So When Is the Second Baby Due?

IMG_4745 We wake up from another night of broken sleep as the morning sun illuminates the blinds. Liam was up again throughout the night. I'm okay with it; he's been a bad sleeper since birth, and we get by with naps and coffee. Suddenly, as it does throughout each day, the thought of a second baby crosses my mind. It may just be the sleep deprivation talking, but I wonder how I could manage parenting two kids.

I've been thinking lately about my hesitancy to have a second child. I expected that I would be the mom who couldn't wait to be pregnant again. I love that my siblings and I are all within two years of each other, and I want my babies to be close in age. I pictured that we would have a new baby around my son's second birthday, a timetable that's already passing us by.

But I simply don't feel ready yet.

With the first baby, we were undertaking something more or less unknown. I could hardly believe the immediacy of those pink lines. We were terrified but really not sure what to fear other than a vague sense that our lives would change. Now I know what those changes entail.

It's still morning. We're sitting on the bed covered with a fluffy, white duvet. He shrieks excitedly about a dog he saw outside. I love my son's early morning cuddles and jabbers. And I think, "I want to do this a thousand more times."

But then again, there are the things I now know to fear. I know what birth felt like. I know more about loss and infertility, and it paralyzes me. Can I risk loving another tiny human this much? Can I risk wanting another tiny human this much?

We sit on the playroom rug after breakfast and play our game--the one where I pretend to sleep, making exaggerated snoring noises while he tries to grab the toy I'm holding. It turns quickly into a wrestling match; my son shrieks as I tickle him. And I wonder if I'll still be a good mom if I'm pregnant.

I remember how uncontrollable pregnancy is. I don't know if I can deal with the nausea and fatigue while chasing a toddler. The high schoolers I taught during my first pregnancy can't hold a candle to this little boy when it comes to energy.

And honestly, I like our lazy little life right now. It's just in the last few months that I feel like I have a grip on things, and I'm so scared to lose this again in the whirlwind that is a baby's first year. Though our first son overhauled our lives completely, with any subsequent babies, it will be fitting them into this life we've established--a life we love. And it's kind of overwhelming.

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It's time for Liam's nap, and as I take some time to write, I wonder how I would find time with two children to care for. There's no guarantee that we'll have an easy baby, and the newborn stage is hard no matter how you cut it.

After Liam's nap, we mop the house. Liam follows behind me with his child-size broom, and I marvel at what a helper my son is becoming. I want to give him a playmate, but I wonder if this is a good time for him. Is every time good? Is no time good? Will I be forced to neglect one of them? Will I still be able to be patient with the tantrums? And if we don't have a baby soon, will we smother our son with too much attention?

I think about seasons--wouldn't another summer baby simplify my maternity wardrobe? I think about gender. I think about the families I know. I think about food aversions. I think about prenatal check-ups with a toddler in tow.

 Will we even reach a point where we just know?

On Instagram, I see baby bumps, and instead of the longing I anticipate, I feel my waistband tighten and envision that un-loved bag of pregnancy clothes and belly bands tucked away in my closet. But in rare moments, I long to place my hands on my belly and feel a kick. There's nothing like that feeling of new life surging through my veins and invading every thought.

It's a new experience for me--not knowing. As I see each baby announcement extending a month further from March to April to May, I mentally count.

On parenting forums, if you ask which is better--kids closer together or more spaced--people always support what they did. This gives me hope. We will see the beauty and goodness in what we do (and probably try to sell it to everyone else).

I'm tucking my son in at the end of the day. As I risk waking him to plant a kiss on his pudgy, warm cheek, I think about our day. I love being a mother. And right now, I love being a mother to one son. I enjoy the quiet moments when we read, the lazy walks down the sidewalk, the days that are filled with cars in chubby hands zooming all around the carpet. I don't want to rush through this for some timetable we no longer feel is right. I want to be sure my heart is open to another little life.

And maybe--just as in all of motherhood--it's about following instincts. Because sometimes you just know. At least, I'm hoping that is what will happen!

