Saturday, March 28, 2015

default parent

A few months ago an article was making its way around facebook regarding the default parent. The point, as I remember it, was that there is typically a parent that holds everything together--remembers important dates/times, knows where and when all kid-related events are, and generally keeps the family going. The implication was that the other parent, while no less important, would need a bit of help if left in charge. When I read this article, I remember thinking that this wasn't true for our family, and after the past week I am certain it's not. And I am oh so thankful.

I've been sick for a lot of days now. Like, not able to function sick. And Andrew just steps right in. From carting all the littles to restaurants or grocery stores, to taking Frances to ballet, to going on an adventure to find snocones, he never misses a beat. Though I may be the one at home on a daily basis, he knows our children and their routines just as well as me. He is able to comfort them, to entertain them, to wrangle them through life. He manages their daily schedules with literally no input from me. He transitions to "lead parent" seamlessly. For our family, parenting is truly a team sport.

So thank you, dear husband. Thanks for not expecting me to do it all. Thanks for wanting to help, for wanting to be involved, and for knowing and loving our children so well. I know they will reap great rewards from the example you set for them.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

dear baby

Sweet baby boy,

Nine weeks from tonight, we will most likely be cuddling you in a hospital room. Provided that everything goes according to plan, we will be staring into your face, a face we've been dreaming about for months now. We'll be trying to determine which of your siblings you look the most like. We'll grasp your tiny toes and fingers over and over again, and be in awe that somehow, through some miracle of grace, we get to be your mom & dad.

And then we'll get home and life will be crazy. We'll be learning to balance you with our other sweet ones. We'll be helping you learn to live in the world while helping them learn to live with a new baby.  And we will enter that sweet yet chaotic season that surrounds each new birth.

So, before things speed up too much, I wanted to take the time to tell you just how excited we are for you. You may be baby #4, but you were so very desired by your mom & dad. We wanted you, we planned you, and we were incredibly amazed when we learned that you were actually on your way.

Shepherd's first birthday party was a few days before his actual birthday (September 13th, 2014), and all day I felt a bit off. I was just a little nauseous, then at 10pm I got an intense craving for pizza. My mother-in-law, your Gigi, joked that I sounded pregnant. I tried not to put too much stock in the comment...after all, I would have been less than 4 weeks so surely wouldn't be having symptoms yet...but secretly, my heart leapt. Could I really be expecting?! So late that night, right before crawling into bed, I took a test. And I swear I saw a tiny line. Your dad couldn't see it and thought it was just wishful thinking, but then the next morning I tried again and there was no denying it. There was definitely a line. Sweet boy, I can't tell you the disbelief and joy we felt. At Shepherd's party, I had told several friends that we really wanted another baby, but that I suspected I wouldn't be able to conceive. God is funny that way sometimes.

We had bloodwork the next day to confirm that you were growing, and I'll be honest...the results were not promising. It was one of my lowest ever initial tests. I was sure we would never meet you. But as we traveled to the beach and I continued to get more tests, the numbers grew, and so did you. Oh little one, if you could know the gratitude I felt with each positive result. If you could know my relief each time it seemed a little more certain that you would stick around. And now I sit here, feeling you kick and squirm. Pure bliss.

So if life gets wild once you arrive, know first and foremost that you are a very desired part of our family. We are so looking forward to meeting you and watching as you begin to explore this amazing world.

We love you,
Mom & Dad

Saturday, March 14, 2015

defining success

I went to a mom's meeting this week. They happen each month, and I truly love going, but.... Every month they have a speaker, and I basically always feel like I listen to the speaker tell me lots of things I should do, feel bad that I am not attaining these goals, decide I am definitely going to implement some tips, get home to the craziness of three kids three and under, then continue just making things work and doing what I have to do to get through the day. Tips usually get tossed out the window, and life continues in much the same manner.

This month promised to be a real winner: something about raising kids and technology. Awesome. I could go home feeling terrible that my 17-month-old can swipe my iPhone open and knows the names of multiple cartoon characters. We won't even mention that my 3-year-olds have learned to purchase shows on our latest device. But the lure of a home cooked breakfast and two hours sitting with other adult women won, and I showed up ready to enjoy my quiche while being chided about screen time.

God is resourceful. Even when you are in crazy times of life, when you're having trouble slowing down enough to even remember to pray, God is there waiting to encourage you. To love you. To show up. As this pregnancy winds along, I often feel like I am not mothering my other three precious ones well. I am tired. I can't just sit in the floor all day (unless a crane is coming later to pick me up when my legs fall asleep). I have to skip dinner or bedtime many days to just lie in bed and rest. In caring for our newest baby, there is of course a trade off for our older ones. Sure, I'm still the one with them all day. I'm still playing and reading and serving lunch and kissing boo-boos, but I know it's different right now.

Part of the speaker's talk was about success--how we all want our children to be successful. But then this: "How does your family define success? Your kids will learn how you define success by what you praise, what you talk about." Y'all. What a beautiful reminder. I tell Andrew at least three times a week that my greatest goal for our children is that they be kind. Whatever life path they choose, if they are kind to others, if they are empathetic, I will feel that they have achieved success. So if that's my goal for them, that's what my words and actions should focus on. That's where my praise should be. Yes, sure, when they draw a letter or glue the frog's eyes on in a place that's really close to the actual place a frog would have eyes, I tell them it's wonderful. When they hit the ball as we play softball in the playroom (bad idea), we get excited. But our truest praise, at least in our family, should be reserved for feats of character. For when they share, or help each other, or hug the one who fell down. If my goal for my children is kindness, I must exhibit kindness and recognize it in them. And that's something I can do no matter how large my belly grows.