A Word with my Post-baby Body

post-baby

Dear War-ravaged Body,

Wow, where do I begin? We’ve been through so much together though we haven’t always been on the friendliest of terms.  You really know how to work my nerves, you know?

Like after my first baby was born and I packed a pair of much-too-big-for-me pre-pregnancy jeans to wear home from the hospital.  I guess you thought it was funny when I couldn’t even get those things past my hips.  Well, I cried.  You may not have noticed since when I emerged from the bathroom with pajama pants on instead I laughed and made some silly joke about it.  But that was only the beginning of the times I’ve had to cover for you.

Oh, I had my moments in the sun where I talked you down and back into suitable form.  That baby wasn’t but 2 months old when I was wearing my normal clothing.  I’d put you in your place, that’s for sure.  Of course, it didn’t last since by the time that same baby was 5 months old I was snuggling another tiny baby within my womb.

And, honestly, you weren’t real kind to me during a time that should have been beautiful.  Not real kind at all.  Come to think of it, you always got a little out of hand when I was expecting.  Thanks for that.  Really.  What girl doesn’t love her mama glow to be replaced by swollen everything-you-never-knew-could-swell?

Anyway, we’ve moved beyond all that now.  We’ve battled back and forth as you grabbed for the extra pounds, trying to throw them in the cart like a spoiled child while I screamed and threw them back on the shelf like a frustrated parent.  What a scene we’ve made!  And the truth is, I feel like I need to apologize.

You see, I’ve seen the light.  I’ve finally seen, I mean really seen, all that you’ve been through and how I heaped guilt on you for not measuring up.  Oh my goodness, how wrong I’ve been.

You have housed and nurtured 7 precious babies for me.  They stretched you beyond reason, made you sick, wore you down and made you accommodate their growing needs without ever offering a single thank you.  You have done the work of a soldier, time and again, and then come back for more.

You’ve manufactured milk in abundance so I could nourish those sweet babes with that liquid gold.  And you’ve done it even when you were exhausted and depleted and wanted nothing more than a little rest.  Year after year for years you gave of yourself even though your outer beauty was slowly being chiseled away with all that giving.  Well, I’m here to tell you, you are beautiful.  You are and you need to know it.

And it isn’t because you look like a Barbie (stop laughing!) or because you’ve bounced right back after each blow.  I’ve seen you and I know that bounce started looking more and more like a splat as time went on.

No, it’s because you’ve sacrificed everything so I could have my arms and heart filled to overflowing with love.  You have given so I could receive.  You have borne my scorn with a smile and done your best not to betray.  YOU are the reason we’ve made it this long nursing a chocolate semi-addiction with any shred of dignity.

And you, my friend, have managed it so that my awesome, hard-working, loving man can look at worn out old you and still see me.  He sees right past your flaws and into my heart.

You have been the scapegoat for all my bad habits yet you keep trying.  You hold it together when you feel like falling apart and you jump on board when I decide it’s time to really get fit and healthy.

You’re a trooper and I’m going to try to be nicer to you.  I promise.  Because after all you’ve done for me, the least I can do is make things a little easier for you and stop holding you to such ridiculous and unattainable standards.  You will never again be the body of my pre-baby years but you know what?

I’d take all these babies over that body any day.  Absolutely any day.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart!

With peace and acceptance,

Your Taskmaster

 

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Tips for Training your Child Through the Tender Years

BLANKETTIME

 

In the space of six years I gave birth to five children.  My only hope for survival was to train those kids properly.  God, in His mercy, met me in my exhausted desperation and opened my eyes to the fact that getting a firm start was all part of His plan.  I didn’t wait till my kids were old enough to reason with, but conditioned them to respond appropriately even before they had a clue why it was the appropriate response.

The result was five energetic, but well-behaved, children who could sit respectfully through a church service or quietly through a restaurant meal.  They were happy, balanced and filled with the desire to please.

