Saturday, June 8, 2013

When Your "All" Is Not Enough

It's been a whirlwind here for the past several weeks - with the birth of our sweet little Levi Jeffrey (pictures to come soon!), time seems to scream past at an even more alarming rate than usual.  It's amazing - my whole world is completely different, and yet, it feels as though he's been a part of my heart and our family for the entire time.

Being a Mommy to two little ones has taken some getting used to, and I daresay this learning curve will continue for quite a while!  The last week has been particularly tough, with being in the throes of newborn-dom, and also dealing with a two year old who has had her whole world turned upside down.  While I can hardly believe that my baby is already nearly six weeks old, the days have been achingly long at times.  Trying to figure out how this new little person ticks, as well as nursing nearly every two hours (!) has me exhausted.  Add to that a little girl who is testing (LOTS) of boundaries right now, and it makes for a weary Mama's soul.  I think I've written at least three blog entries in my head on any given day!

Case in point: I was still in my pajamas at 4 pm today, and Olivia ate pizza for lunch, and McDonald's for dinner.  The house looks like a bunch of college freshman boys live here, and my poor husband timidly asked me this morning if I knew if he had any clean socks.  I finally made it out grocery shopping this evening at 9:30, and am now sitting here at almost midnight writing this . . . (while nibbling dark chocolate, I might add).  ;)

So yes, these weeks are exhausting, but also incredibly blessed.  I wanted to share with you a few of the things God is teaching me (ever so gently) in this season:

His Grace is Enough.
I know that many times as Christians, we throw this phrase around with stinging triteness - as a "catch all" phrase for every situation.  It occurred to me that I have only barely scratched the surface of even comprehending what God's grace even means to me - and FOR me!  So many times, especially during this season of mothering, I try to do things on my own strength.  I work to earn God's approval, and everyone else's, because of my own selfish pride.  I would rather have the proverbial "gold star" on my record by my own standards, than acknowledge that I am hopelessly incapable of living up to God's, and throwing myself before a messy, despicable cross as a desperate sinner in need of a Savior!  Nothing that I accomplish (or don't!) is of any merit on it's own.  It is only by His grace that I can love my children well, or be a godly wife.  I have already failed, and Christ has done it perfectly in my place - so I can just relax, and trust Him!

My Stubborn, Defiant Two-Year-Old Mirrors My Own Heart!
Have I mentioned that my precious daughter is testing the limits lately??  Every possible scenario I ever imagined with a little girl (even a toddler) never came close to the reality she's created for me the past few months.  I expected some pandemonium with a two year old, but REALLY, people, she's made it interesting!  All my best efforts at disciplining/training her in Christlike love leave me frustrated and feeling like I've failed her.

The other day, I asked her to do something (which she didn't want to do), and she responded by slapping her own leg.  She tried that on Mommy once, with disastrous results, so now she just slaps herself so that she can still get her point across.  ;)  She also informed me with a very stern little face, "I no like it, Mommy!  I mean it, Mommy!"

While these are certainly comical responses (I am SO saving these for when she's a teenager!), in the moment it's frustrating to be attempting to console a fussy baby, and be confronted with such a sassy little attitude.  Nate and I have been very intentional about distinguishing normal, childish behavior (which requires guidance, but not necessarily discipline) from sinful behavior.  We are doing our best to train Olivia to honor Mommy and Daddy, and to obey our voices even when she doesn't want to.  I had a conversation with her about how learning to obey Mommy's voice will help her learn to obey God's voice in her heart to tell right from wrong - so now when I remind her to obey me, she replies with "Obey God!"

We rarely make it through breakfast without dealing with some kind of issue lately.  I remember thinking, "Why won't she just give in and obey me already?  What else can I do to get it through her head??"  Jesus came to me in that moment and reminded me, ever so gently, that I do the same thing.  Outside of his grace, my heart is just as stubborn and defiant - and sinful!  I need him . . . oh, how I need him to fulfill me, and be the source of my happiness rather than acquiring a reputation for having a well behaved child.

Don't Waste This Season.
Many times, my thought process goes something like this:  "I'll just get the dishes done, and then I can bathe Levi, and feed Olivia, and then I can work on getting some laundry done, and then maybe I can eat something . . . " etc.  I re-heat the same cup of coffee about 4 times a day (because at least re-heated coffee, though the bane of my existence, is better than no coffee at all!), and oftentimes am not dressed (let alone showered!) before 10 am.

