Don’t Forget the Baby!

All the controversy about Santa and Elf on a Shelf swirling around on the internet, Facebook and the blog world has been curiously interesting and disturbing to me.  I understand every family has their own beliefs and traditions – – that’s the beauty of living in a free country. And just for the record, my kids did believe in Santa (gasp!).  But what about the baby?  There would be no Christmas without the baby.

When I was a child, one of the ways my siblings and I got ready for Christmas was to make a Baby Jesus Blanket.  It was a weaving of construction paper strips with a space for each day from December 1 to December 25.  We would choose our own colors and fringe the edges and then tape them to our bedroom door.  Our mission was to put together a “blanket” of love to give to the baby Jesus on Christmas day.

Baby Jesus Blanket

We could earn a shiny star each day for doing something special for someone, helping out at home, showing a small (or big) kindness at school to a teacher or student – – basically acts of love for other people.  It helped us to remember that Jesus came out of love for us – – what better gift could we give Him than showing love, too?!

I continued this tradition with my kids when they were young, and I hope they will do the same someday with their families.  They were always excited to bring their blankets to the manger on Christmas Day and give Baby Jesus their gift.  I hope this tradition helped them to realize that the Baby Jesus was the most important part of Christmas.

For old times’ sake, I made a blanket for myself this year (pictured).  It’s helping me keep things in perspective.

Please . . . Don’t Forget the Baby!

 

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

I remember the first time we packed up our baby boys to visit our families for Thanksgiving.  Both sets of our parents lived in the same town about 30 minutes away.  We were confident that we could visit both houses in one day (ok, stop laughing).  The planning and packing actually started the day before and the diaper bag  was filled to overflowing:  diapers, wipes, toys, teething rings, baby food, sippy cups, bibs, TWO extra sets of clothes, bottles, burp diapers, pacifiers, blankets, pjs, etc., etc., etc.  That was just the diaper bag!  We also brought along both high chairs and a playpen.  Oh, and a jello mold and a pumpkin pie.

This all made its way into the trunk of a two-door 1985 Pontiac Grand Prix, thanks to the most amazing packing skills of my husband.  By the time we dressed ourselves and put both boys in their snowsuits and loaded their car seats, we had been getting ready for about 2 hours.  I realized their only nap would probably be in the car once we hit the tollway.  I was wearing out, and we hadn’t even left the house yet!  But, never fear!  The Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles were waiting with hugs and kisses and warm shoulders for my little guys to lay their heads on!  No one even minded getting drooled on!  Somehow, we pushed aside our exhaustion and made it to both houses, and the boys thrived on all the love and attention.  We knew the next day would be tricky getting them back on schedule, but it was totally worth it to see how much joy two little baby boys could bring to our families.  It was just so good to be together.  It doesn’t seem so long ago that we celebrated our first Thanksgiving as a family, but here we are already.  On Thanksgiving morning, the boys ran in a Turkey Trot fund-raiser (as they have for several years) to fight hunger – I’m a proud mama! No, I did not make them wear matching hats!  That was all them ;).

J J ThanksgivingNow that Thanksgiving is over, I want to hang on to a thankful spirit throughout the Christmas season.  The hustle and bustle seems to rush over me, and I just want to hold it off and bask in the Thanksgiving peacefulness a little longer. I am so thankful for all our family and friends who have walked along with us on this parenthood journey.  It’s easy to remember the good times, but it’s the challenging times that teach me the true lessons of motherhood and help me remember to be thankful for all the good I am blessed with in this life.  Join me in holding on to gratitude in the weeks to come!

I Made Ice Cubes!

Making ice cubes was my big accomplishment one day about 4 weeks after I delivered my twin boys.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but anyone who has ever taken care of two (or more) newborns can understand how even the smallest tasks can seem monumental when you are sleep deprived!

We were very fortunate to have lots of help from our family for the first few weeks.  But, eventually, everyone had to get back to their jobs – – especially Daddy whose family had doubled in size!  So, I was on my own when I realized we were out of ice cubes (gasp!).  It was June!  I was nursing and needed to drink a lot of fluids!  Who wants room temperature beverages when it’s 85 degrees?  So I added it to my to-do list for the day. My to-do lists for the last several months had all been baby related and because I spent two months on bed rest, they really weren’t even my to-do lists.  They were more like honey-do lists.  The things I used to do BB (before babies), including making ice cubes, were starting to come back to me.  I was finding a new rhythm to my days.

By the time Joe came home from work (my favorite hour of the day for many years!), I had two relatively happy, fed, clean, diapered and dressed little boys and fresh ice cubes.  Nevermind that I was still in my pjs, hadn’t washed a single dish or done a load of laundry all day.  “I made ice cubes today!” I proudly announced.  Thankfully, Joe knew to respond with enthusiasm and great appreciation.  Somehow, we still seem to run out of ice cubes (no automatic ice-cube maker in this 22-year old fridge!) and the kids will actually argue over who is going to make them.  “Not to worry,” I say!  “I know the recipe by heart!”  (Can you hear their eyes rolling?)