When did you know it was time for a second baby? What was the transition like? 

What I'm Into: November 2014

IMG_2590 November was a crazy month, but we knew that going into it. We stayed with my dad for three weeks after his hip replacement surgery. It was really hard at first with my sprained ankle and Liam catching a cold, but we made it through. In the end, it was fun to have a three week change from our ordinary lives, but we are glad to be back home.

In mid-November, my sister and I surprised my mom with a birthday party. We learned a lot about the art of surprise (especially in light of the fact that Mom had just put a quiche in the oven at the time we were supposed to get her for the party--always plan something with the surprisee to prevent this!).

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Liam turns seventeen months old today. I was looking through old pictures and saw that he was just learning to sit up this time last year. He would lie under the Christmas tree looking at lights. This year, he's all about the ornaments, and it is so cute to see him get excited about certain ones (namely animals and a particular red truck).

Reading:

This month has been really slow as far as reading goes. However, I am reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for the third time in one week because it's just that good. In it, Marie Kondo shares her method for a once-and-for-all major tidying that leaves you with a clearer house and clearer mind. She dispels many of the major myths about tidying, and it really makes sense. I have a post I'll share about it soon. And seriously, I love that she uses the word tidying. 

I also finished A Year of Biblical Womanhood and learned much more than I expected. I reread Bringing Up Bebe for the first time since actually having a child. I wasn't as impressed as I was in my pre-child state.

Currently Reading: Outlander (after hearing Modern Mrs. Darcy talk about it) and Raising America

Liam's Five Stars: Digger Man, Honk Honk Beep Beep, I'm a Truck Driver

Liam also loves this video on Youtube (and several others by the same channel). RC trucks at their finest!

Loving:

My capsule wardrobe. I've tweaked it and updated a few pieces, but having a set number of pieces has simplified laundry, outfit choosing, and even a three-week stay with my dad. It's amazing! I get dressed in real people clothes every morning now, and it's so easy.

Plan to Eat: I just started this meal-planning service and will update you soon, but so far, I think it is way better than Pinterest for culling and actually cooking recipes (plus it makes a grocery list for you!).

Our Christmas tree and Christmas music: As far as Advent preparation, we're (not faithfully) using The Greatest Gift as we did last year. (P.S. I posted last year about when Christmas becomes too much and when it's not enough. I also wrote about how motherhood changed the Christmas story for me.)

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Morning tidying: After staying with my dad and tidying every morning after coffee and breakfast, I've found a routine that works well for Liam and for me. I read a post recently by a mom (wish I could remember where I read it!) who applied Newton's First Law of Motion to her own daily routine. She explained that if she started her day in motion, she tended to have a productive day. If she started with rest, she tended to continue to rest all day. It turns out that this is true of me. Starting our day with work contributes to a more energetic and productive day.

Watching Liam grow: Living somewhere else for three weeks really changed Liam. He had to share my attention because I was helping my dad, and he has become much more independent and helpful. He is, however, somewhat obsessive about seeing clothes on the floor or finding trash now that he lived with my super-tidy Dad for a while. He will take anything trash-like straight to the trash can. He also loves coloring and play-doh now. 

Gift Guides: Instead of links (because I'm behind on my Internet reading), I'll share some gift guides I've found helpful as I pick out gifts for some sweet nieces and an adorable nephew plus various family members.

Coming Up:

I have a post about life with a sixteen-month-old in the works. I also plan to share about tidying and infant potty training. It may be a little slow over the next few weeks (and I just may be trying out the new tidying system mentioned above!). Is there anything you would like to see here?

I'd love for you to follow me on Instagram for more daily-life pics!

What have you been up to this month? 

Links Before Thanksgiving

IMG_2499 It's the day before Thanksgiving. This time of year features a clump of the least common birthdays in America (mine is also on the list!). My brother gets into town today, and then the whole family will be together. Our biggest change to Thanksgiving this year is attempting a fresher recipe for green beans (as opposed to green bean casserole, which everyone seems tired of). Thanksgiving foods aren't my favorite, but I have started to look forward to them more each year (except for two years ago when I was experiencing morning sickness).

