Saturday, December 27, 2014

christmas cheer

I think I have said this for the past three years, but being a parent is even better than being a child at Christmas. With a toddler and two "big kids," this year was full of fun, wonder, excitement, anticipation, sprinkles, sugar, and love. I love the traditions we are building with our children...Christmas Eve mass, The Night Before Christmas reading, waking up at home with a set of grandparents to share the day with, Santa, presents, baking and decorating a birthday cake for Baby Jesus. These sweet moments are such treasures. Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from our sweet day.

fun with Papa and Nana on Christmas Eve

Santa came! Behold the madness!

Happy Birthday, Jesus

can't wait to add another little one to the celebration next year

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

o holy night

My favorite conversation with Barnes & Frances occurred tonight in the bathroom during Christmas Eve Mass. Unprompted, unscripted, unrehearsed. It sums up Christmas so perfectly that there is truly nothing to add. Out of the mouths of babes, my friends.

Frances: "I'm glad Baby Jesus came."

Barnes: "I'm so glad he came tonight."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

christmastime is here

Call us pagans, but at Christmas, we go all in. Of course we read the Christmas story...we talk about Baby Jesus and Mary and the meaning behind this precious holiday (in fact, Frances is currently in love with Mary). But we also take part in all the non-religious fun. The tree, the presents, the crafts, the elf on the shelf (ours is DeeDee), Santa, reindeer, carols with literally nothing to do with Bethlehem.

I've read lots of opinions on this, and I totally get the people who refuse to celebrate any secular aspect of the holiday. But for us, we love it all. We love the manger AND the sleigh. Our Mickey Mouse ornament hangs right by our angel. We talk about how Jesus got three gifts, then we allow our children to receive some insane multiple of that on Christmas morning. And I think that's okay. Because the thing is, it's still all about love.

It's pouring our love all over our sweet kids, with intention that is easier to make time for during this season than at any other point on the calendar. It's watching friends and family give of themselves to our children, through time and attention and gift. It's the wonder of seeing our oldest two begin to learn about the joy of giving. And every year, every day, it's about using this season to point our kids' hearts and our own toward the love of our Father. About telling and retelling the captivating nativity story. About hearing my children point to the empty manger this morning in mass and ask where Baby Jesus was, and explaining that the world excitedly waits for His arrival on Christmas Eve. It's using our meager ability to love to reflect God's perfect love for us, and relishing in this magnificent season with which we have been gifted.

Merry Christmas Week! May you and your family, however you celebrate, be filled with love and warmth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

the smiley face

Every morning, without fail, B&F ask for an art time. And they aren't just satisfied with a box of crayons and some paper....they want a planned-out, project-oriented art time. I know this doesn't sound like a huge deal, but I am absolutely not a preschool teacher. I do not have endless 3-year-old projects tucked away in my brain, and am often not brave enough to delve into the mess that comes with many pinterest projects. But I try. I try to come up with something fun and engaging every morning, not just because they love it so much, but because I truly believe that kids learn through play.

We don't spend a lot of time doing flashcards in our home. In fact, the only "flashcards" the twins have ever had were used to identify the Disney character on them instead of for the intended name-the-shape game. No offense to the moms out there doing flashcards--you do what works for you. But for us, I am firmly planted in the "we expect too much out of our children at far too young an age" camp. I don't want my 3-year-olds feeling the pressures and anxieties of academia yet. There's plenty of time for that. For now, we learn through playing trucks and kitchens and dolls, and we learn through art time.

But as many of you know, I have a bit of a competitive side. Since having kids, my need to "make the grade" has quelled substantially, but it still flares at times. When someone posts a video of their kid, just a few months older than mine, reading. When someone oh-so-humbly brags that their 2.5 year old can write all their letters. When someone notifies us that their 4-year-old has been invited to apply for early admission at Harvard. Sometimes I freak out a bit. Am I doing a terrible job? I mean...I'm a stay-at-home kids should probably be to chapter books at 3. Why are we spending time gluing this silly looking penguin together? We should be reading and writing and memorizing! They seriously just used the penguin's feet as its eyes! I am definitely failing here!!!! Less playing more learning!

