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Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hands

December started out with a bang, as I supported an amazingly strong woman through over forty hours of labor.  My friend and fellow doula, Sarah, came to spell me for a few hours the last night of November.  Then on the evening of December first, another baby girl came into the world.  It was an honor to witness such strength and endurance as that mama displayed.  I am constantly reminded of the incredible stamina and tenacity we as humans possess.

After that sleepless weekend, we were presented with “the bug”, as my children so fondly have named it.  It really began Thanksgiving night with Betty getting sick outside, just as we arrived home from a wonderful day with my family.  The bug slowly made its way through all but two of us: Jack & myself.  So, after a few days of birth jet-lag and a few days of sickness, we made it to this week, where we have had to reel ourselves back into school again.  Our attempts have felt somewhat like crash-landings a few days this week.  There’s nothing gentle about reality.

Yesterday we had an adventurous trip to Trader Joe’s, where I was meeting Matthew’s mom who was going to take the kids for the afternoon.  Upon arriving, Elsie had to go to the bathroom, so we all trudged into the store.  After about five minutes of waiting, it was evident we were going to be there for awhile.  So I sent Nadine with the others to look for the stuffed hedgehog and claim the prized lollipop that comes from finding said hedgehog hidden somewhere in the store.  Five minutes later they returned, all sucking lollipops, and we hung out to wait for Elsie some more.  Others joined the small area, waiting for the bathroom to be free.  Then Betty, who really has no filter, put her face to the door and yelled: “Don’t forget to wash your hands after diarrhea!”  I quickly tried to shush her, while holding back laughter.  Of course Elsie yelled from the recesses of the bathroom: “What?!”  So Betty quickly repeated her reminder in the same volume.  I just about lost it, standing about ten feet from the eggs and milk section of the store, where busy shoppers were probably only wanting to think about food.  I never did make eye contact with the man waiting near us.

Tonight the girls were playing their most recent game of “Holly & Annie”.  Usually it begins with them meeting eachother after a long absence, and both of them determining how old the other is.
“Holly!” begins Betty.
“Annie!” Elsie replies, and they hug.
“I’m seven years old!” says Betty. (Elsie whispers: Seventeen)  “Seventy!” Betty corrects herself. (No, no! Seventeen, Elsie whispers again.)  “Seventeen!”
“Wow!  I’m eighteen!” gasps Elsie.
“Wow!  I’m almost bigger than you!” exclaims Betty, and so on it goes until they go to Hawaii or some such place.  It usually is Hawaii, actually.

Recently, an incredibly sweet young lady approached me with the offer of a lifetime: to come be at our home every week for a few hours to do whatever I need her to do.  That right there is an offer money can’t buy.  We look forward to our weekly visits from her.  Often she helps with school, or sometimes she is just another ear for this tired out mama to talk to and I know my words find acceptance and not judgement.  If ever there was opportunity for her to judge, it was last week.  She was supposed to come Thursday at 9AM.  I woke up at 9:05.  Every morning, I always lay in bed to try and remember what day of the week it is, where I need to go, who is coming here, etc.  I got to that last thought and sprung out of bed to look out the window.  Yep, her car was there.  I stumbled downstairs to find one of the kids had woken up before me and welcomed her inside.  She looked at me and laughed.  This here is what we call: real life.  Every day I don’t have it all together.  Every day I miss stuff, mess up, fall down, or give in to the pressure of life.  It’s important to be vulnerable about one’s humanness.  I do not wake up gracefully.  It was both humbling and hilarious to welcome a guest into my home with a sleepy voice and crusty eyes.  Whatever came out of my mouth, every word was really saying, “I forgot you were coming.  Forgive me while I go make some tea and clean up the supper dishes I was going to wash before you got here this morning.”  Yes, this real life stuff is just that: real. Not fake or put together.

The same person who saw me in my pajamas and morning hair also offered to help me clean and rearrange my room today.  I say this to encourage some of you who may be on one side or the other of this coin of life.  If you have time on your side, find a mama who looks tired and worn out, and offer a chunk of time to her out of love and not self-gain.  The rewards will be eternal, I guarantee you.  If you are a mama and someone offers to help you, take them up on the offer!  Nothing baffles me more than when we as women shrug off the need for help because we’re too proud to accept it, we’re too embarrassed to air our dirty homes, or we’re too busy to slow down and let someone into our life.  I was embarrassed to my core when she saw every single thing that was under my bed.  At the same time, I felt a freedom in letting go of my facade that I’m all put together.  Just like you, my clothes, my house, my dishes and my hair all get dirty.  If you didn’t know it, now you do.  It’s a constant battle, to admit my humanness and my imperfections.  I’d much rather have an instagram life, but just as quickly as you glance at that perfect picture, reality smudges the lens again.

All these imperfections make me long for more.  Thanks be to God, there is more!  There will be a day, where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more mess-ups, and no more tears.  Excellence and beauty will never be tarnished by sin again.  Home will be perfect and complete because Jesus is there.  If you know Him personally, one day perfection will be your reality too.  Until then, let’s love eachother through the bad breath, messy hair, and clutter.  And let’s not forget to wash our hands after diarrhea.

So thankful for these five.

So thankful for these five.

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A Crazy-Hair Day

A week ago I wrote this, before being interrupted for another week:
Right now one boy is blaring classical piano music throughout the house.  Two kids are playing a board game, and the other two are building with blocks and dancing at intervals.  I snuck out to the front porch, literally hiding a brownie in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.  Just five minutes of peace would be super.  It’s been a long afternoon of school, apple-sauce-making, supper-cooking, and I’m not even cleaned up yet.  Time for tea and an undisclosed chocolatey snack.