In the spirit of sharing, I wanted to give you some of my favorite links lately.

On a serious note, regardless of what you think about Ferguson, this article was really thought-provoking.

On the lighter side, this NY Times article shares recipes for Thanksgiving from every state.

This modern guide to Thanksgiving from Bon Appetit had some great reminders. For example, don't forget to bring something no matter what the host says.

I also loved Shauna Niequist's article about Thanksgiving. When Shauna Niequist advises you not to stray from the traditional foods, you know you should listen. (Although, as I said, we are trying to replace the green bean casserole).

The Nester has a fabulous post about hospitality toward oneself. It makes me think again about sacrifice vs. self-care.

This article about how mini habits can lead to lasting change is fascinating.

And in case you're still thinking through your Thanksgiving outfit ideas, this flowchart will help you know whether you're wearing pants or not (i.e. leggings/tights).

If you need some non-Thanksgiving but still fall recipes, try the Pioneer Woman's Chipotle Chicken Chili or these pumpkin muffins.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

25 Lessons from My Mom--A True Eshet Chayil

IMG_9786 Today is my mom's birthday, and I have been part of her life for exactly half of it. My mom and I have always been close even during the times when I was rude and moody and difficult. She's been a constant presence in my life even into adulthood and has made motherhood a lovely, empowering transition for me. I learn so much from her every day about what it means to be a woman and a mom. She's taught me more than I could possibly know (or share here!). But I have twenty-five key lessons I'll share.

  1. Don't be easily offended. This is one of the most life-changing lessons I've learned from my mom. My mom doesn't look for offense in situations and is thus spared a lot of drama. She's one of the few people I know who consistently encourages me not to read into things and to let little things go. When I'm tempted to read into a situation, she's often saying, "Just don't go down that road."
  1. You can make or learn almost anything. From involved sewing projects to homemade bread to tractor repairs, my mom is not afraid to learn a new skill.
  1. Parties are about people. Our gatherings--from bridal showers to graduation parties--have always been about people and food and celebration rather than decorations or perfection. I love this about my mom.
  1. Family is important. I've learned a lot from seeing my mom maintain close relationships with her own family.
  1. Don't be overly sentimental. I tend to be feelings-oriented. My mom is more practical, and this side of her has helped round out my personality.
  1. Healthy eating trumps doctor's visits.
  1. Don't let your blood sugar get low. My mom is good at taking care of herself so she can take care of others (like really, really good at it!). Even when I was in labor, she was running to the car for snacks so she had plenty of energy (it wasn't really funny at the time when they weren't letting me eat!). I also love how she models taking care of herself and getting enough rest yet she still does more for others than anyone else I know. I've never seen her reach burnout.
  1. Evaluate and reevaluate. My mom doesn't get caught up in one way of thinking or living. She's constantly looking at how she's living when it comes to food or faith or emotions.
  1. Love and respect children. My mom loves little children and they love her. It's her energy, warmth, and ability to treat them like adults. Most of what I've learned about relating well to children I learned from my mom. Perhaps the most important lesson about relating to children is realizing that they understand more and are far more capable than we often assume.
  1. Distance yourself from children's tantrums. There were times when I was a very difficult person to live with. My mom rarely got caught up in the emotions because she didn't let my feelings dictate hers. This has already been an invaluable lesson for me as a mother. I try to let Liam have his bad days without letting them affect my mood.
  1. Get help when you need it. During a rough time in my life, my mom took me to Al-Anon to help me work through some issues. She went with me to the first meeting because I lacked the courage to go. This changed my outlook and my life.
  1. Find loyal friends and nurture these relationships. My mom is a good friend, and she chooses good friends.
  1. Be present for others. I've seen my mom care for both of my grandmothers during especially hard times. She's good at being present when she needs to be. Most of what I know about caretaking I've learned from her.
  1. Waffles cement friendship.
  1. Befriend strangers. My mom is polite and kind to everyone she meets and always willing to talk and listen.
  1. Trends come and go. From the time I was a little girl, my mom modeled that appearance doesn't matter too much but you should take care of yourself. When she does dress up, it's the classic, timeless look.
  1. Keep the secrets of others.
  1. Age gracefully and enthusiastically (maybe it helps that every year she gets more beautiful and youthful looking!).
  1. You don't have to believe everything. I can read a book and feel like I have to adopt everything I read. My mom teaches me common sense. A lot of stuff you read or hear is ridiculous, and you don't have to like or do something just because someone else does.
  1. Life is not about rules. This ties into #19. I used to try to govern everything in my life with rules. After I got married, I remember my mom mailed me a letter reminding me that it is no way to live. She encouraged me to loosen up and have fun.
  1. Find beauty even in hard seasons.
  1. Be strong in the Lord.
  1. Hospitality doesn't have to be fancy or perfect (although clean is good!).
  1. Don't stress out (or gripe!) about something longer than it takes you to do it. I've come a long way in this area thanks to Mom. I used to spend hours fretting and crying about what I had to do. Her patience with me in this area (especially during our homeschooling years) was instrumental in teaching me not to complain and instead just to jump right in.
  1. Spend lots and lots of time outdoors.

