Posts filed under Motherhood

#RealLife: Cheerios.

RealLife Cheerios

Right now I'm sitting in a pile of cheerios. No really. I am. I was going to clean them up but then I decided to blog instead. It's like college when I was going to write my paper but instead I ate cereal and watched entire seasons of Friends. It's procrastination at its finest, mommy blogger style. I learned this new trick of the trade from my friend Sarah. Brilliant. 

Yall. This morning was chaos.

Utter chaos.

I'm not sure what happened to my children or my dog. But I blinked and an atomic bomb went off in my house. I woke up to a clean house, but now... after rounds of picking up I'm still not quite sure what happened. 

So I started taking pictures of it to make a flipagram... because I wanted to remember this. The hilarity of it all. And I was going to post it on Instagram... bc that's what i do when technically I don't have time to blog but I want to capture something before it's lost in the abyss, aka the thousands of pics/videos stored on my phone that I never see again. But then I started writing a caption... and it was forever long. And at that point I was like... what the heck... leave the cheerios on the floor, leave the toys, put some saved Jen Hatmaker HGTV episodes in the background for some inspiration to eventually clean (one day... not today), and blog on. So here I am. 

And here's my flipagram of the morning. 

I mean. Noel picking her nose. I told her to smile... and she picked her nose. Meanwhile Felicity was literally climbing our banister. You just can't make that stuff up. And although it's hard to believe, our house was 100x's messier before round 1 & 2 of clean up.

Crazy town. 

And I wanted to capture this #reallife post because... let's all be real here, our lives aren't nearly as put together as we'd like for them to be. They aren't nearly as pretty as our instagram feeds. And there is NOTHING wrong with capturing the good. I love looking back through all our photos and remembering those great memories that are highlighted and preserved via social media. But I also think, for me, it can be really healthy to show the mess. The clutter. The child picking their nose. I need to be reminded that although it can be a real pain at times... real life and all of the chaos that comes with it can also be a joy. And MOTHERHOOD has been the greatest example of that for me.

When I was pregnant I really thought my daily schedule would look differently. I thought would calmly teach my well behaved & good natured children life skills while playing fun learning games and singing songs about Jesus. My children would not even want to watch the television. I'd have a pinterest inspired learning station instead of a play room, and my kids' favorite food would be a tie between spinach and kale! Bless my poor ignorant pre-kids heart.

Yall. I'm not saying we don't try those things from time to time (except the kale. Um no. Just never). We do try to teach them life skills. We do sing them songs about Jesus and we play fun learning games. And while that is a lot of what motherhood is, it is also spilled cheerios, having your clean house wrecked in .2345234 seconds, wiping tears, and kissing boo boos. It's telling them no AND telling them YES! It's splitting up fights and finding your kids in the weirdest places (like on top of our buffet?). It's joy in the chaos and being crazy in the calm. It's doing everyday life with little sinners, and them doing it with bigger ones. 

It's REAL life.

And when I look back on all the fun "picture perfect" moments, I also want to see a shot of spilled cheerios here and there... bc I have a feeling that one day, when my house is in order and there's no little people running around... I'm going to miss my floor being covered in chaos. 

Much love,

Posted on December 10, 2014 and filed under Motherhood, Ordinary Life, Things I love---, Twinsies.

Letters to My Girls: Do Not Retreat.

My Girls,

You are too little to realize it yet, but this world is broken.  Very broken. It is not how God originally designed it to be. And one day, when this realization becomes true to you – I pray that I can be there to hold your hand, wipe your tears, and be a sounding board for your thoughts and questions. For now though, all I can do is pray for you and this future moment.

This week a lot has gone wrong in the world. Men, women, and children in Iraq are being murdered for their faith. An unarmed boy was shot by police & left in the street for four hours in St. Louis. There is an Ebola outbreak – and selfish people in our country are way too concerned with their well-being that they say stupid things on national television or the internet. A well-known pastor has fallen from good-graces with our denomination.  We have friends who have lost babies. We’ve seen sons and daughters bury parents & siblings. People are being diagnosed with cancer. And all over my facebook feed I see people hurting from illness and loss.

