My brain is nesting.

Lately I’ve been re-energized and refreshed as a mama.   This hardly means that our days are always smooth sailing or that I’m calm and patient all the time.  Let’s just clear that up right away.  It probably doesn’t hurt that I’ve stumbled across some great reads that have not only encouraged me, but given me some fresh perspective.  Or that I’m finally putting some things that I’ve long known about my children and myself as a mother into action:

We thrive on routine.  We need lots of margin.  However, life gets busy and some days our schedule is jam-packed.  I need to just get over this, and set a positive tone as we bounce from one activity to another because they always, always take their cues from me.  However, as the mama I also have the privilege of protecting our down-time.  Yes, it’s hard to say no to so many *good* activities but it’s necessary for our crew.  The best way to *fill-up* and show my kiddos love includes reading lots of stories, snuggles, time spent just listening and especially when I get down on the floor and play.  {Ugg.}  Remember to look directly into their eyes when speaking to them.  They notice.

I’m doing my best to savor each day with our three little ones, filling them up with an abundance of love and patience and just-being time before baby.  Maybe I could chalk it all up to pregnancy hormones, but whatever the reason it’s working for our family and I want to remember this.

It’s sort of like my brain is nesting and storing up nuggets of information and good reminders before this new little one comes.  My nightstand is overflowing with parenting books mixed in with all of the “how to have a baby books”  {which Alex teases me about…shouldn’t I be familiar with all that by now…?}  Ha.  I’m diligently making my way through each one, but here are a couple of faves:

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys

And here are a few encouraging blog posts on mothering that I’ve stumbled across lately:

Having babies in opposite world.  This article struck a chord with me.  I think you’ll see why.

From the post:

Opposite World says if you do have children, 1 or 2 is a nice number…and a family with  3 or 4 children is considered a large family.  And goodness, if you are pregnant with your fifth, you can expect the snide remarks like “you know what causes that, right?” or “Is this an oops?”  I mean why on earth would women want to have lots of babies?

But OH – this is not how God sees children.

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him. ~ Psalm 127:3

Rachael Janokovic wrote a profound post over at Desiring God Ministries about motherhood – here’s an excerpt:

Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.

Christian mothers carry their children in hostile territory. When you are in public with them, you are standing with, and defending, the objects of cultural dislike. You are publicly testifying that you value what God values, and that you refuse to value what the world values. You stand with the defenseless and in front of the needy. You represent everything that our culture hates, because you represent laying down your life for another—and laying down your life for another represents the gospel.

If you are a pregnant woman, boldly declare your excitement for your baby bump!

When you are in the midst of bottles and binkies and spit up and tantrums and sleepless nights – do not let the enemy whisper in your ear – “this is too much.”  Lean on Jesus and thank God for giving you SO much!

When the world says, you are too young. Remember Mary was young.

When the world says, you are too old. Remember Sarah was old.

When the world says, you don’t know what you are doing. Remember Eve – who had no role models at all…she just walked with the King.

We must shut out the voices of Opposite World and listen to the maker of this world

—————-

And one more good read:

Sarah, writes about distracted Parenting.  Basically this…as parents we have become so easily distracted by those darn little iphones that we all carry around.  And while trying to keep up with *everything* and *everyone* via our phones we are not only missing out on the real life going on around us, but researchers have “observed a dimming of the child’s internal light, a lessening of the connection between parent and child” when parents are distracted by their phones, ipads, etc.

My family gives me a hard time for being the world’s worst phone call returner, or texter, but honestly this is why.  And yes, I’m guilty sometimes too, but when it comes down to it, I don’t want my kids to have a constant image of their mom always looking at a phone.  They are more important.  Period.  Plus, as another wise woman, has said, Life is not an Emergency.  No text or phone call needs to be responded to right this very minute.  Remember the good ol’ days when people left messages and patiently waited for a response?  Might be another lesson in there somewhere…

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On being a mom, celebrations and 33 Weeks

mom circa May 1979, pregnant with me and headed to the hospital. talk about a blessing, my mom is amazing!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to say it one more time.  I’m just so grateful to be a mom.  I feel so thankful for the opportunity to raise-up our little ones alongside Alex.  I sure love these kiddos and the {growing} family that we’ve created.

happy kiddos + one tired but very content mama = joy

I’m also so thankful to be surrounded by so many wonderful women who support and encourage me along this journey of motherhood.  Over Mother’s Day weekend I spent time away with my mom, four Aunties and four cousins.  It was a wonderful girl’s weekend of celebration – weddings, birthdays and baby – oh what fun we had.  My trip away was also my last *hurrah* before baby as my doctor has rather strongly insisted that I stick close to home.