It sounds all too-familiar, like I was about to type the same words now… as I lick the melted chocolate off my spoon and swallow the last sip of afternoon tea.  The kids are all in their rooms practicing how to be quiet.  I had a long but beautiful day being a doula yesterday, arriving home close to 2AM.  Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted.  The last thought I had before drifting off to sleep was: I hope I get breakfast in bed.  My super amazing daughter must have known (you see, when you pray, the Holy Spirit is listening, and can communicate that need to someone else who is listening to Him).  Her sweet self prepared this breakfast for me, and we enjoyed a lovely morning in our PJ’s.
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By lunch-time, however, my lack of sleep started to kick in.  I started making scrambled eggs and dropped one on the ground.  I snapped at the children I loved so much.  Then, I stopped and apologized for my grumpy attitude.  Everyone suggested maybe I needed a nap.  Then Nadine smoothed the air even further with her honest comment, “You know, Mom?  Your hair looks CRAZY today!”  I burst out laughing.  It still looks crazy, by the way.

The text I sent to Matthew, which prompted my apology to the children.

The text I sent to Matthew, which prompted my apology to the children.

So, Betty and I decided to take a nap, even though she is “never tired”.  Like the other day, when she told me, “My tummy hurts.  I’m tired of falling asleep.”  Then this happened:2014-10-02 13.08.58

Today she told me she wanted to “talk” before we fell asleep.  Thus began our conversation: “I have a question.”
“Yes, Betty?  What’s your question?”
“When will I be six?”
“After you’re five.”
“Will I always be six?”
“The whole time you’re six, yes.”  We then proceeded to practice counting up to six on our fingers.  She is dead set on being six.
She says some pretty hilarious things these days.  The other night she lamented in a very sorrowful voice, “Everybody makes me so sad.”  When I asked her what would make her happy, she replied, “If you make chicken.”    She asked me this out-of-the-blue question the other day: “Mom, can I put this rock in my pocket?”
“Um, sure,” I replied, puzzled.
“Just in case I need it for something.”  Good to know she’s prepared.
When I asked her if she wanted apple sauce or yogurt for a snack she answered, “Hmmmmmmmm.  I think my body wants yogurt.”

Last weekend, Matthew surprised me with one of my favorite date days ever.  We were given tickets to Chester County Day, and drove all around the area touring historical homes, barns, and grounds.  It was so beautiful, inspiring and refreshing.
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I’ve been slightly obsessed with Instagram the past two weeks.  The photos aren’t a false impression of my life, so much as they are a bit of an incomplete picture of it.  You might see a shot of apple crisp, but in the background you can’t see the piles of dishes I just washed or have to still wash.  You might see us reading books on the front porch, but you can’t see the dirt on the ground, or feel the mosquitoes trying to bite us.  You might see the photo of a budding piano-player, but only we can hear the same three songs being played hundreds of times on the keyboard.  You see the flower, but not the weeds.  October phone photos
This week’s favorite photos are as follows:
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Jack’s ongoing collection of shiny things.  A healed bone in Nadine’s big toe.  Rock-climbing date with my Elsie Rose.  Nadine’s 12th birthday, complete with crepe cake.  Love and Daddy.  The baby-waiting game.  Beautiful clouds that make me wish I was a bird.

The boys just dug out some old CD’s, and we’re rocking out to the Kry, one of my favorite 90’s music memories.  The girls are “secretly” rearranging their room (even though I could hear the furniture scooting all around their room from where I lay in bed while attempting to nap).  My hair is still crazy.  My heart is full.


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Life At Three

Sometimes when I say our house needs cleaning, what I really mean is that I think we should move some gigantic pieces of furniture.  I look at our home like an ever-changing puzzle, the pieces of which fit in different places at different times.  This week, a harmless conversation about the little girls’ room staying clean, turned into a gargantuan project.  A job requiring paint, a drill, and hours of Matthew’s already full days.  I painted over the pink, and he cheerfully took apart bunk-beds, unscrewed shelves and heaved heavy mattresses from one room to the next.  The finished product: the girls switched rooms!  Nadine now has the slightly larger of the two, with a closet, and the little girls have the smaller one which limits how it can be arranged, but which suits their needs perfectly.  In addition, for Betty’s birthday we were able to acquire a fabulous Craigslist deal and get the girls a wooden play kitchen complete with fun wooden food.  All week there have been restaurant, pizza shop, and birthday party games going on for hours on end.

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Since Betty is now three, we told her she was too big for the pack n’ play.  Now she sleeps on the bottom bunk.  She also has kept her panties dry at night for almost two weeks!  We quit diapers at night, cold turkey, and she rose to the challenge.  It is so fabulous not having any diapers in our house, except the few her baby dolls wear.  I do believe it’s the first time in eleven years.  So far, being three years old is pretty awesome!

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Yesterday I had the joy of watching a baby boy come into the world.  I drove home as the sun rose, and was once again awed and amazed by the beauty of new life.
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Doula For A Day

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Doula For A Day

Today was spent walking many miles in the course of a small hallway with a champion mother. She overcame fear, pain, and doubt as she soldiered through unspeakably long labor. Eventually it became clear that this baby needed to come out via cesarean. Although this was not in “the plan”, it became clear this was God’s plan. I was reminded that all of our days have been written in God’s book long before any of then have come to be. It was such an honor to walk with this mom & dad and to witness a beautiful baby boy’s birth. It was my first cesarean birth, and I had fun donning my space suit for a little while and being on the other side of the O.R. curtain. What an amazing day. I love my job!