It’s enough to make you want to curl up inside your home and retreat. But little ones, when the moment comes when you fully understand the frailty of humanity, retreat you must not.

Throughout the Old Testament we are pointed to a God who cares about justice. He cares about the orphan, the widow,  & the sojourner. Over and over in Scripture we are told to seek justice and to treat the widow and fatherless well. And if for a second you doubt God’s care for the poor here are just a few verses that speak of His unfailing love:

“Father of the Fatherless and Protector of widows is God in His holy habitation” Psalm 68:5

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”   James 1:27

“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn…” Exodus 22: 22-23

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute” Psalm 82:3

“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah 22:3

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

These are just a few, but Scripture is packed full of a stories and verses that point back to a God who doesn’t just care for the poor and oppressed, but comes to their defense. That is, after all, our story too.  We have been adopted into God’s family. We were once sojourners, but now we have been given an eternal Father, a magnificent Savior, and the Holy Spirit to guide us in this life.  We were outsiders, who have been taken in. This is our story; it is our song. And just as it is life giving, it is life changing. And when dark days come, and come they will, I want you to fight the urge to retreat. Instead I want you to remember your song, and push into the one who will make all things new.

In moments when you want to retreat or feel paralyzed, I want you to pray hard little ones. When you wake in the dark night overwhelmed with grief, I want you to remember these verses and remember that the God you serve neither slumbers nor sleeps & He loves His children with reckless abandon.

Where you see injustice, I want you to be God’s hands and feet and take comfort in knowing that YOU can be a picture of God’s redemptive story to this broken world. I know that at moments, you might feel paralyzed by all that’s going on around you. I know on weeks like this one… I surely do. But then after I catch my breath and realize that the “saving” is not up to me, I look around and ask God where I can do my part.

I’ll be honest with you. This is one of the many reasons why we’re adopting. We see the brokenness that has invaded our culture regarding “unwanted” children & we feel God’s hand compelling us towards action.  (Clarification: We know that most birth moms very much so WANT their children, the “unwanted” was referring to our culture’s push towards abortion, not birth mom’s lack of wanting!). We want our family to be a conduit of grace in our society. We believe that ALL children are a blessing and have equal and great worth in the eyes of our Lord. And we know that we can love you and the other children that God brings into our home, because He first loved us. And through any hardship, He is greater my little ones.

Where we see a racial divide, Jesus is Greater and He is better than our comfort zones. Where we see a financial divide, Jesus is Greater and all things are His and so we give and receive generously to/from one another. Where we see hunger, and pain, and loss, and hurt, again, may Jesus is Greater be your anthem. But may it not only be your anthem in word, but your war cry in deed.

He is not a God who retreats. He is not a God who quits. He is strong. He is mighty. He is GOOD. And He has fought for you and will one day make all things new. 

Because of this, you can be brave and trust Him. Evaluate your giftings, your stage of life, what you are capable of, and then fight back. If you’re a writer, I want you to write. If you’re a teacher, teach truth passionately. If you’re a mother, I want you to LOVE selflessly. If you’re a business woman, work hard and give generously.  If you’re an engineer, create better ways of life for others. If you’re a missionary, never, ever, give up.

This week my mama’s heart initially prayed for your safety and for your comfort in days to come, but I know that those prayers are selfish. And that God did not give you to me so I could teach you to love comfort. Instead, during your little years I’m training my heart to pray for more than that. So tonight, as I go to sleep… I’m praying that you will abandon modern comforts with reckless abandon and run to what God bends your heart towards. I'm praying for courage to stand for truth, for tenderness to God’s call, for your spirit to be kind, for your hearts to be discerning, minds to be quick to learn, and your feet would be quick to go. Oh my little ones, one day when you’re older I pray that on weeks like these you will be strong & courageous, deeply rooted in the faith. May you walk into the trenches to hold hands with those who are hurting. May you open your home, your hearts, and your wallets to those who are truly in need.  May you love deeply and without prejudice. And may you live anything, but a comfortable, boring, self-absorbed life. 

Do not retreat.