But those freak outs, those comparisons, are all about me. I am never actually worried that B&F aren't doing well enough. They are geniuses! Truly, I believe (as every parent should) that my children are exceptional. My fear of failure has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. So we keep playing. Because that's what we have determined, through research and gut-instinct, is best for our children. And then, in their own 3-year-old way and through God's precious grace, they do something that assures me we are doing just fine.

At parent-teacher conference (yes, for the older 2s class), I asked about making smiley faces. I said we had worked on it to their complete disinterest, and I wondered if they should be able to draw one now. The teachers said absolutely not...many kids much older still wouldn't intentionally put the parts of the smiley face together. A few weeks later while out to dinner, the kiddos were drawing. And Frances drew a smiley face. A literally perfect smiley fact, with eyes, nose, mouth, hair, and ears. Then Barnes followed suit, with another perfectly recognizable face. Y'all...I know it sounds tiny, but those two precious drawings were balm to this mom's sometimes weary soul.

When we become parents, we give up so much of who we are....but not everything. I still have my quirks. I still have my irrational need for achievement. And those sweet smiley faces were one of my favorite achievements to date.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

and baby #4 is......

a boy!!!!!!!

We are so thrilled to add another precious son to our family. Frances was temporarily confused, as she had decided the baby was a girl, but all is well now and everyone is looking forward to meeting this newest little one in May.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

thanks and light

I was planning to write on Thanksgiving evening, but then life happened. Barnes came down with pneumonia so writing had to wait. But now he is actually in his own bed (for the moment), and there is a window of peace, so....

A friend once told me a story passed on to her by another mom. This mom would explain light and God and truth and love to her children in this way: imagine the darkest room possible. If you turn on a tiny flashlight in that dark, dark room, can you see it? Yes, of course. No matter how dark the room is, you can see the light. The light is always stronger than the darkness.

I have held on to and loved this for a long time. And this year, in contemplating Thanksgiving, this story kept coming to mind. On Thanksgiving morning this year, I immediately began crying. I looked at Andrew, my amazing teammate and life partner, listened to the playroom full of kids, thought about the new life growing, and said to him, "I feel like I have everything I ever wanted." We have so much. Truly. I have a million reasons to be thankful. But not every year has felt this way. And even this year, there are some crazy hard things going on. People I love that are hurting. Uncertainty on so many fronts. There are lots of reasons for the room to be dark. And so many people's rooms are so much darker than I can even imagine. But we have access to a light. When we turn our hearts toward gratefulness, even in the hardest moments, even if for just a split second, we find some light. You see, I believe that stopping to give thanks, intentionally choosing gratefulness, ignites that flashlight. And the flashlight, no matter how small, can always be seen in the darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." My friends, that is quite a challenge. How many times do I feel more like cursing my situation than finding words of thanks? But I'm beginning to think that Paul doesn't say this as a simple platitude. Instead, maybe he is giving us advice on how to get through even the rough times. You see, while I know it is good and right to thank God, I don't think he really "needs" to hear our thank yous. I think, perhaps, the recommended gratefulness is far more beneficial to the thanker than the thankee. We give thanks in the good. We give thanks in the terrible. And either way, our grateful hearts shine in whatever darkness we find ourselves. Our thanks lights our way and lightens our burden. And the light is always stronger than the darkness.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


It's of my favorite baby to toddler things....Shep is saying words. For the longest time, he had NO INTEREST in communicating. He was getting along just fine with his grunts and whines. Then it started with dada, truck (tuck), and bye-bye. And now the list is growing. From what we can decipher, he has distinct sounds for duck, Barnes (Ba-Ba), ball, and dog. We have heard him say banana before, and the sitter has heard him say apple. I feel certain there are others we just haven't deciphered yet, as he is suddenly actually trying to talk to us.