It's easy to wish away this time and dream of when I have self-sufficient kids on a reliable routine, rather than the messy unpredictability of a newborn and toddler.  The "grass is always greener" mentality is a dangerous one, and certainly not something I want to entertain for long - but nevertheless, it rears its head from time to time.

I have been reminded lately, both through precious godly women in my life, and through scripture, that Motherhood is a high calling, and it is to be treasured!  God is using this as a crucible for my heart right now, and I want to rejoice in that, instead of biding my time.  There is no greater refining fire than your own family.  What a privilege it is for me to have these two tiny souls entrusted to me to shepherd right now!

Being a mother involves huge sacrifice, something our culture is repulsed by.  But what a joy it is to mirror the sacrifice of my Savior on a daily basis!  I am called, every day, to lay down my life for my children.  And lately, by God's grace, I have been learning to take joy in that calling.  He values me as a mother!  He sees my sacrifices, and blesses them.  My work is not in vain.  Such simple truths, but they are balm to my weary spirit!

So . . . that pretty much sums it up for now.  God is so good to me - really, I am overwhelmed by his love for me (and my children!).  What are some ways that God is working in your heart as a Mama right now?  I'd love to hear from you!  Until next time -

Grace and Peace,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Great Expectations

I was thinking today about all the things I still want to get accomplished before the baby is born (we're down to just 5 weeks left!  Eek!), and then it occurred to me that if it's written down somewhere, maybe it will help me remember everything better?  Well, that remains to be seen, but at least this way I've got it all in one place, and as a bonus, I get to bounce ideas off of you guys!

Since this is our second baby, I don't feel like we're preparing the same way that we did for Olivia, but it still seems like there's lots to do!  I don't have to worry about shopping around for baby furniture, and preparing for breastfeeding, or every conceivable scenario with the birth process, but there are things I wish I had done before having my first baby that I'm trying to get done this time around.

  • Baby's Room
Since we're moving sometime in the near future, we debated whether we wanted to paint and "decorate" this baby's room, or just wait until the next house, but we decided that since we won't have too much to do (only 3 walls to paint, and a few pictures to hang) we could manage it after all.  I'm praising the wisdom of some brilliant person last time who suggested we stick with gender neutral bedding and furniture (I'm pretty practical anyway, but it is tempting to be specific with that stuff when you know the baby's gender ahead of time!).  We have black and white stuff, so it makes it easy to throw in some "accent colors" and call it a day.  And unless you like monkeys, or sports, there isn't a ton of "boy" stuff out there, people!  I've never been a fan of "character" themes (no Whinnie the Pooh for this Mama!) or things that are exclusively "baby" looking.  After hemming and hawing for a while, we decided on an Old World vintage-y travel themed room.  We're throwing in a few whimsical touches, like a map of Middle Earth, and some antique looking toy cars, planes, and such.  These are pictures that I found on Pinterest that are a pretty good match for what I'm working toward.

This is the wall color (more or less) that we're going with.

  • Food Prep
With my first baby, nursing got off to a crazy bumpy start.  When she was about 2 months old, she was diagnosed with infant reflux (basically really bad heartburn).  Combine that with my already fragile nursing status, and it was tough!  I had a very restricted diet for quite a while to try to minimize flare ups for her.  There are foods in general that I already know to avoid while nursing, but with a reflux baby, it really ups the ante.  With that in mind, I'm praying that this baby doesn't have any reflux issues, but "just in case" I'm trying to be mindful of those dietary needs while I squirrel away food for when he's born.  We defrosted the chest freezer a couple weeks ago, and I've been busy trying to get it filled with meals that I can either throw in the crockpot or the oven.  Also, I know that I'll be exhausted for the first few weeks, and this time around, I have not only my sweet husband to think of, but a growing toddler!  I want to make sure I've got some nutritious meal options on hand (not to mention I won't be able to eat any pizza!).  ;)  Here's what I've got stocked so far:
  1. Several crock pot meals with either chicken or beef, that just require a veggie side, and maybe some rice or pasta.
  2. A couple of casseroles that are oven ready.
  3. About 20 "chicken pillows" - pastry squares filled with a creamy chicken mixture with a crumb coating on the outside that I can bake up for lunches, or when I need a quick dinner - Good for Olivia!
  4. Frozen hoagie loaves - I can use these for a plethora of things, from oven sandwiches to making them into "baguette chips", etc.
I'm still working on getting a couple of creamy soups made (that don't have any offending veggies like tomatoes, onions, broccoli, etc in them - big nursing no no's!), non-tomato pasta sauces, and also some frozen cookie dough, and possibly a couple dessertish type things to have on hand that are ready made to hand out to nurses and staff when I'm in the hospital.  I did say these were goals, right?  ;)
  • Clothing Prep
I still need to go through the baby clothes that have generously been "handed down" to us, to figure out what gaps in his wardrobe I'll need to fill in.  With a late Spring baby, I wasn't planning on needing too many warmer outfits, but then - we did just get more snow, and it's the end of March!  What I do have needs to be washed and organized - I haven't even started with that process yet.