Much love,

Your mama

5 Tips on Flying with Kids Under 2

Well folks - we made it! The girls and I just finished our 4th roundtrip flight in time for their 2nd birthday! And since then I've gotten a few fb messages/emails asking for some tips on flying with small kids. Soooooooo, I figured I'd consolidate those emails into one blog post. I am by NO MEANS an expert on this... but we've managed to make a lot of mistakes and learn our way around airports so I figured I'd share the wealth. 

I'm going to try to organize this, but there are a lot of variables. You could, like me have twins, or you could just have one baby! So I want to specify some things for my twin mamas out there. Also, age plays a huge factor & whether you're flying alone or with help. My flights with my 4 month old twins and my flights with my almost 2 year olds looked completely different. So I'll try to specify some age appropriate tools too!

Without further adieu... 7 tips to flying with young kiddos. 

1. Perspective is EVERYTHING. Y'all, can we just get this out there... Flying with kids under two is W.O.R.K. But, it can also be a fun adventure! Sometimes our expectations can completely skew our actual experience, so I think it's really helpful to walk into a travel day with healthy expectations. Expect that there will be stressful moments, but you can and will get through them. Expect that your child/children will indeed act like CHILDREN. You know your child - try to anticipate & buffer stressful situations for them.  But even when those situations happen, be a beacon of grace, because let's be honest... our airports could use a few more gracious people... Can I get an amen?

Also, try to enjoy it. I promise... it really can be a fun adventure (even the yucky parts)! Is the day going to have it's low moments? YES. Is the day going to have some fun moments? YES! Are you going to need to be well prepared? YES. Is it going to be an adventure? Absolutely. Does it matter what strangers think of your parenting skills? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Kids sense our mood and our anxiety, so the calmer we can be for our kids... the better. Keep your cool and make up your mind that YOU CAN DO THIS & it's going to be a GREAT experience at best and at the worst well... after delays, lots of crying, spit up and poop... you'll eventually get there safe & mildly sound.  So it's still a WIN.

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2. Pack Lightly. LESS IS BEST. Moms of Twins out there... I'M TALKING TO YOU. It sounds crazy, but yes... pack lightly. I recommend 1 carry on bag per adult. Which means... yes, if you're traveling by yourself, I recommend carrying on only one bag EVEN IF YOU HAVE 2 KIDS. Not one bag and a purse... JUST ONE HUGE BAG.  Hear me out, you don't have the arms to juggle children and multiple bags. Just get a really large bag and stick to it (I used this massive bag by Stella & Dot and it was AWESOME). You'll thank me when going through security or when you're trying to get your kids situated on the plane and are sweating like a banshee trying figure out which bag to put above you and which items you need out of both bags to keep with you and the person behind you is sighing loudly and you're holding up the entire plane. (Learn from my mistakes people...). 

Now to the issue of getting checked in and getting your bags checked. If you are checking more than 1 bag and are flying solo... ASK FOR HELP. Ask a friend or family member to help you get to the airport and get your bags checked in. I'm SURE there is someone who is dying to help you out. We Americans tend to be too prideful and don't want anyone to help us out - I HEAR YOU. A little piece of me dies every time I ask someone for help... but that piece that is dying... that's self-centered pride y'all. And that's a good thing. Let someone into your life and allow them the opportunity of lending a helping hand. 

Now for the good stuff. The packing list for your carry on: 

  • Important documents (Id, money, birth certificates)

  • Bring a baby carrier. I preferred wearing my babies rather than pushing them when they were small. I used the Moby Wrap like it was my job & didn't bring a stroller until the girls out grew carriers and I flew by myself with them. 

  • 1 empty juice cup or bottle per child if they're done nursing.

  • If you're nursing, bring your nursing cover & minimal supplies. If you're pumping... God bless you.  It's not ideal to pump in an airport bathroom or on a plane, but twin mamas, you'll probably be doing that if you're nursing and have a longer flight. This might be the only exception I would make to bringing two bags if you're by yourself. Bring a small bag with all pump supplies, etc. 

  • Enough diapers for your travel time & then some extra (in case of layovers/delays), wipes, other changing essentials, etc. If you use cloth diapers, you might want to use disposables for the day. I've done both - and disposables are easiest. I've also just carried two of these around to fill with dirty cloth diapers... and honestly, it's doable for a shorter flight, but I wouldn't if I was going on a longer flight. 