Rachel Held Evens writes about the true meaning behind the Proverbs 31 woman. She talks about how the poem is praising a woman of valor, though the specifics will look different from woman to woman. Jewish women use the Hebrew phrase for "woman of valor"--Eshet Chayil--as a cheer when a woman does something praiseworthy. It's a fitting praise for my own mom, as she is perhaps the most valorous woman I know, facing every difficulty with courage. Many women have done excellently but you excel them all!

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Naked Celebrities and Sprained Ankles

IMG_1530 Another celebrity disrobes in front of the camera. There's a flurry of opinions, some shaming and some praising. Is it something to celebrate that a woman "bares all" for the camera? Does this make her empowered? There's debate about whether she's even beautiful. Does it matter?

It makes me think about our flesh. What is the purpose of these fleshly bodies--the bodies we inhabit while we see in a glass darkly?

Theologians of the past tried to get beyond the flesh, explaining that it was something to conquer. Carnal sins, pain, fleshly desires--these were all likely to distract from the Christian life.

Their ideas may seem archaic, but we still vacillate between glorifying these fleshly bodies and trying to ignore them. We're still striving to find that elusive balance. We gorge on food or starve ourselves. We focus too much--or too little--on our physical appearance. We try to exercise enough but not too much. Mostly we talk and talk and talk. And sometimes, disease comes and all the things we do to postpone our age, our pain, our lives fail.

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My dad had hip replacement surgery last week. Before joint replacement surgery, people had to live in pain or use a wheelchair once their joints became too weak. My dad's surgery took less than an hour, and he's already walking better--and feeling less pain--than he was before the surgery. I marvel at the surgeon's hands, the physical therapist's knowledge, and the incision that will become just a scar before too long.

Near the hospital, there's a sign for a plastic surgery group. It advertises the "mommy makeover." I look it up online and find that for between $8,000 and $16,000 they can repair any part of my body affected by pregnancy (and I mean any part).

While I'm not usually offended by society's pressure to look a certain way, this "mommy makeover" causes my anger to flare up. I analyze the offense I feel at this.

We have decided that there is something wrong with a body that's been stretched and torn by a baby.After all, unless a kernel falls to the ground and dies, it won't bear wheat. The creation of new life--whether it's a child, a classroom, or a book--pulls some life from us. Are these changes something to accept or, like a broken hip, are they things to fix?

That same scalpel that works to make my dad whole can be used to enhance things that might not need to be enhanced, to perpetuate standards that don't need to be perpetuated. When do we celebrate the advances made and when do they go too far? What does it mean to restore and bind up and heal? What is worth restoring?

Ultimately, our mortal bodies--and fleshly limitations--force us to ask: What does it meant to be human?