Being 100% responsible for two tiny babies can be overwhelming even for the most organized, disciplined person.  I learned to take one day at a time – – sometimes one hour at a time – – sometimes one ice-cube tray at a time.

 

Books Help

Bookshelf  You may think you will never have time to read again, but I’m here to tell you, “Don’t give up!” When my boys started napping regularly (yes, it will eventually happen!), I would grab a book and try to read a little on most days – even if it was only 15 or 20 minutes! I might have even popped some popcorn for a “healthy” snack. Who am I kidding — nap time is chocolate time!  Sometimes it was a childcare book, but most often it was an entertaining or inspirational story – a little escape from reality and sometimes even more energizing than sleep.  Don’t be afraid to give yourself permission to curl up for a few minutes with a book or something else you like to do.  If you end up falling asleep, that’s ok — time for you to rest and relax is important, too!  Believe me, your babies will not notice if the dusting or vacuuming has been done.  My boys are almost 21 and they STILL don’t notice if the dusting or vacuuming has been done – just sayin’.

I believe continuous learning is a great thing!
Below are some of my favorites with links if you want to learn more:

Andy Andrews:
The Traveler’s Gift – Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success
The Noticer – Thought provoking and inspirational!

Vicki & Tom Dau:
The Marriage Alphabet –  Click HERE for your free e-book! OR purchase a copy HERE as a gift for an engaged or married couple. Contains basic truths that we need to be reminded of often to be successful in marriage and all relationships. 
Out of the River (by Vicki Dau) – A Parable of Empowerment, Freedom and Truth

Matthew Kelly:
The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic – Click HERE to get your free copy.
Let God take your spiritual life to the next level or help reinvigorate your parish

Jan Karon:
The Mitford Series
 – Sweet, heart-warming, real-life stories about an unlikely family

Joyce Meyer:
Trusting God Day by Day – Short reflections are a perfect way to start your day

Erica Bauermeister:
The School of Essential Ingredients – A delicious slice of life that you will enjoy from beginning to end

Paul Coutinho, SJ:
How Big Is Your God?
Just as You Are
Will challenge you to grow stronger and deeper in your faith and in your relationship with God—a God whose love knows no bounds.

Connie and Alan Higley:  
Reference Guide for Essential Oils – Packed full of valuable information, this guide includes individual sections for the following: Science & Application, Single Oils, Oil Blends, Personal Care Products, Supplements, and a Personal Guide which is alphabetized by health condition.  I use this book almost every day! Click HERE to learn more.

Richard Paul Evans:
The Walk (Part 1)
Miles to Go – The Walk (Part 2)
The Road to Grace – The Walk (Part 3)
A Step of Faith – The Walk (Part 4)
The Walk (Part 5 – Coming Soon)
An unforgettable series about hope, healing, and the meaning of life.
The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me (for Women) – worth reading at least once for the financial health of your family.

Janet Evanovich:
Stephanie Plum Series
 – May make you laugh out loud – I don’t advise reading these in bed while hubby is sleeping.

Earlene Fowler– Great mysteries with a touch of quilting and ranch life

Mary Lou Quinlan:
The God Box – a new way to give your concerns to God

Dorothea Benton Frank:
Shem Creek
Isle of Palms
Porch Lights
The Land of Mango Sunsets
Stories about women from all walks of life and how their experiences make them stronger

Sara Gruen:
Water for Elephants – My favorite ending to a story ever!

Lorna Landvik:
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons – Do you know of ANY housewives that actually eat bon bons?

Anita Diamant:
The Red Tent – a biblical, fictional story of traditions and turmoil of ancient womanhood, told in the voice of Dinah, daughter of Jacob.

Dr. Kevin Leman:
Have a New Kid by Friday
Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours
A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids About Sex
Adolescence Isn’t Terminal

Mike Linderman:
The Teen Whisperer (I know it’s hard to imagine, but, yes, your babies will be teenagers some day!)

Emilie Richards:
Wedding Ring
Endless Chain

J. K. Rowling:
Harry Potter series (I started reading these because my boys were and I was hooked – I would actually sneak their books while they were sleeping and of course I stayed up way too late!)

Kathryn Stockett:
The Help – I liked the movie, but the book was even better!

Ron Hall & Denver Moore w/Lynn Vincent:
Same Kind of Different As Me – An incredible and memorable story

Jeannette Walls:
The Glass Castle
Half-Broke Horses
The Silver Star
Inspirational stories about overcoming hardships and abuse and learning to thrive

Susan Wiggs:
Her women’s fiction is real and true – she captures stories of the heart.

Larry Winget:
Your Kids Are Your Own Fault – Parenting is a tough job, and it’s easy to get discouraged.  Be persistent and check out these guidelines to help you raise your children to become responsible, independent, successful, generous adults.