  • 2 change of clothes per child (also pick comfy clothes that are easy to pack & easy to diaper change in)

  • A small freshen up bag for you (mascara, mini toothbrush, deodorant, chapstick, tylenol) - don't forget about you! And seriously don't forget the deodorant... the amount of sweating you will do while wrestling your kids.... WHEW. Just bring it. 

  • A few age appropriate distraction toys/items: stickers, a book, coloring book, a loved stuffed animal, pacis, blankets, iPad, etc. Again - less is best. Don't overpack. Just assess the length of your trip & your child's age & attention span and adjust accordingly. 

  • Any medications needed for you and your kids in an extra little bag.

  • 2 extra ziploc bags (good for dirty diapers, dirty clothes, etc.). Not a necessity, but helpful & they don't take up space. 

  • Snacks. I'll hit on that later, but leave room for some food.  

3. Feeding your baby/babies. Alright. Here's where we're gonna get age appropriate. When the girls were little, we brought milk with us and fed them. You can bring breast milk & formula on flights. Here is a helpful resource on that. Be sure to notify TSA before going through screening that you have milk. They are usually very gracious and helpful to folks with little ones. We made sure we brought enough for meal times AND for take off and landing. You can bring a mini cooler (like an insulated lunch bag) to store it. I brought some frozen milk and some thawed so we would have some fresh. Also, don't be afraid to ask a starbucks or a sandwich shop for cups of hot water to warm bottles in. I've done that many times and purchased a bottle of water for myself (nursing mamas gotta stay hydrated!) and everyone was SUPER gracious. When the twins were little, I never flew alone because you can only have 1 lap child. So, I kept all milk supplies and pump in one back pack and then the packing list above in another bag carried by either Ben or a grandparent. 

Everyone is different, but for me it was more difficult to breast feed the twins in public because I fed them at the same time and we took up a lot of space. Double breastfeeding just isn't ideal in public settings especially not airplanes. SO, we gave them bottles - which is what I recommend for twin mamas - and then I pumped in bathrooms, cars, etc. You do what works best for you - a lot of my friends with 1 baby like to nurse them during take off and landing, and I think if I had only 1 that's the route I'd go as well so I wouldn't have to worry about pumping. 

Once the girls were older & off the boobs, we brought empty bottles/juice cups so we could avoid the hold up at security and then bought juice/milk/water near the gate. 

Also, once they were on solid foods we brought a stash of their favorite snacks AND a few special snacks that I knew they'd LOVE. The girls LOVE COOKIES. like... They're obsessed... so I made some chocolate chip cookies the night before and broke them out for crucial situations. If you bring a few novelty items like suckers, cookies, their favorite fruit or snack, it's a great distraction tool! The same can be said for a toy or ipad game. We don't let our girls play on ipads all day, but when we travel we will break an ipad or iphone out and have a few games/shows on it that they LOVE. It's about survival people - all you anti-technology folks can skip that part and just substitute it with their favorite book. ;) 

4. Be aware of potential stressful "hot spots" during travel & develop a plan. There were 3 points of stress for me. Security, boarding, and getting the girls & all of our crap out of the plane. Again, here was my overall plan: Don't rush. Take your time. Stay calm. Look for helpful people. Plan for it to be a little chaotic, but try to be as thorough & systematic as possible. I promise, in the end, it will all be fine. 

When you're planning out your trip. Think ahead of some of the "spots" that could stress you out  (it's different for everyone) & then develop a basic game plan. Know that in a split second that plan can go to pot and you'll have to be FLEXIBLE, but if some of your main parts of your plan are "Don't rush, Stay calm, Be organized, & Press On" you'll be fine. 

If you're a twin mama traveling solo with toddlers, here is my advice to you. Purchase these back pack harnesses. I know... I know... Sounds HORRIBLE. I used to mock people with kids on leashes. And I'm not gonna lie, I overheard some people say "Are those girls on leashes?" YES. YES, THEY ARE & YES, THOSE ARE ALSO SWEAT STAINS COMING FROM MY SHIRT BUT MOVE ON PEOPLE... THIS ISN'T A FREAK SHOW (or maybe it is). But when you are outnumbered and are keeping track of a stroller, a HUGE bag, all sorts of other random junk AND TWIN TODDLERS... these will be life savers. Just go buy them. You'll thank me later.