I adore hearing his tiny voice develop. I love how each child's words are a little bit different. I love how proud he is when we tell him good job, how he loves to clap for himself. But there's one thing I don't love so much. Every time we try to get him to say ma-ma, he laughs hysterically. It's like his own personal joke. Not funny, Shep. Not funny.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

did you eat the baby?

So Frances is pretty fascinated with the whole baby thing this time around. She is asking lots of questions. Lots. Here's a sampling of her baby thoughts for the week.

At bedtime:

Mom: "Should we pray for the new baby?"
F: "Is the baby in your tummy? How's it going to get out? Does it come out your mouth?"

The next morning:

F: "Is the baby going to come out your mouth?"

The next day:

F: "There's a baby in your tummy, so yummy, so yummy.....Mommy, did you eat the baby?"
Mom: "No."
F: "Then how did it get in your tummy?"

Wednesday, before a checkup:
F: "Mommy, are you going to get the baby out today?"

I think by May this girl is going to have quite the education.

baby #4 at 12 weeks...already looking pretty cute

Sunday, November 9, 2014

expanding again

Dear friends, we are thrilled to let you all know that another sweet baby is on its way to our family. Baby Shafer #4 is due in late May, and we couldn't be more excited.

Before we were married and in our early years, we always said that we wanted four children. Four was our number. Then life happened, and I honestly never imagined that four was a possibility anymore. But through luck and science and grace, our family grew, and now we are expecting our fourth little one. And we are incredibly humbled by this news.

For those of you trying to do some quick math in your head, yes, you are correct--we will have four children under four years old. Yes, we know that many of you reading this will think we are crazy. But we know with certainty that this is a good thing. We wanted this baby, and we know that it will only add to our family, as each of our other three have. While having a big family isn't for everyone, it is for us, and we are grateful for the opportunity to live this experience.

Friday, October 31, 2014

happy halloween from our clubhouse

my trio

always taking care of her baby shep

i mean, really.....

my mickey

his current camera smile

she's always happy to be in pink

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

our old married couple

The twins continue to be best friends. Really and truly. They very much prefer being together over being apart. Frances calls Barnes her BB. At our preschool parent-teacher conference this morning, the teachers said that they once sat them at different tables for lunch, and neither really ate because they were too worried about what the other was doing. I love how much they love each other.

But as they are getting older and feistier, a new dynamic is emerging...the old married couple dynamic. Inevitably, if I ask them a question, they give me opposite answers. Frances wants to go to the stage park, Barnes wants to go to the red park. Frances wants to eat at a restaurant, Barnes wants to eat at home. Frances wants to play on the front porch, Barnes wants to play in the driveway. No matter the situation, they find a way to be at odds. But they are only allowed to cross each evidenced by their school picture below.

Clearly the school photographer said something about Barnes that Frances didn't like.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

family vacay

Family vacations are rarely vacations when there are several tiny ones in tow (although I am holding out hope that they will become vacations again at some point in the future). For now, they are really just trips. Trips where we pack an ungodly amount of things in the car, drive and drive until we are convinced that this was a terrible idea (and discover that one of our children gets carsick), and then do the same things we do at home in a different location. Yes, family vacations are a labor of love. But they are also filled with opportunity. They are an opportunity to stretch our kids a bit, to show them more than their community, to begin to introduce them to the greater world, to teach them more about God's creation, to watch them fall in love with our earth a little more, and to play with them and love on them without the distractions that inevitably pop up at home.

Ove the past three years, I've learned that the key to a great family "vacation" is to set low expectations. So this year, I prepared for crazy, and got less crazy and more fun than I could have expected. We drove to the beach on Shepherd's birthday and ended up having a surprisingly sweet few days of family time.

The first order of business, of course, was to celebrate Shepherd's first birthday. He was pretty pumped.