Jacqueline Winspear:
Maisie Dobbs, A Novel
If you like mysteries, check this series out!

Dr. James Dobson:
The Strong-Willed Child – Almost every family has at least one – hang in there!

My Love/Hate Relationship with Halloween

First Halloween 001

When my boys were born, I thought I would love Halloween.  Of course, their First Halloween they were only 5 months old, so we settled for cute pumpkin bootees and took a pass on the Trick-or-Treating.  The following year I started sewing costumes in early September – – I even looked for something that they could wear coats underneath if necessary.  So I happily sewed away and was ready for Halloween a month ahead of time!  (May I just add here that being ready for anything a month early has never happened again and probably never will!)

The big day came with a sketchy forecast (the Halloween forecast is always iffy in the Midwest), but I was determined this was going to be a FUN day.  What I hadn’t fully learned yet was that toddlers like their routine.  So our 30 minute drive to visit Granny & Grampy after dinner was out of the ordinary, and their little eyes kept looking at us with the expression of “What’s going on here?”   “This is FUN!” I assured them.  Granny believed in only the best for her little angels, so their treat was Fannie May chocolates.  (Now, we all know who ate most of that chocolate!)  I wonder if my mother-in-law knew how much I would appreciate it, too.  I wish she were still here, so I could ask her. 

On our way home, it started to rain and we were going to scrap the Trick-or-Treating in the neighborhood.  But, WAIT!  I didn’t spend all that time making adorable matching costumes for no one to see!  We agreed to visit just a few neighbors, each of us holding a winter-coated, costumed, pumpkin-toting boy.  My husband also got to wrestle with a golf umbrella – bless his heart.  The temperature was dropping, but we assured ourselves this was what good parents should do.  After a few minutes wet snowflakes began to fall and the wind picked up – – it was so ridiculous it was funny!  Our last stop was the neighbors next door who invited us to come inside out of the cold, so they could see the kids’ costumes (finally, some recognition for my hard work!).  We took a few pictures with their kids, and as we stepped back outside we saw our umbrella blowing and bouncing down the street  – – it was time to go home!

I don’t know who was more exhausted that night – the boys or us.  Thank goodness Halloween is only one day.  Little did I realize how the pending holiday season would mess with our routine – – good thing I was oblivious — If I had thought too hard about it, I may have just eaten all that Fannie May chocolate in one sitting!!

“Accept”

I was noticing a very pregnant woman at church recently, and I had a flashback.  I was about 7 months pregnant and feeling very cumbersome – – it was difficult to get comfortable anywhere I went, especially if there were no pillows. (Pillows are a pregnant woman’s best friends!) I had actually made it through the mass without having to go to the bathroom, and we were standing for the final blessing.  Usually, the priest or deacon will say, “Bow your heads and receive God’s blessing.”  But for some reason on this particular Sunday the priest said, “Bow your heads and accept God’s blessing.”  When my head was bowed, I was looking at my very large belly and the word “ACCEPT” really resonated with me.  These babies were truly a blessing from God.  I had only planned on one child at a time, but God had other ideas for our family.  He certainly knew how to get my attention!  I was apprehensive about becoming a mother to two babies at once, and this was only the beginning of my journey of learning to trust God.  It’s something I’m still working on today and probably will be for the rest of my life.

accept

     This makes me wonder how many blessings God has given me that I have not accepted or even been aware of.   I’m the kind of person that tries to do things on my own first.  The tape that plays in my head says, “I can handle this!”  So asking for help does not come naturally to me (and I suspect it’s the same for many women and men, too).  But I have come to realize that asking God for help eases the burdens we moms sometimes carry.  Our blessings don’t always come neatly wrapped and are not always as obvious as a new baby (or two!).  In hindsight, I see many blessings in disguise throughout my life, and I am more watchful now than I used to be.  What are your blessings?

Shock and Awe

UltrasoundYou’ve heard the expression “shock and awe,” right?  Well, that is what I was feeling for several days after learning I was carrying twins.  Shock because I had never considered twins a possibility and awe that we were gifted with two babies.  This definitely changed our plan and I began to understand that I wasn’t in control after all.  Also, an unexpected feeling of guilt crept in – I had only been loving one baby, not two.  I know, it sounds silly, but I felt it just the same.  How quickly “mother’s guilt” reared its head! 

As we told more people our happy news, the reality of “two” set in.  It was exciting and terrifying at the same time!  Thankfully, we had made the decision for me to stay at home with children early in our marriage.  We were committed to that and had been working towards that.  I realize that to be home by choice is not a possibility for everyone, but it felt right to me.  Still, it was intimidating to think that I would be completely responsible for two babies right from the start!  It’s a good thing pregnancy takes nine months – I needed that time to mentally prepare for motherhood!  I had always wanted to be a mom, and I was fortunate to babysit for lots of great kids (and even a set of twins) growing up.  But this was the real deal – no going home after a few hours with cash in my pocket.  This would be my full-time job!