Monday, on the heels of Mother’s Day I had a doctor’s appointment and ultrasound to see how baby Coco is doing.  Thankfully baby is looking good and we’re giving praises for placentas that move and for baby’s who are head-down!  Alex and my mom were there for the ultrasound and it was pretty darn impressive to hear Alex giving the ultrasound narrative… “there’s the heart, see the eyes, that’s her profile, oh and that’s a hand….”  He claims not to be into all this baby stuff, but he certainly knows his stuff.

While it’s probably too early to begin counting down to an actual birth day, there’s no doubt that this sweet little baby is going to be here soon.  This means it’s time to actually start preparing for baby and I certainly have plenty of organizing, sorting and baby-related laundry to keep me busy for a while.  For good measure, I’ll also probably move some furniture around the house, putter around the garden, plant and re-plant a handful of poor plants and re-arrange my random knickknacks for the two hundredth time.  Nesting sounds like pure heaven for this homebody.  I’m also hoping to sneak in a dinner date with Alex, a few lunch and coffee dates with friends and plan on taking each kiddo out for some solo time with mommy.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

At this stage of the game I’m all about wearing things without a fitted waistband.  Helllooo skirts!  It took me long enough to realize, but my jeans and really anything else with a restrictive waistband was making me grumpy.  My belly is low, low, low this time.  Not sure if it’s a girl thing or a fourth-pregnancy thing, but it’s made for some adventures when getting dressed.  And yes, I realize that if this is my biggest complaint I shouldn’t be complaining at all because in all reality I feel pretty darn great at this stage of the game.

So for now we wait, we dream and all five of us spend way too much time staring at my belly as baby Coco dances and wiggles around.  It’s safe to say we’re already smitten.

Henry

Dear Henry,

Today we celebrate you.  As our first baby it seems fitting that your birthday and mother’s day fall close on the calendar for eight years ago we embarked on this crazy journey together.  I had big dreams and plans about what it would like to be a parent.  To be a mother to you, my first-born son.

Of course it’s completely different.  More often than not though, it’s better than what I dreamed.  We certainly have our moments, but somewhere in the middle we’ve taught each other a lifetime of lessons on extending and receiving grace.

Sometimes I wonder where that perfect mother, the mother who existed only in my dreams, went.   For I am far from perfect.

Sometimes I wonder how you and I can be so completely different and yet so very much the same.

I also never imagined how charming and loving you would be.  It is funny, being the mother of a boy like you, knowing that you operate best moving at full speed, talking always, knowing everything, and yet at same time you are so empathetic, understanding and always wearing your feelings on your sleeve.

It catches me at odd moments, just how amazing I find you to be.  Already, at only eight you are becoming a grown-up kind of handsome.  And yet almost daily I still catch glimpses of the little boy within.  I wish I could freeze those moments in time.

You are a wonder to watch in action.  You are a natural athlete, I’m not sure if you realize this yet.  You are a gifted people person – a social butterfly if you will – but this gift also brings you trouble.  Occasionally your teacher checks in with us, to mention that you are talking out of turn too often {and too loudly}, or that you are having trouble minding your own business.  And yet in the same note she can’t help but mention how delightful you are to have in class.  This is the paradox of you sweet boy.

Somehow you have managed to create a perfect storm for mothering.

You balance strength with weakness.  You are driven and determined and yet you are restless.  You are competitive and you are compassionate.  You are disagreeable, and then pleasing.  You are a mystery and yet I understand you completely.  I feel the same swing as a mother; one moment I’m teetering on the edge of “I’ve got this” and next I’m loosing my mind.

One thing is certain, I love you sweet Henry.  I’m so thankful for you, for all that makes you, you.  Your laughter, the pure joy, zest and wonder that you bring to this life.  I love you.

Happy Birthday sweet boy!  We are so thrilled to celebrate eight year-old YOU.

I want to give a special shout-out to Kristen. She has a way with words, and has served as a blessing and inspiration on raising-up boys.

27 weeks and a What to Expect giveaway

In my mind I’m on top of things and taking belly shots weekly.  Or at least monthly.  Let’s just settle for a six, almost seven week up-date, okay?

Note to self, it’s time to stop wearing short cardigans, that is unless I’m trying to channel Tommy Boy.

Ironically, not one darn maternity piece of clothing seems to fit right this time around and it just seems too darn soon to be constantly tugging at my pants.

Wasn’t there an entire Seinfeld episode about a white shirt with ruffles?  This looked cute in real life.  Alex said so.  Smart guy right?

Anyhoo.

I’m just getting a taste of third trimester fatigue while clinging to one last week of second trimester bliss.  Wardrobe complaints aside, I feel great {exhausted, but great}, which I’m thankful for.  I’m healthy and so is baby and you certainly can’t ask for more than that.