I also need to go through Miss Olivia's closet and switch out the things she's outgrown - see what she still needs, etc.  I am going to implement a *brilliant* system I learned from another blogging Mama (you should check her out!  She's seriously awesome!) where I put complete outfits in gallon sized ziplock bags (socks, top, shorts, etc), and place them in her dresser, so that Olivia can just grab a pre-approved choice and bring it to me.  She's not completely self-sufficient with getting herself dressed, but she's certainly capable of grabbing a bag and bringing it to me.  I'm trying to make things as easy as possible for all of us!
  • Reading
This has been near the top of my priority list.  I don't necessarily need books like "What to Expect . . ." this time around, but I still have a lot to learn before this baby comes!  Here's my current list:
  1. The Vaccine Book.  I felt pretty uninformed on this topic when my daughter was born, and it was hard to find information that wasn't either incredibly biased, or someone's horror story.  This book has been very balanced, and gives ingredient lists for each vaccine, as well as all the different brand names that your Pediatrician might use, and vaccination schedules, etc.  It's been very helpful on making decisions before the baby is born!
  2. Give Them Grace.  I have to say, when someone recommended this book to me, I was leery at first.  I don't necessarily agree with "grace based parenting" philosophies - but I can save that for another post.  :)  This book has been convicting, eye opening, and temporal shifting in my parenting approach.  How's that for high praise?  Seriously though, if you're wondering how to parent with the Gospel, this is an excellent resource.
  3. The Nursing Mother's Companion.  So, I may have been around the block once with this, but even so, this book was so helpful!  I wish I had read it with my first baby!  It probably would have saved a lot of frustration as I would have been able to quickly identify problems, and then correct them.  I'll certainly keep it handy for reference with this baby!
  • Cleaning
Okay, so this is a big one for me - but also near the bottom of my priority list.  I know I'm going to be out of "normal" commission for a while after the baby is born, and more for my own sanity, I'd like to have these bigger projects checked off.  Mainly Spring cleaning type stuff that I do around this time of year anyway, but also organizational stuff that needs to be done (de-cluttering, anyone?).  I'm not sure when we'll be putting our house on the market, but I don't want to have to try to juggle all the cleaning that's entailed with a new baby!  Honestly though, however ambitious I'm feeling, I've been pretty limited with my ever decreasing energy levels, my cankles, and a less-than-cooperative lower back.  ;)  I'll be happy to get some of it done, if not all.

Whelp, that's pretty much it!  Obviously, my "nesting" phase has kicked in, and I have more goals than I'll probably be able to complete in these next few weeks - but it's good for me to stay occupied.  It certainly makes the time pass more quickly in this final waiting phase.  Some of these projects can be completed in a day, so that helps me feel slightly more optimistic about getting them all done!  Haha!

Do you have any helpful ideas for me?  Anything that you didn't do before your baby was born that you wish you had?  Books you wish you'd read?  Now's the time to fill me in!  :)  I'd love to hear your ideas.  Until next time!

Grace and Peace,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy Spring!

It's that time of year when I start getting itchy to be outside!!  We've started off the season this year with a whopping temp of 24 degrees.  Just a bit different from last year's record highs in the upper 80's!  I'm okay with it though.  Although I am starting to get antsy for open windows, fresh air, and some GREEN stuff outside, I'd rather enjoy a gradual thaw and some mild weather before jumping headlong into Summer.  It's been awhile since I've written anything, so I thought I'd just do a big update in one fell swoop.

Nate:  My wonderful husband is busy as ever.  We found out last Fall that the company he works for will be consolidating all of his department (currently spread out all over the U.S.) into two locations.  For us, that means either transferring to Tulsa, OK - or finding employment elsewhere.  It was big news!  A little daunting, perhaps, but also a huge blessing.  Nate has chosen not to move our family to Tulsa, which means he'll begin actively seeking a job in the field he's always wanted to work in: financial planning (or something similar).  This also comes with the possibility of moving back East toward our family, or going further West to be in the mountains (a dream of ours!).  Exciting times, as we're waiting on God's will to be made clear in it all.

