the girls out just when he is getting home so he can have some alone time. I’m not the perfect communicator by any means, but it’s so important for me to remember that Ethan cannot read my mind as hard as he may try. It is my responsibility to remember that he is on my side and that he wants to provide for me and the girls – in more ways than financially. I have to communicate our needs to him.

Lastly, I needed to to change my mindset. I wasn’t unemployed. I had a new job and it was just as important as my old job. My old job was a great calling; to teach other people’s children. My new job was another great calling; to teach my daughters. I have always taken my work seriously, and I needed realize being at home with the girls was serious… it was a job that I wanted to do really well.

 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-24

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For Such A Time As This

If you know me well, you know how indecisive I am when it comes to things in my personal life. (I mention that because professionally, I am typically confident and decisive.) There’s a great possibility that I have harassed you at some time or another to help me make a decision or maybe two. I’ve been known to poll my trusted friends and family before making a large decision – gotta get my committee going! I spent 12 hours one time debating on which convertible car seat to buy. 12 hours! Sometimes having to make a big decision (or a decision that feels big to me) sends me into a panic. I make lists, call trusted people, pray, make more lists, torture my husband, repeat.

Take this knowledge of me and bring with it the question of whether to work or stay at home with Ava and Hayden. I bet you have a sense of what I was feeling. Panic, yes panic.

I had always planned on being a working mother. For starters, I found a lot of purpose in teaching. Without a doubt, I believe that God called me to be an EC teacher. My kids at school were just that, my kids. I had the best teacher assistant and loved the school where I was teaching. I would often joke that one day, when I was really really old that they would have to wheel me out of the classroom because I wouldn’t want to retire. Secondly, I was married to a teacher – so financially it made no sense for me to stay home. Lastly, I always wanted children, but never had the desire to be a stay at home mom.

On February 9th, 2017 I started my maternity leave and I cried the whole 20 minute drive home. I knew how to teach, but I had no idea how to mother twins. While working I had a number of distractions; IEP goals, lesson plans, community outings, department meets, etc. At home, there was nothing to distract me from what was about to happen – uh two babies coming my way in 5 days.

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Me + Kathryn = dynamic duo

I told the school upfront that I wouldn’t return until August and they cleared this extended leave, thankfully. It meant I had 6 months at home with the girls before I would start working full time again. 6 months sounded long. In the throws of diapers, pumping, nursing, tummy time, it felt long sometimes too. When summer arrived, the countdown to work began in my mind. I wasn’t ready. We went to visit the day care in early July and I cried the whole way home, again. The facility was nice, the people were incredible, but I was really struggling.

We began to fill out the paperwork anyways and I kept looking back at the cost to send the girls. It was the cheapest option we found, and yet it was very expensive. I was going to earn more than the daycare costs, but it wasn’t much more. The last week of July Ethan and I started seriously crunching numbers and determining what we could eliminate from our finances. Staying at home was doable. 

But…
-I was supposed to go back in August.
-I had given my word to my colleagues and my students.
-What would people think of me?
-I didn’t want to give up my teaching position.
-I couldn’t imagine living on one teacher income.
-I didn’t want to work without a planning period anymore.
-I wanted to be at home with the girls longer.

So…
-I talked to Ethan
-I called my mom, dad, sister, in-laws.
-I called my mama friends
-I called my college friends
-I called my teacher friends

I was panicking over this decision.

Each person I spoke to encouraged me in different ways, but of course no one would tell me what to do. One day, a teacher friend of mine told me to spend time alone with God in prayer and really listen. I vividly remember sitting in the dark with my eyes closed and hearing, “for such a time as this…”. What did that mean?

A few days later a dear friend said, “when I talk to you, I feel like your heart wants to be at home with your daughters.” She was right. On the last day of July, Ethan told me that he thought staying at home during the upcoming school year was best for our family. Freedom. I called my (new) principal that day and resigned, and I will never forget what he said: “I have never heard of a woman who regrets staying home with her children.”

The decision to stay home with Hayden and Ava was incredibly difficult because my job wasn’t just a job, it was something I felt called to do. However, in July of 2017 I truly believe that God called me away from this job for such a time as this. He created me for such a time as this. Having twins was never part of my plan. Being a stay at home mom was definitely never part of my plan. Yet, I am learning that His plans are worth surrendering to.

Are you in the process of making a decision? Are you in a difficult season? Are you in a season of change? I encourage you to trust Him in whatever it is. Trust that he created you for such a time as this – whatever that looks like for you.