We’ve been pushing the pedal to the metal around here and I’m trying to stay motivated.  We still have a pretty long to-do list before baby arrives.  A big part of our to-do list obviously involves getting ready for baby.  {No, it’s not all about my random nesting projects like cleaning out the garage or picking out exterior paint colors…}  It might not make any sense, but Alex and I sort of feel like a first-time parents our fourth time around.  Everything feels different.  We’re out of “baby-mode.”  All of our baby gear is supposedly out-of-date and to tell you the truth I don’t remember any of the basics.

Maybe it’s like riding a bike?

Just in case crossing our fingers doesn’t work out I’m thankful to have some new reading material to help along the way.  New copies of What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year are now sitting on my nightstand and I’ve been referencing them frequently.

You would think that at this stage of the game I already have my fair share of pregnancy and baby-related reading materials.  I do, but they’re all out of date so I appreciated the fresh tone of the current What to Expect book.  And yes, while not that much has changed {clearly women have been having babies forever} there are still plenty of new tips and ideas and it’s always nice to be familiar with the up-to-date medical information, and advice.

Guess what?  The team at What to Expect.com has given me three books to giveaway.  One lucky reader will receive a copy of What to Expect Before You’re Expecting, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and What to Expect the First Year.

Maybe you’re a first-time mom, or like me this isn’t your first rodeo, but could use a refresher course.  Or maybe you know someone who is expecting…these books would certainly be a welcome gift.  To enter this giveaway simply leave a comment.  And go check out What to Expect.com, it’s a great online resource for new, seasoned and expecting parents.

This giveaway will end on Friday, April 12th at 5pm PST.

Plans for Spring Break.

It’s officially spring break and I guess you could say that our official plan is to not have a plan.

We have nothing major on the calendar beyond a mini-baseball camp for Henry and I can’t wait.  No pre-school.  No elementary school.  No horse-back riding lessons.  No piano lessons.  No little league practice.  No speech therapy.  And while a teeny-tiny part of me wants to panic, the rest of me is super excited.

umm…could somebody please tell me where my seven year-old went?

See this week I have plans to become *that* mom.  I have this little dream of being the mom who drops her kiddos off somewhere while wearing her jammies.  Strange I know, but my kiddos have always been little and required a parent to walk them to their classroom or practice.  Now that Henry is in second grade I can drop and go…so this week that’s just what I plan to do.  Just once.  At baseball camp.  And then I envision heading home with the littles and lounging around drinking coffee and doing puzzles.  Or something like that.

Yes, I dream big.

You see, the rest of the time I’ve become *that* mom.  And ironically, while we have done our best to push back, say no and limit our schedules, eventually you just do reach that next stage when it’s time to add a lesson here or activity there.  Of course this also translates to lots of snacks on the go, more time in the car and less time at home.  The kids adapted easily, however this homebody is still adapting.  Without hesitation I’d say William has earned his little brother stripes.  He is a trooper.  I’ve also made a note to make sure that baby girl’s car seat is pretty plush because she is going to be a gal on-the-go from the get-go.

So this week we’re saying yes to saying no.  We’re sticking close to home and making our own adventures.  We’re boldly wearing our jammies well into the morning. {maybe just yoga pants? see I’m chickening out already.}

Happy Day

Our Easter weekend was the perfect combination of family, fun, work, play and celebration.  This Easter was a first for us – we were on our own – just our little family of five.  It felt both exciting and strange.  Growing up it wasn’t a real holiday without a large gathering of family members.  I have to admit a part of me still feels the same way and I realize that now Alex and the kids do too.  At the same time I knew that this Easter weekend was a wonderful opportunity for our little family to forge ahead and establish our own traditions.  We read about the death and resurrection of Jesus from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  We dyed eggs, held our own egg hunt.  We dressed up and went to church.  Together we proclaimed that He is Risen!  And thankfully, Grammy and Gigi dropped by for a visit and my brother Andy came over for Easter dinner.  Which pretty much sealed the deal – it was indeed an official holiday in the eyes of my children.  We had company.  Whew.

Easter is one of my favorites though I’m certain I probably say something pretty similar at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  During this season of Lent we are called to feel, to remember the weight of the sacrifice that our Lord made for us.  And yet all too often instead of turning my focus to Him I easily turn that focus inward.  The heaviness of my sin, my selfishness and my pride weigh heavily on me.  Yet because of the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord Jesus – because of His great love for us – I’m able to repent of all these burdens and sins and be forgiven.  And just as He lives we too are once again made new.

Again and again.

Oh happy day!

He is risen.

Alleluia!

Life right now.

Life has been moving in busy extreme mode for oh I don’t know, the last two weeks?  Maybe forever?  Forgive me I’ve lost track of time.