Also, with a move on the horizon, he's been working hard to get our house in top shape before we put it on the market.  We happen to have a mostly useless very finicky tankless water heater that he has poured many hours of blood, sweat, and tears into!  Once the weather starts getting milder, he'll start tackling projects outside too.

Amanda:  Most of you already know that we are expecting a new addition to our family!  Our son will arrive sometime late April/early May - so naturally I've been a busy Mama!  I've been incredibly blessed with this pregnancy.  I had more severe morning sickness than with Olivia, but really other than that it's been pretty easy!  I've been busy with preparations for the baby, but I'll save that for another post.  :)

I'm also still doing the paper route, although Nate usually helps out by delivering one day a week for me (it gives me a chance to sleep in one morning!), and he's also been great about helping out if I'm sick, or in snow storms, etc.  Have I mentioned how blessed I am by this guy?  ;)

Other than that, I still get to stay at home with Olivia, which is a joy and privilege for me.  My heart is definitely at home right now, and I am savoring (most days, ha!) these moments I have with her.

Olivia:  My big girl just turned TWO a little over a week ago!  She is growing so fast!  I love all the new things she's doing now - she loves to "help" me cook dinner, she can put her toys away all by herself (which she usually prefaces by announcing "BIG mess!  I kean it up!"  :)

She's also made the transition into her "big girl" bed!  We wanted to get that out of the way before the baby was born, and after about 6 weeks of sticking it out through interminable bedtime battles, it just "clicked."  She started sleeping without her pacifier at the same time, so it was a lot of changes for her!

She brings so much joy into our lives.  She's notorious for making us laugh when we're trying to be stern with her, and some of the phrases she comes up with are hilarious!

 She still loves to read, currently her favorites are "The Three Bears" and "Peter Rabbit."  She can almost recite these two whole . . . we'll often hear her upstairs in her bed rambling about "Uh oh!  Goldilocks broke the chair all to bits!  Great Big Papa bear big big voice . . . Peter Wabbit naughty naughty . . . "  etc.  It's very entertaining!

She also loves her baby dolls, Elmo, and her "bunny" - a stuffed animal that she received as a gift for her birthday last year.  Bunny goes everywhere with us, and sleeps with her every night.  He's very loved.  :)

Right now she's fond of announcing to anyone and everyone that "Mommy's tummy is bigger bigger!" Even though I don't think she completely understands it all yet . . . She's going to be a great big sister.

Aside from all that, we've been able to plug into a local church at long last.  We've been so blessed by the fellowship there, and how God is working through the church body!  We've been challenged, encouraged, and strengthened, and are so pleased to finally have a "home."

Whew!  Well, now that I've written a short novel, you're all caught up!  :)  To those of you who are on this journey alongside of me, I could not be more thankful to have you in my life!  I pray that we can continue to press on toward the goal together.

"I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.   Only let us hold true to what we have attained."
Philippians 3:14-16

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Years Old!

My sweet little baby girl has just celebrated turning two years old!  If you ask her how old she is, she'll now reply with "One!  Two years old!"  :)  It's just too sweet.

We celebrated sort of spread out this time, as we were fortunate enough to have my in-laws in town the weekend before her birthday.  This year we had a "rainbow" themed birthday for her, largely thanks to Mommy's Pinterest addiction.  *ahem*  Olivia does, however, love "bainbows."

 I found this amazing recipe for a rainbow cake, and it was so much fun to make (and eat!).

Seriously, what did we ever do before Pinterest??

 Aside from the massive amounts of food dye, this cake was super easy to make, and looked so festive when it was finished!  Olivia really enjoyed eating it, too.

She was VERY excited about blowing out the candles!
 Of course, the real test was how it tasted.  I think the Birthday Girl approved.  :)

I also had "rainbow" themed food for our spread, with rainbow fruit salad, rainbow pasta salad, and then we had Italian beef and chips - which thankfully were not rainbow colored!

Sorry for the plethora of pictures!  We decided to get Olivia a kitchen toy that converts into a regular table for her birthday.  She loved it!

We really had fun making this a special day for her - and then on her actual birthday, we took her bowling.  I wasn't sure how she'd react, but she LOVED it!  She would've bowled all night long if we'd let her!  I just can't believe my munchkin is such a big, grown-up girl now . . . it has gone by so quickly!  She's such a joy to us, and we're so blessed to have her as a part of our family.  <3

Happy 2nd Birthday, to my Sweet Girl!