The reality is, we had our moments…and plenty of them.  But our “training” was done at home so that by the time we entered the public arena they knew what was expected of them.  The key element is consistency.  Do not expect behavior from your kids in public that you do not require of them in the home.  It will not happen, except by mistake.

Two years ago, we welcomed twin boys after 6 years without a new baby.  I suffered what I am now fondly calling parenting amnesia.  Somehow my parenting style turned more into “grandparenting” (this is not a reference to age…I am still firmly–and happily–in my 30s!) and my little boys took the helm before I even realized it.  They were training me.  That is NEVER a good idea.

It finally hit me that I had allowed myself to be conditioned to put up with poor behavior and outbursts of temper until I reached my limit…and then my tone of voice and body language would change indicating to my mini-terrorists that it was time to temporarily heed Mama in order to avoid combat.  I’m sure I don’t need to spell out for you how ineffective this was or how frustrating it became!

Thankfully, the Lord prompted my husband and I to seriously reconsider our approach.  And what we realized was that we needed to establish authority with a calm, level voice and an attitude devoid of anger.  Easier said than done, right?  Surprisingly, not really!  Dealing with little infractions as they arise trains a child to understand that stepping out of line isn’t acceptable, so they do it less and less.  And with fewer “fights” Mama isn’t so weary as she begins to see progress.

I wanted to touch on a few elements that may be helpful as you navigate the baby/toddler years…

  • Expect your child to obey.  Children tend to live up to our expectations of them.  If we send the silent message that we don’t believe them to be capable of obedience in a certain area, they will take that memo and run.  Why listen if Mom doesn’t even think you can?  Set boundaries and enforce them, fully expecting compliance.
  • Don’t let your little one fool you.  A baby of 6 months can and will exert a willful nature.  This isn’t cause for alarm but it’s important to accept it for what it is.  A little back that arches in protest and a fit of tears is testing out its powers.  At this point, you need to establish yours instead.  By simply holding the baby in place, you signal to the little one that they aren’t calling the shots.  It’s perfectly reasonable to set the baby down to wiggle or squirm on the floor if that is what it seems they are wanting…but only after they have calmed.  There is no punishment or discipline…the child is simply being conditioned to accept your will over their own before they even have the mental capacity to connect the dots.
  • Blanket Training.  This is one of my very favorite tools.  Grab a blanket and place it on the floor close to where you want to work.  (The first few times, however, do not expect to actually get any work done!)  Set your child on it with a few toys that you reserve just for this time.  Firmly tap each corner of the blanket and tell the child NO in the calm, even voice you are training yourself to speak with.  Depending on the age of the little one, they may or may not see your instruction as a challenge.  A littler one will wander off without intent while an older one may well attempt to purposely toe the line.  Be firm but gentle.  No matter the age, enforce the boundaries.  I just continually returned my children to the center of the blanket and reminded them of the toys there and then once again tapped the corners of the blanket while saying NO.  We started with my twins at less than a year and it was a good bit of work at first…but less so each time.  It is critical to end on obedience, not by waving the white flag after a few failed attempts.  Even if you have to set your child in the middle of the blanket and catch them obeying for just a second or two, end on a positive.  By between 12 and 18 months they could sit there for 15 or so minutes without incident and now (at 2) they are able to remain quiet for a much longer period.  I don’t abuse it, though.  Little people have a lot of wiggles and a true need to move.  I don’t want to untrain them from being healthfully active. {Note:  The photo at the top of this post is blanket training in action.  The blanket pictured, however, is smaller than what we typically use. *That one is a wall hanging that was lovingly made by a wonderful friend…and we need to get it back on the wall since our little guys love it and would drag it everywhere if we let them!*  We usually use one at least twice that size to give them a little room to move.}
  • Lap Training.  Some children love to cuddle while others just want to be free.  Either way, it’s important for little people to learn to sit on your lap when asked to.  And the church sanctuary isn’t the place to train them.  This is an area where I suffered that parenting amnesia I spoke of and we are just getting down to the business of truly training them.  Take your child and place him/her in your lap.  Rest your arms firmly but loosely around their little body.  Expect resistance and be prepared to stand firm.  The back may arch, the head may bang against your chest and the vocal chords may be exercised.  Do not give in.  Tighten your grip on them only enough to keep them in place without allowing them to wiggle out of the sitting position.  Stay calm and relaxed realizing they aren’t battling you, they are simply dealing with their own self-serving desires as we all do…they just haven’t the concern for public opinion that keeps older children and adults in reasonable check.  Be consistent with your training sessions and you will very quickly find your child sitting through family worship and then church.  And you will seldom have to do anything but offer a reminder once you have established your expectations.