So much beach time. B&F were quite the imaginative explorers, checking out every inch of dune and sand. Shep liked the beach, but was quickly covered from head to toe in sticky sand, so his love was a bit less enthusiastic.

The porch was a big hit this year. B&F kept saying they wanted to "listen to the waves...." So big!
vacation= ice cream
and a morning at the aquarium on our one rainy day

Monday, October 6, 2014

a battle ended

Kids are amazing. Really, they are. But sometimes they are hard. Sometimes their breakdowns and irrational fits and persistent neediness seem to shine a bit brighter than their amazing-ness. Life, though, reminds you of how amazing your children are. Of how privileged you are to be their parent. Even when you wish the reminder had taken a different form.

Yesterday a life-long friend of the Shafer family passed away. He battled cancer for the last 4.5 years, and he battled hard. There is a never a good time to die. There is a never a "fair" time to go. But here's the thing....Tim was mine and Andrew's age. Early 30s. He was a beloved husband, son, brother, uncle and friend. He and his wife and family fought valiantly for so long. And the fight ended last night. A wife is left without her husband. Parents are left with a giant hole that their son should fill. 

Each time I have picked up one of my two precious boys today, I've thought of Tim's mom. I can't get her out of my head. Barnes has wanted to be carried all day, and despite his increasing heaviness, I've complied more than usual. I've scooped him up and kissed his full, shiny hair. I've cuddled Shepherd close and nuzzled his still preciously bald head. And I've thought of Tim's mom. About how many times she picked him up. About how many times he asked her to carry him well past when he was capable of walking on his own. About how many kisses she layered on his head over the past thirty-plus years. About how many times she told him to stop, to wait, to not run so fast...and how many times he didn't listen. I am certain that when she carried her three-year-old son, this is not what she envisioned.

There is so much to learn from this precious family. From the wife, the parents, the brother, the in-laws who personified love and devotion. From Tim, whose attitude was astounding. 

When my kids ask me to hold them this week, I am going to try to remember Tim's family and how they would love to hold him one more time. When they are crazy and hyper and not listening, I will try to focus on how cherished these memories will one day be. And each time I get to kiss my sweet child's head, I will try to remember to send a prayer for those who no longer have that luxury.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

from two to three

Transitions are tricky, and there is much debate regarding which family size transition is to one, one to two, two to three, three plus. While I have no experience with the zero to one category, I can tell you that there is definitely a difference when you go from two to three.

For the first time, you are constantly outnumbered, even when both parents are present and engaged. This can lead to some questionable public restroom and parking-lot-crossing situations.

You can no longer have passengers in a regular sized car. Our family of five now fills our SUV to the brim. Need a ride? Sorry.

You are forced to be more creative. From stroller/carry/walking combinations to get through the mall to how to fit everyone around a table made for four, adding a third little one creates some life riddles.

You don't get invited to people's houses very often. You think you and your two kids are unwelcome guests? Just wait until you add a third. I cannot imagine why allowing three children three and under to roam through your beautiful home is not appealing. Seriously, though, your invitations come less often....but your life-long friends will still allow your army to invade their turf.

Twenty minutes. For us, at least, the difference in two kids and three kids appears to be 20 minutes. Pre-kids, we were early to everything. With the twins, we were typically right on time. Now, we are almost always 20 minutes late. To everything. I have become one of those chronically late people that used to drive me crazy. But somehow getting those final items in the diaper bag and three pairs of shoes located and on feet always takes longer than planned.

You have even more fun than you had with two kids. Although it can be work, watching three kids play together is amazing. I love the moments I can sneak into the playroom and see them all working hard in their kitchen. And with three kids, at least one of them always wants to play with you. More playmates for everyone.

Your life is even more full. I have a theory--the messiest lives are the fullest lives. Nothing against people that have it all together, but I truly believe that there is much joy to be found amidst chaos.