5. Forget what other people think of you. Listen closely and repeat after me: It doesn't matter what they think. Say it again. Now Say it louder. SCREAM IT. When you get stared at by the 40 year old business man, I want you to repeat that to yourself in your head. When the flight attendant gives you a dirty look or makes a comment under their breath about kids, twins, babies, etc. I want you to say it again. When the other mom with kids makes it look easy... I want you to say it again. 

Most people will be kind and gracious, but there will be a few who aren't. And how quick are we to notice the few and let them haunt us? Mama, you are doing your best & that's all that matters. Children are a blessing, not an inconvenience - and no matter how much our society defies that truth we must fight back and fight back with joy. So when you look around and feel judging eyes for traveling with your children, I want you to hold your head up high & scream loudly at yourself (preferably in your head) It does not matter what they think! I am a mama and it is an honor and privilege that I get to raise these children and travel with them today. And then press on. Have fun. And keep on doing what you gotta do to get your family from one place to the next. 

Now... Some specific suggestions for the outnumbered mama. Alright mama. You're by yourself with two children. I've not done it with two kids with differing ages under 2, only with 2 kids the same age. So I'm sure I'm lacking something. But for the mama with twins, I don't recommend flying solo until one child can walk. Sometimes life happens and you do what you gotta do. But if you can wait or have someone fly with you (after all you can only have one lap child so you're paying for 2 seats anyways), DO IT. Once at least one of your babies is walking, I think you're in the clear to fly solo & it's a fun adventure so you should try it! Here are my tips especially for you. 

  • Keep them in the stroller as long as possible. I know it's counter intuitive, but if you can keep your babies contained... do it. If they absolutely hate the stroller, this might not be an option for you. But in my experience, the longer you can keep them contained the better. Again, I recommend one of these children's harnesses  (monkey buddyback pack) for those situations. 
  • Keep them moving. I have busy children who don't like to sit still, so if you end up with a lot of free time before boarding, I don't recommend straight chilling by the gate. Take a walk with them, keep pushing them in the stroller, find out if your airport has a great children's play area (The Nashville airport does FYI). 
  • If you have a stroller (which I recommend with two), make sure you get a tag at your gate for it to be put underneath the plane. Do this FIRST when you arrive at your gate. 
  • Change diapers RIGHT before boarding. Give yourself enough time to change diapers beforehand. Because changing diapers in a crammed little airplane bathroom with two kids by yourself is less than ideal... it's practically impossible. Also, feel free to go into a family bathroom at the airport and spread out. It's nice to have a confined space. 
  • Again, you will have to push the stroller up to the plane entrance, so this part can be the tricky with 2 little ones. I'll admit... I was a little afraid about one of the girls running off & falling in between the space of the plane and walkway while I was getting the other one out (paranoid anyone?). So that's the main reason I got the children's harnesses - BUT it wasn't as bad as I thought (Read: I was being completely paranoid and ridiculous). I already had the girls harnesses on them & just held onto them with one hand while I broke down the stroller. Whether you decide to harness or not - you'll need to have a plan because you will have to break down your stroller for the crew so you won't be able to hold your kids while doing so (unless you're super woman and have an extra set of hands the rest of us are lacking). 
  • Toddlers are crazy. The likelihood of them sitting still and quietly on the plane is slim to none. If yours do that... recognize that you have miracle babies and stop judging the rest of our rowdy kids. Just prepare yourself to stay busy and keep them entertained. Feel free to sing them songs, play games, and make a little noise. Kids will be kids. The plane is super loud and covers up a lot. Don't stress about noise too much. And after all, flying is a form of PUBLIC transportation, not private.  

I think the main thing for ALL of us to remember is... Grace upon Grace upon Grace. Grace for yourself. Grace for your kid/s. And Grace for those around you who might not be as understanding. Carry on mama. You are strong. You are smart. You can do this... And it's going to be fun!

Any other tips from you other well-traveled mamas? 

Much love,