I’m at about double the word count for an average post so I’m going to stop there and finish up tomorrow {Read that post here}.  There are a few more areas I wanted to touch briefly on.

If there are any specific questions you have, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will attempt to address them in that post.  And, as always, your insight, inspiration and tips are always welcome!

 

Read part two here.

 

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When push comes to shove…dare to love

1L

Every now and then I experience one of those moments.  The kind that squeezes my heart and steals my breath.  A transient moment, nearly impossible to capture in words.

It happened as I stood heart-in-throat captivated, watching them play.  Beat-up Tonka trucks and a pair of toddler-sized plastic ride-on cars flavored the moment boy.  With “motors” whirring and horns beep-beeping they lost themselves in the pure joy of being two.  In the joy of being together.

I watched as two heads bent close, one blond and one not, working to maneuver a truck onto the patio.  Coordination that hadn’t yet caught up with determination threatened to spoil everything.  Until it didn’t.

One yellow truck and two small boys landed on the patio, stunned.  And then they locked eyes and giggled that giggle that says everything words never could.  Seeing their mission as a complete success they went after yet another truck.  Because where one is the other must be also.

Time passed and I took it all in.  The laughter, the teamwork, the friendship, the bond that won’t be broken.  And then it happened.

Smack.  Squeal.  A torrent of tears.  Four little legs pumping furiously to reach Mama first.

I swallowed hard, opened both arms and grabbed my two sobbing boys.  Drying tears and giving kisses and reminding of how Jesus wants us to love, I encouraged them to hug it out.  And they did.

Giggles restored.  Friendship resumed.  All was right with the world.

1QL

Their play continued but now my mind wandered.  Was I making this thing harder than it needed to be?  Had I just experienced Conflict Resolution 101 only to discover it was all I needed to graduate with high honors?  What was all that other stuff…all those rules and guidelines?  Were they really necessary?

In that moment, for that moment, I saw clearly.  I saw past the muck and mire of distraction.  I saw beyond the throng of well-intentioned but misleading books and articles I had stuffed my brain with.  I tossed the index of mental notations I’d been keeping and dared to think with my heart.  What I saw was simplicity in its most raw and beautiful form.  Simply Jesus.

His finger burned a few basic rules onto the tablets of stone and then He broke them down so we, in all our thick-headed humanity, could grasp them.

 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

There you go.  How much simpler can it be?

1Q

We aren’t told to love the neighbor if they’re lovable.  Or if they’re dutiful.  Or if they’re beautiful.  We’re told to love them even if they aren’t.  Because they won’t be any more than we are.  Period.

But we can’t love them in their sinful, spiteful, sometimes hateful, ugly mess if we haven’t first given Him our own heart.  He has to fix it up and fill it up with the miracle that makes it possible.

Because they’ll be times we’ll cruise right along loving each other and giggling as we land on our backsides.  But they’ll also be times when we forget we’re a team and end up in a smack-down of the wills.  And those are the moments when we need to be reminded of how Jesus told us to love…

Hard and with a whole lot of grace!

1Q2

 

PS. Hugs are optional but highly recommended.