You love even more than before. You thought your heart was full when you married. Then you had your first (two) kids, and just knew your heart was at the brim. Somehow, though, with that third, your love just keeps growing. God gave us an incredible capacity to love. And adding our third little one truly unlocked that capacity a little bit more for us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

my sweet one year old

My dearest Shepherd,

One year ago was one of the best days of my life. The day you were born could not have been more beautiful. Hearing you cry for the first time…seeing you and touching your precious hand when the doctor held you up over the blue sheet…nursing you…finally cuddling and kissing your gorgeous face. Welcoming you to the world was magical. I should have realized then that you would bring that same magic to our family each day.

Your first year has been such a joy. Sure, there have been tricky moments and difficult days, but you have brought such energy and love to our family. Watching you discover your world never gets old. 

Shepherd, you are so brave and determined. You already try to keep up with the big kids, following B&F up slides and onto beds and into so many places you aren’t quite big enough for yet. And while you scare me, you also make me smile. Your fearlessness is amazing.

Your smile is infectious. People cannot resist you, and mom & dad are like putty in your hands. You are the friendliest one year old—batting your eyes and sending a giggle to anyone you meet. I love your independent spirit. I love that you feel confident enough to walk away from me. But even more, I love that you always walk back. I pray that you will always think of me as an anchor. 

Sweet Shep, over the next few years you will grow exponentially. Your personality and brain and body will continue to develop, and you will learn more and more about your world. I am so honored to walk with you on this journey. You will never know what a privilege it is to be the one helping you, guiding you, each day. I pray that as you grow, you grow to be kind, compassionate, and loving. I pray that you know your own worth, and also know and respect the worth of others. I pray that you realize just how much your dad and I love you…just how thankful we are that you are ours. And I pray that you will grow to know our God, that you will grow confident in the love of Jesus and your identity in Him. 

Thank you for being my son. I love you more than you could ever imagine.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

celebrating shep

Shepherd, your birthday is in mid-September. The cusp of fall--a gorgeous season full of cozy days and family and, for us, football. So today we celebrated your first birthday with a very special "tailgate party." The house was filled with loved ones and orange as we toasted your first amazing year. Thank you for being our son. Thank you for sharing this fabulous first year with us.  We love you so very much....even if you don't love cake quite yet. 

stadium cups, cake, and footballs...all the makings of a perfect tailgate party

and who could forget a concession stand?
our independent little man

a few of the friends who came to celebrate and play

Monday, September 8, 2014

bye bye summer

There's something incredible about being a kid in the summer. And maybe even more incredible about being a parent in the summer. Yes, it's hot and sweaty with a constant chance of rain, but it's also full of water and park and outdoor and throwing the kids in the car with no coats. We love fall. The cooler temperatures are welcome, and football and soup are always great additions to the calendar. But the Shafers will definitely miss summer.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

what's in a set?

China. Encyclopedias (when they existed). Silverware. Chess. Weights.

A few months after Shepherd was born, Andrew asked me what the new name of my blog would be. New name? Why would I need a new name? He explained that with three, we no longer had a "set of shafers." 

I see his point. Twins come at the same time and are thought of as a unit. But here's the thing....for me, each of our children is unique and individual and special, yet each is a piece of our set. Our set isn't limited by time or numbers. It's not limited by birth date or birth order or biology. Our set knows no bounds but the number of children with which we are graced. After all, so many wonderful things come in sets of more than two. What if a tea set could contain no more than two cups....what kind of tea party would that be?