My story isn’t over yet. I have no idea how long I will stay at home with the girls. I have no idea if I will like my next teaching position, much less love it. I have no idea if I will have another assistant like Kathryn. I do know that this season is teaching me to trust. It is teaching me to be obedient. It is teaching me to live in the moment and let God work on the future.

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my life is nothing like i imagined – it is so much better

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 

 

 

 

Paying it Forward

Once we brought the girls home, we settled into a similar routine that they were in during their NICU stay – eating every 3 hours and then going back to sleep. It was a little more complicated than it sounds because my supply was not enough at that time to feed both of the girls without supplementing.

The routine looked like this:

6 am: Ethan changed one babies diaper and then brought this baby to me. I positioned this baby with a nipple shield while she began nursing. Ethan changed the other babies diaper and then brought her to me to nurse with her sister. I used a nipple shield until the girls were about 4 months old and I always tandem nursed them on a twin brestfriend pillow. Once they finished that nursing session, we would give each baby a small bottle of formula to supplement. Then, I would pump in order to increase my supply. Hold babies, clean pump parts, make more bottles. Repeat every 3 hours.

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Daddy feeding Ava Jean her bottle

Our lives felt like a whirlwind at the time and honestly I don’t remember much of it, but don’t worry my sweet husband hasn’t forgotten a detail so he reminds me when necessary 😉

After 3 consults with lactation, herbal supplements for me, lots of pumping and nursing, and about two months of time, we were able to stop supplementing and I just nursed the girls. It was so nice to be able to eliminate some of this process. The process was daunting, but it was a gift in the end because the girls nursed for 16 months. As a mama who couldn’t rock both babies or hold both babies and constantly struggled with that reality, tandem nursing gave me the opportunity to cuddle and love on both of my babies at the same time.

When we transitioned home, we had lots of extra hands there to help us. After the NICU, Ethan took another week off of work, where we were able to soak up time together with our little baby dolls. He was an incredible partner in his new role as daddy – he never blinked and eye to get up for feedings, prep bottles, and change diapers. Once he went back to work, GiGi (Ethan’s mom), stayed with us for a week to help me with the girls. The following week, Nana (my mom), stayed with us. You did the math right, I wasn’t alone with the girls until they were close to 4 weeks old (1 week NICU, 1 week Ethan, 1 week GiGi, 1 week Nana = 4 weeks). I’m not sure I could have cleaned those pump parts, gotten both girls on the nursing pillow, slept, eaten, changed diapers, healed from surgery, grocery shopped, etc. without all of the extra hands.

Help came in all shapes and sizes. Friends and family came over and held one baby while I held the other, or they held both babies so that I could shower and eat. My parents babysat for an hour (that’s all I could handle) each Thursday, so that Ethan and I could go on a date and feel like humans for a moment. Our parents helped us with yard work because uh, we forgot we had a yard. People let me hold them verbally hostage on several occasions because I hadn’t seen an adult during the day… you know what I’m talking about mamas! Friends responded to middle of the night texts to remind me I wasn’t the only person awake with a newborn. The list is endless, y’all.

In addition, we were the recipients of meal after meal thanks to a meal chain that my friend Jessica set up for us. OH MY WORD. Having a newborn is incredibly difficultly, having two is insane, and the thought of cooking dinner will about send you over the edge. Thankfully, night after night people loved on us by bringing us dinner, desserts, and sometimes breakfast. We could never repay each of these people for their kindness, but we are so so grateful.

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one of those desserts I mentioned 😉

This post seems all over the place, so for that I’m sorry, but I promise I have a point. God didn’t give Ethan and I these babies and say, FIGURE IT OUT ON YOUR OWN. He gave us these babies and an incredible community to help us navigate these new waters. We have to shed our pride to accept help and especially to ask for help and that isn’t always easy, but I encourage you to remember that God designed you to live in community with others. He designed you and me to carry each other’s burdens. He designed us to not only give to others, but to receive gifts from others.

We could never repay all of the acts of kindness, but we can keep it going by paying it forward to another person. Take a meal, give the gift of our presence, send a thoughtful card, do someone’s dishes, fold someone’s laundry, rock their baby, say an intentional prayer, invite someone for a play date, babysit for a friend to grocery shop alone, etc. These seem like small acts, but to someone they may be exactly what they need. Perhaps while reading this you’ve thought of someone who needs a little lovin’ from you, I encourage you to act on that – don’t let it just be a “good thought”.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

 

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