 

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The Fine Print of Motherhood {the stuff they don’t want you to know}

Motherhood is exhausting.  Add to it the guilt we heap on ourselves for all our shortcomings and you’ve got a combination that could lay any of us out flat for a week.  We hear all sorts of mantras like Live in the moment or Cherish these times while they are little or Time flies by so fast…don’t wish a minute of it gone.  Likely I’ll utter some of these same types of encouragement to young mothers when my brood has been raised and I’m looking back with nostalgia.  But right now, in this moment…I sort of want to scream or pull my hair over my complete and utter failure to drink it all in!

A friend and mother of three little girls recently asked me if I truly enjoyed be a mom.  Her question came just minutes after a few tears were shed as we talked through a stressful situation she’d been going through with one of her daughters.  I knew in my heart that she wasn’t looking for a pat answer and that I needed to be truly transparent without looking to put my best parenting foot forward.  I responded with an abbreviated form of this:

  • I don’t enjoy sleepless nights with a new baby (or two).
  • I’ve never conquered my distaste for cleaning vomit out of carpet.
  • Art supplies spread across the table still scream MESS rather than artistic brilliance in progress.
  • Alone time?  What’s that and where can I buy some?
  • I’m not at all good at smiling through those trying times when a child is testing the boundaries.
  • I don’t yet see the beauty in hand prints all over freshly cleaned windows.
  • I still cringe at times when a child wants to “help” with a project I’d rather handle myself.
  • I break out in hives when my girls ask if they can bake me something “special” all by themselves.
  • I dislike giving haircuts yet I find myself with an endless stream of “customers”.
  • I detest laundry.  There I said it.
  • I’m not great at mornings.  OK, seriously, I’m not even good at mornings.
  • I’m extremely visual.  Couch pillows being askew rattle my senses.   Couch pillows on the floor make me want to throw an adult sized tantrum.
  • Standing in the checkout with a baby who has decided to express himself leaves me faint, hot, red and wishing for the moment to be gone in spite of whatever rule of motherhood I’m breaking!
  • Still trying to figure out how my Kindle Fire became a family gift.
  • I admit to feeling strangely stalked when I sneak away for a 5 minute shower and they find me.
  • I do believe my children are collecting evidence as they eavesdrop on every conversation I have.  If the CIA knocks on my door it will confirm my suspicion that I live with informants.
  • Searching everywhere and then finding my boots in the closet of my 8 year old.  Yea, still getting used to that.
  • Needing new unmentionables and not being able to get them because the cost of putting food on the table has gone through the roof.  Feeling sexy in panties that have seen you through a twin pregnancy takes creativity and strategic perception.

The bottom line is I love my kids.  I love being their very own “Mama”.  I’m just not always clear on how I got nominated for the task when I suffer from mild OCD which magnifies my flaws as a mother.  I’m grateful for His grace that covers my lack and for His love which has been made plentiful in the hearts of my children.

I don’t enjoy every moment and I doubt I ever will.  There are times I want to run and circumstances that make me want to hide.  But ultimately, there is nowhere I  want to go more than I want to be right here.  This is my own little oasis of crazy and I know I’m going to miss it when the last child has grown and gone.

Until then, I’ll smile through the parts that send a thrill to my heart and I’ll continue giving the rest to the Lord to equip me for the job!

 

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Stand-out moments from 2012

I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.  When I’m upset, I cry.  When I’m angry, I cry.  When I’m happy, I laugh (and sometimes cry).  When I’m quiet, it usually just means I’m confused.

As I look back over the year that’s marching out, I run the full gamut of emotions.  So many things jump out at me, both good and not so good, and I thought I’d share a few…