There was last Monday’s meltdown {I’m never volunteering again!} which eventually paled in comparison to last Friday’s meltdown {the school district is suggesting what for my son?}

Last week was a week of meetings.  And e-mails.  And phone calls.  And if you know me, then you know how much this pains me.  I’m the gal that loves to hit the ignore button on her phone or ignore an e-mail until a response is deemed urgent.  I don’t know why I’m wired this way but I am.  Frankly a little part of me gets ticked off when “my time” gets sucked up by the {boring} tasks of life {i.e. phone calls, e-mails and meetings.}   And by “my time” I’m most likely referring to more important things like grocery shopping, drinking coffee, doing laundry, making dinner, carpooling kiddos, wrangling a neighborhood of hooligans, with a sprinkle of blog-reading and finding a new dinner recipe on pinterest.

So Monday I put my big-girl undies on, hopeful that this week would look different.  And it has.  We kicked-off the week needing stitches, {three for William}, tears {again, me}, more meetings {this time I’m prepared – watch out!}, lots of phone calls {made by me – ha!}, a little one who pulled out his stitches {after only 24 hours!}, e-mails {sent by me – take that!} and a little one who threw-up in the back-seat of the car.

One might argue that this week was actually tougher.

Maybe all of this sounds a little over dramatic.  Maybe it isn’t.  Maybe it’s just a reminder to myself that if I dwell on the overwhelming moments {they were abundant and real} then it’s all to easy to miss the beautiful moments that were also woven into our days.  Moments like meeting a friend’s newborn baby, celebrating my mom’s birthday, having my grandparents over for dinner, dinner with my best friend while the kids ran amuck, watching Alex and the boys play baseball together, and a glowing report at Henry’s parent-teacher conference.

Because sometimes life is like that.  The good weeks, the hard weeks.  The struggles mixed right in with the blessings.

And so we wrap up this week with Spring Break looming large and I’m hopeful.

I’m not going to lie, fresh tulips and cake help too.

Buttermilk pancakes save the day.

We’re wrapping up the week here.  I’m ready.  On one-hand I’ve been amazed at all that we’ve accomplished.  On the other hand it’s been a dozy.  Maybe I’ll blame it all on pregnancy hormones. {Why is everyone else so crazy and unreasonable?  Why am I crying?  Again?}

Yes, it could be worse. Yes, someone else has it harder. Yes, I’m thankful for my family, for my friends, for this life.  Yes, we are blessed.  But sometimes it’s just blessedly hard.

In the midst of all of this I’m beginning to nest.  {Of course!}  Anything and every room is fair game.  Right now I’m just getting rid of stuff.  I pride myself on not collecting or keeping junk around, but boy oh boy we have still managed to collect more than our fair share of things.  Thank goodness for the goodwill and an extra-large garbage can.

But when the going gets really tough it’s buttermilk pancakes to the rescue!  For breakfast!  Or dinner!  We’re easy like that.

They are simple to make and taste so much better than any mix.

To kick off the weekend, I thought I’d share our favorite Saturday morning recipe.

Buttermilk Pancakes  {from the Joy of Cooking, notes by me.}

Prepare and preheat your griddle to 350 degrees.

Whisk together in a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour {When I’m in my crunchy-granola mom mode I use whole wheat pastry flour.  The kiddo’s and Alex can’t tell the difference.  They’re still good, just not as fluffy.}
3 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk together in another bowl:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk {shaken}
3 Tbs. melted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing until just combined.  Spoon 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  Cook until the top of each pancake bubbles and flip.  Cook until each side is slightly browned.  Serve immediately with butter and real maple syrup.

Makes about 12 5-inch pancakes.

{And yes, chocolate chips are a great addition.}

William, who is currently on a dairy, soy, egg, citrus, almond and peanut-free diet gets to enjoy his chocolate chip oatmeal pancakes instead.  {recipe below.}  They are surprisingly yummy but more muffin-y than pancake-y.

He gobbles them right up.

photo via

 Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes {adapted by me}

Serves: 4 pancakes

Ingredients:

1 very ripe medium banana
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 2.5 Tbsp water)
pinch salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon sunflower seed butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
3 Tablespoons coconut milk
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips {non-dairy, soy-free}
Instructions:
  1. Preheat a skillet to medium heat or about 300-325 degrees.
  2. Prepare flax egg by mixing flaxseed meal and water and letting set for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Mash your very ripe banana with baking powder.
  4. Add flax egg, oil, salt, vanilla, almond butter, almond milk and stir.
  5. Stir in oats and flour until just combined.
  6. Sprinkle in chocolate chips and fold gently.
  7. Scoop scant ¼ cup measurements onto lightly greased griddle.
  8. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side – until golden brown.
  9. Serve plain or with a small drizzle of maple syrup and a few additional chocolate chips for melting.

Yes, one can only imagine my grocery shopping list.  Or bill.