So Shepherd, you are part of our set. Barnes and Frances, you are part of our set. The children who came before that we didn't get to meet are also in our sweet set. Our set is messy and crazy and silly and sweet and held together by immense love. And we are ever so grateful for each precious piece.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

almost one

In less than 2 weeks, Shep will be a whole year old. How is that possible?!?! He's supposed to be my tiny baby, but he's quickly becoming not so tiny. Here's an update on all things Shepherd:

Has learned to: walk (he walks far more than he crawls now, but he still doesn't stand up without holding on to something, so his whole day pretty much goes pull up, walk til he falls, crawl to the nearest object, repeat), wave (he is a super dramatic waver), dance (preferably to the Mickey Mouse Hot Dog Song), annoy is brother & sister (whatever they are playing with is ALWAYS what he wants)

Toys he loves: measuring spoons (stainless steel ones), bean bags (that belong to B&F), books, balls, blocks, magnets

Favorite foods: ritz crackers (still obsessed), grapes, cheese, strawberries, blueberries, green beans, mum mums, cereal bars, chicken

Some of his loves: his daddy, bath time, playing on mom & dad's bed, gymboree, naked time, walking up and down the hall, following brother & sister wherever they go

Sunday, August 24, 2014

trolley party!

We had an amazing weekend celebrating our twins turning three. So many friends and all four grandparents were here to shower our littles with love...and enjoy trolley rides and snow cones. Barnes and Frances loved their party, loved having little people to play with, LOVED having their grandparents in one place, and loved the affection and attention they received this weekend. Thank you to all for making their third birthday so perfect!
who doesn't love a trolley ride?

such a fun family day

many of the friends who joined the celebration

our family of five


Barnes & Frances,

Today you turn three. Three. Oh my goodness, that sounds so strange to me. While many people call them the terrible twos, I can honestly say that this past year has been the best yet.

I love the people you are growing into. You are so fun, with huge imaginations and never ending stories to tell. Your energy constantly amazes me, and your creativity is staggering. All day long, you make up games and go to the store, you take care of your babies and stuffed animals, you cook food for me and your "friends," you drive around town, you build houses and libraries. There's never a dull moment in our house.

Physically, you are such big kids. You run and jump and spin. You walk on balance beams and climb up slides. You ride your new tricycles and leap over our make-believe rivers. And emotionally, you've grown so much. You still have your moments, but your ability to understand and empathize is developing. I love how you worry about each other, how you comfort each other. There are few sweeter sounds than hearing one of you say, "It's okay, sissy/bb." And you are such incredible siblings to Shepherd. Although he sometimes messes up whatever you are trying to do and frustrates you a bit, you love him so very much. You help him and hug him and play with him. You make him laugh, and you try to comfort him when he's upset. He couldn't have asked for a better big brother and big sister.

Frances, my sweet little girl, I love the independence you are developing. You are becoming more and more comfortable with branching out on your own, though you still prefer to do everything with BB right by your side.You have the most beautiful heart--I can already tell that you will be kind and compassionate. But you aren't necessarily "soft." You are determined and brave and tough...and cuddly and funny and delicate. You have become quite the goofball, and your laugh is infectious.

Barnes, my precious boy, you amaze me each day. The things that your brain makes up, the sentences that come out of your tiny keep us laughing. You play hard all day every day. You truly never stop. You love dirt and water and anything that can be a bit messy--but then you immediately want to be cleaned. You have a slight obsession with "wet wipes." You give the best hugs and kisses, and you ask for one more about 20 times when mom or dad is leaving the house.

Little ones, I am so proud to be your mom....please remember that always. There is nothing that you could ever do to make me more proud or less proud--being your mom, just the way you are, is the greatest honor of my life. I can't wait to see where this next year takes you. I look forward to seeing you grow and change and learn. I pray that you will realize more and more how loved you me, by your dad, by our whole family, and most importantly, by our God. I can't wait to continue to share your discovery of His creation over the coming years.

I love you more than you can possibly imagine.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

shep is on the move!