  • In the midst of health struggles early in the year, I dragged my exhausted self to the bathroom for a shower.  Stepping into the hot spray, I was prepared to let the water work it’s magic.  Only something didn’t feel right.  I looked down to realize I was still fully clothed!  I cried.  But I laughed later.
  • Those months of weakened health opened my eyes to the fact that I couldn’t do it all.  Homeschooling five kids while tending to twins and working 25 hours a week–outside the home WITH the kids–just wasn’t working.  Something had to give, cause I had nothing left.  The Lord laid it on my husband’s heart to bring me back home.  I’m choosing to look at that illness as a means to an end…a very happy one!
  • I asked my daughter to bring me the cord for the laptop since the battery was about to die.  True to character, she hopped right into action to carry out my request.  But rather than unplugging it from the outlet where it had been left, she stretched it out as far as it would go and then told me–in her most serious voice–that it wouldn’t reach.  I laughed.  And it still makes me giggle as I picture her standing there, sorry the cord wasn’t long enough to span multiple rooms.
  • I learned quickly that having twins was not like having two children close in age.  These guys are connected in a way the others {all born within 6 years} never were.  When one cries, the other is stressed.  There is nothing more important in that moment than making it better…even if that means giving up a favorite truck!  When one laughs, the other joins in even if he has no idea why.  Fake baby laughs are almost as adorable as the ones that come from somewhere deep within.
  • When one daughter was found sleeping on top of her covers in her coat, she naturally was questioned as to why. But her response breathed new life into the word lazy when she answered, “Because it will be easier to make my bed in the morning if I sleep in my coat rather than under my covers.”.  If I remember correctly, I was pretty quiet after that one.  Honestly, I still don’t know what I should have said but I let her sleep in the silly coat.
  • The beach.  Everything about that amazing week is alive and well in the chronicles of my memory.
  • Getting healthy enough to be active again.  Shedding the weight and toning up did wonders for my energy level, as well as my attitude.
  • Runs with my oldest son.  We have talked about pretty much everything while running.  I know way more about football than I ever cared to, but I realized how quickly those walls come down when I show interest in what interests him.  And that boy kept me running when I wanted to fall on my face into the couch!
  • Seeing my third-born son with his baby brothers.  He’s the child that’s a little tougher to reach and the one at the center of most disagreements among siblings.  But this guy has fallen 100% in love with two tiny boys who could’ve been seen as just another threat to his world.  Instead, his propensity for love has grown along with his character.
  • Watching my endlessly imaginative child embrace his artistic side has been so much fun!  He’s really taken ownership of his natural gifts and is choosing to let God grow them.  I love that so many of his drawings/paintings carry a deeper message and that he is able to capture the essence of what is in his heart and get it on paper.
  • The many, many times my husband has walked through the door with flowers, chocolate or some other gift just because.  I’m never totally surprised because he does it so often, but it does always make me feel totally loved!
  • And while this video certainly does not represent one of my favorite moments from the past year, it does crack me up to hear the hysterical giggle of a baby.  This little clip, while gross, makes me laugh every time!  And no, I wasn’t the one who recorded it.  And if I wasn’t such a weakling, with the habit of laughing when I should be stern, grave punishments would have been meted out to the big brothers who let it happen.

Wishing you an amazing start to the New Year with an amazing God leading the way!!

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Baby signing and Early talkers

Teaching my babies signs has been a habit since about child # 3.  It just makes good sense to me.  Signing offers little people, too young to express themselves verbally, a way to let me know what’s on their mind.  And so around 6 months or so, I begin introducing the basics.  I don’t get anything in response until about 9 months, but by that time they know without thinking what each sign means.
Of course, this time I had twins and NOTHING has been as I’ve expected.  These little guys are systematically re-writing the parenting book as I knew it and it barely resembles the earlier editions.  
Both boys quickly picked up on the signs we taught them.  Both boys can sign simple requests and do it regularly.  But one little man has learned to talk far earlier than any of my other kids ever did.  He’s like a parrot as he runs around the house repeating just about everything he hears.
And so, naturally, when he throws his hands up at the end of a meal to sign “all done” he also clearly says the words in his raspy little voice.  Same with “more” and “eat”.  When I sign and say, “I love you!” his sweet mouth squeaks out the words, “I uvvv” but then giggles hysterically and never says “you”.
Cute, yes!  But it also kind of makes me wonder if it was really useful to spend more than 6 months introducing hand signals for words he learned to say as early as he learned to sign!
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