Our physical and spiritual are tightly intertwined, and there's no separating this. They have been bound together since the spiritual feeling of shame was first tied to physical nakedness. Clothing seems to remind us that there's a shame--a frailty--to our nakedness.

In front of a camera, a woman tries to get past this. She takes off her clothes and poses, full of life and vigor. Not far away, on a hospital floor, bodies devoid of their clothes and clad in stiff gowns seem wraithlike and weak. I'm happy to get back to the world of blue jeans and scarves and unhindered walking to hide that side of my humanity--the nakedness, the fragility, the shame.

Though they are weak and imperfect, God never says that our fleshly bodies are bad. He provides for the physical needs that seem to limit us--the need to eat and drink and rest. He's tied the physical and spiritual together from the beginning.  For the Israelites, physical events could make them unclean--unable to join the spiritual community. God often sent physical affliction to teach spiritual truth.

And this fusion is seen even in his plan to redeem. In the Incarnation, God puts on flesh to rescue humanity from spiritual sin, to suffer as a human, to live with temptations of the flesh. And when he conquers, Jesus has a resurrection body and wounds that can be touched.

Jesus spends much of his ministry trying to connect the physical and the spiritual--to show us how our attempts to compartmentalize are foolish. He restores to society a woman whose physical condition has made her an outcast in the spiritual community. He makes the lame walk and raises the dead. He heals those who believe, and talks of a thirst even deeper than physical thirst. In fact, the purpose of fasting is to remind us of our deeper hunger--our soul hunger--and make us more mindful of our spiritual selves.

If we are bringing healing to the brokenness, we must ask "what is worth restoring?" Giving someone the ability to walk pain-free again seems to parallel Jesus' own ministry. But is appearance something worthy of restoring or enhancing? Should we fight the wrinkles and the gray hair?

I don't have answers. Two weeks ago, I relished the physical side of this life. I drank in the beauty of days that can best be described with autumnal metaphors and cliches. But the cold has come. Things are barren and dark. The strawberry leaves have turned black. And I long for perfection and restoration.

These fleshly thoughts have been more tangible to me this week. Last Saturday, I fell on our bottom step and sprained my ankle. Every year that I age, these things become slower to heal. As I grapple with mobility that won't return as fast as I need it to, I'm confronted again with the weakness of this mortal body.

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After another day that makes me feel old and bone-weary, I see the back of a magazine lying on my bed. The advertisement is for a skin cream, and it reads: I will not let age change me. Its foolishness strikes me as comical.

For all of us, the skeleton will start to show through maybe sooner, maybe later. The strength we may feel can be gone as quickly as it came. Our time in these bodies--at least for now--is short. But our souls--those will remain when the skin becomes transparent and the eyes become watery.

I want to know what it means to love and cherish my own flesh so I can do the same for others. I will keep trying to connect this vessel for my soul to my soul itself. And I will keep hoping for the beauty of the day when we see fully and are fully known, when the sufferings of now can't even be compared to his glory--even if that suffering is just a sprained ankle.

Guest Post: The Laundry Moms

DSC04565 Today I'm excited to be posting over at The Laundry Moms, a site that provides encouragement and ideas for moms and wives. I'm sharing a key lesson I've learned about marriage.

He was standing at the kitchen sink cleaning up after dinner as he does most nights. In his hand was a dishrag. As he gave the sink a final wipe-down, my husband turned to me, “Did you see how clean the kitchen is now?”

Head over to read more!

Will You Lose Yourself in Motherhood?

IMG_2340 To my younger self:

You see it on many blogs, websites, and in parenting magazines. And though you've never really wondered until now, you are warned that you will lose yourself when this baby comes in a few months. If you love motherhood, you're in danger of losing your self. If you struggle, you're also in danger.

The books offer so much advice--weekly date nights, time on the couch to reconnect with your husband every evening, a pedicure or mom's day out. Some advise you not to stay home with the baby; others tell you it's okay as long as you hire a sitter to get some alone time. You try to remember these things because you want to avoid depression or waking up in twenty years to a self you don't know.