I think it's safe to officially say that Shep can walk. He is still crawling more than walking, but most all of his adventures now begin with 3-8 steps...followed by a tumble...followed by his trademark head-down crawl. This kid has no fear and endless energy. He tries his best to keep up with the big kids, and he is already doing quite a good job. I love watching his adorably chubby legs try to find their balance then inch forward one at a time. Just too precious. Within the next month, the walking to crawling balance may well be tipped the other way.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

fighting for joy

To my sweet little ones:

You are too young to understand. We live a life of privilege, a life in which heartache for you means an hour with a sitter or a misplaced toy. But this blog is my letter to recording of the things I hold dear, the things I know to be true. On these pages I try to capture the lessons I want to pass to you. So even though you are young now, you won't always be. And this is so important. It's life or death important. It's full or empty important. 

This week, a comic genius lost his battle with depression. He made the world laugh, but his world was filled with darkness. Sweet littles, please know that mental health is real. Depression,'s all real. I pray that by the time you are old enough to understand, the stigma has passed. That people will know, with certainty, that treating the sadness that may inhabit your brain is just the same as treating a tumor that might inhabit your brain. Neither are optional. Either requires treatment for your best life. But just in case people are still afraid....just in case those that seek help still do so in the shadows....

After Shep was born, things went a little haywire for me. I had this precious son, but I also had a crazy amount of change. New city. New house. Back to pumping. Feeling like a failure. And I got anxious. Really, really anxious. And then lots of unprocessed grief rolled into this anxiety ball and made it bigger and bigger and bigger. We are taught throughout life to be help lean towards selflessness. But sometimes we all need help. When your well is dry, or more accurately, when it feels and looks and seems dry to you, despite the fact that you know water is present, you have to get help. Sometimes the only way to love your family is to relearn focus on getting yourself well. Babies, I was so lucky to have your dad. He knew I needed help--more than he could give. He helped me find a professional, a counselor, to guide me back towards truth. 

You see, no matter how much I told myself it was okay, that I was blessed, that I had everything I ever wanted (literally), I couldn't just talk myself out of my anxiety. That's not how mental health works. Dad can't talk his pancreas into working--he takes insulin to "treat" his diabetes. Likewise, mental health diagnoses need treatment. It's not about being tough enough or smart enough. It's not about praying enough or having the right kind of faith. God gave us resources. There is no shame in using them. 

Here's the thing--I love Jesus. I believe Christ is our light and truth. But I know that being a Christian does not guarantee a "happy" life. Happiness is not permanent. Happiness is based on circumstances, and circumstances change. What I do believe is that we can find joy in our Lord. We can hold on to that joy and memorize the way it feels. And hopefully, when the joy feels far away and the darkness closes in, we will remember that the joy does exist. And that it's worth fighting for. 

My little ones, I feel certain that each of you will face moments when life is just too much. When these occasions arise, never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. We are not meant to do life alone, and we are certainly not meant to do the tough parts by ourselves. Please, please ask for help. From me. From dad. From each other. From anyone. Asking for help is the bravest thing you can do. And remember how much you are loved. And how great the joy can be. And when the darkness comes, as it inevitably will at some point, please fight. And know that I will always be fighting beside you.

I love you so deeply,

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

the yester-time elephant

In case you haven't noticed, I have had trouble keeping up with my blog. I guess it's true what they say...the second (or third-ish) time around, it's harder to capture all the memories. But it's not because you care less. Or you love the moments less. It's because you are living them more. With three under three (for two more weeks), we are doing lots of "living" and not much "reflecting." But still, there are things I want to capture; things I want to never forget. We have two big milestones quickly approaching--the third birthdays and the first birthday. So before these tiny ones are all grown and before these fun little nuggets they share with me each day pass from my overcrowded brain, I want to get them recorded.

Shepherd is quite literally the happiest baby. We never go out without someone commenting on his sunny disposition. We go to family gymboree class on Mondays, and he is fiercely determined and independent. He crawls up the slides, climbs on the mat, tries to nose dive off high surfaces. He crawls away from mom to sit in the middle of the group. He claps and smiles and dances to the music. This child loves attention, and people love to pour it on him. Shep gives the best head hugs...he leans his little head toward you and buries it in your shoulder. He has learned to wave recently and does so quite dramatically with his entire arm. He says "dada" when he hears Andrew's voice over the phone--he is still quite the daddy's boy.He loves his brother and sister and now tries to wrestle with them and follow them everywhere they go. He has taken one step about a million times, and two steps at least once, so we won't be surprised if he takes off on two feet soon.

Frances has music in her soul. This girl sings and dances through every day--Jesus Loves Me and booty shaking are constants. She is spunky and wild and loves to be active. She has more energy than I can possibly describe--I am not sure she ever sits still (except during her iPad time). She loves to take pictures, mostly of herself or her kitty cat lovie. She is getting quite the sense of humor...on a recent walk, we were talking about what animals eat, and when I told her that turkeys eat worms she responded, "I like gummy worms!" She loves to make Shep laugh and I often catch her in my rearview mirror making faces and giggling to him. She is quite the planner...she likes to know what is coming up throughout the day, who is waking her up from nap, who is waking her up in the morning, where we are going today and tomorrow....and she has started making her own plans. Just today, she told me that on Saturday we were going to get a popsicle and go to the park. She talks all the time now, and I can understand most every word she says...but she still has her quirks. My very favorite is that for anything that happened in the past, she says it was "yester-time." Maybe not correct, but definitely precious. And she says everything as a question with the cutest little inflection. I wish I could bottle up her precious voice forever.

Barnes is a character. His creativity amazes me. For a few months, we have had a fox going through our trash at night. But Barnes decided it wasn't a fox, it was an elephant. And he's seen the elephant in the backyard. It comes to our house via car, but it has to ride in a car seat to be safe. Of course it does. He is such a smart, meticulous kid--he wants everything in its place at all times. He is quite particular about what he wears and demands to pick out his own outfits. He loves running and jumping and getting dirty and water and all things outside. He also really, really loves blue. Everything has to be blue, and if something is blue, it is automatically his. He still has a crazy thing for stuffed animals, though he loves them and leaves them. We're never sure who the flavor of the week will be. Last week it was Mr. Moose, this week it is Mickey. But don't worry--no matter who is his current favorite, he makes sure each of his stuffed friends has the proper paci. Barnes is quite the talker and narrates our day all day every day. Barnes is a mommy's boy right now, and wants me to be anywhere and everywhere he is. It's trying at makes me feel terrible to leave him...but it's also sweet to know how much he loves me. I love that I make him feel secure and hope that is always true.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

big kid beds

This happened last weekend:

I must admit, I actually cried as we took their two sweet Jenny Lind cribs apart. We had been talking about it all summer, but the act of seeing those baby beds dismantled and these full size beds in their place was quite overwhelming. My babies are people. People who sleep in beds! And to top off the emotional onslaught, that night they informed us that big kids didn't need sleep sacks. So, down with the cribs and the sleep sacks all in one day. 

As with basically every transition in their life, they were far more prepared than we could have imagined. We let them take part in the whole thing...helping to pick out bedding and pillows, disassembling, re-assembling. Barnes was very into his role as helper...he takes tools very seriously:

Frances, though, was more about holding a tool and smiling. Just as she usually gets "tired" when it's time to clean, she somehow managed to avoid all hard labor:

Somehow traditional gender roles prevailed in the crib dismantling:

And as soon as her big girl bed was ready, Frances immediately became a teenager, lounging in bed and checking instagram (her favorite social media outlet):

They have done incredibly well in their "new room" and love the freedom to play on their bed whenever they want. They insist on showing each visitor their big kid beds and have even allowed a few stuffed animals to be moved from the beds to the dresser. And as strange as it was to watch the change, I love seeing them stretched out. I love how long and big and independent and smart they are getting. I love that they could tell me what kind of bedding they wanted. I love that they like things a little different from each other, but that they still feel safer and happier when their twin is in the room. And I love how proud they are of themselves with each new life skill they acquire, even if it is as simple as sleeping in a real bed.