You get the message that your marriage, career, body, and self will change--maybe even be lost--in the delivery room (if not before). You're warned that you have to furtively guard these things to keep this helpless unborn child from taking them away.

Now you have perspective from the future. So I'll answer a few questions for you. Will you lose yourself? Yes. Will your life change? Yes. Will it all be good? No.

But you are worried about something that has happened before and will continue to happen. Let me tell you a story--your story.

Do you remember how much you loved high school? After the loneliness of middle school, you often referred to it as your golden years. You asked questions, found answers, and grew in your faith. You knew who you were. Sermons, books, Scripture, movies--they were all alive for you. You gained courage and kindness and friends. You became a better sister and daughter and student and friend. You felt like you knew yourself (you would later find that maybe you didn't). You wrote constantly.

Then college came. Freshman year at a small liberal arts school overwhelms many students. And you certainly lost yourself. You were forced to confront things you had decided were black and white. Just as you resurfaced a bit at the end of the semester, you started dating. And though you found aspects of yourself, you also lost yourself again.

There are many warnings about losing yourself in a new relationship. But in some ways, it is inevitable. Part of falling in love is the giving up of yourself, finding the delight in hearing about another rather than talking about yourself. Through dating, you were forced to confront deep things about yourself--things you did not realize. I know you sometimes look at your dating years and feel that maybe you lost yourself, but in reality, dating and the many family crises of your college years were revealing who you ultimately were. And it was ugly in many ways.

But you emerged with a little more self-knowledge and a little more certainty that things weren't as black and white as you thought. You were still weak and uncertain though, as many parts of your world had come crumbling in around you.

Then you started teaching. And in the morning-to-night work, never-ending grading and worries about your students, you lost yourself again. You heard harsh accusations and felt the sting of criticism. You wondered whether you could still sit in church behind these same adults who were rude and unrelenting. You questioned your desire to teach and the gifts you has assumed you had. After your first year, you found some healing, and things became a bit surer.

The next major change came when your son was born. But you had your doubts. You hated admitting you didn't have a job. You wondered if you were doing the right thing. The days were often long, and the hours of darkness and solitude stretched on. But instead of being a crisis like these other times, you found strength from the beginning. You couldn't believe that you could create and birth and grow a baby. You couldn't imagine such sacrifice that didn't feel like sacrifice. In motherhood, you rediscovered some things you had given up--writing, reading, being with children, solitude.

In motherhood, you found yourself again. But it's just more of yourself--and you will repeat this cycle continuously.

Some experiences are more cut-and-dried. You came back from an internship in New York feeling like you found more of yourself than you lost. You spend the summer after your first year as a teacher feeling depleted and angry. But there's always this cycle of loss and rebirth, growth and change.

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I once heard that our lives--the people we are--are like those Russian nesting dolls. We stay the same core person inside but we grow through more and more selves. This has been true for me. I've lost myself again and again and then found myself. I've grown and changed and remained the same.

The same is true of marriage. Even in our brief years of marriage, our relationship has gone through hard times, changed, and become stronger and better. If we had not had our son, I'm convinced we still would have changed and our marriage would have changed. If anything, having Liam has brought more beauty, more laughter, and even more commitment to our marriage and ourselves as individuals.

You will continue to lose and find yourself throughout your life as you go through that series of nesting dolls. I know that I will inevitably have seasons of no time for myself or brief seasons when Jon and I barely have energy to speak to one another. I assume we will go through more difficult times and more times when one of us feels desperate and depressed. Such is life. If a baby pushes this further into lostness, then it also pushes us further into foundness, into the person we were meant to be. And this isn't just true of babies--it can be true of every big or hard change throughout our lives. 

So if you're starting a new endeavor--new schooling, a new job, marriage, a child--you will almost inevitably lose some of yourself. That's okay. Things will change; you may lose both bad parts and good parts. But by God's grace, you will emerge even stronger, more confident (and less!), and more open to what it means to live in this world. Losing and finding is an inevitable cycle--a spiraling back until we return again to the beginning--to the openness, love, and wonder of childhood.