The Girl Who Saves Me

Isla Rae.

My precious girl just turned four on Monday.

I look at pictures from just one year ago, and I am beside myself.  I can’t believe how the baby face has melted away and a little lady is emerging.


The gap between her two front teeth that once was so prominent, has closed so gradually, that I feel like I never even noticed it waving goodbye.  Her blonde locks have taken off, cascading down her little back, catching up quickly to her big sister’s.  I can’t believe she’s four.isla95



Four years ago, I endured the most painful delivery of all my four.  She took her sweet time making an arrival, so I decided to speed her along.  I found out the disastrous way that Pitocin and “natural birth” don’t mix.  Alongside wishing I had wisely avoided the incredible added pain, I have always felt as though I hijacked her birthday and have regretted rushing her every day since.

Isla2That’s Isla, though.  Teaching me patience and keeping me in check.  Since before Day 1, she’s been my chisel-child.  The one who is shaping me continuously.  

Be more patient, Mama.  Trust me, Mama.  I’m good, Mama.  I can do this on my own.  

I’ll dress myself, Mama.  I don’t need your help, Mama…

She’s this little, independent, mysterious soul, and I am her constant observer.

She’s been fierce from the start.  I wrote about our challenges when I was pregnant with her – the hemorrhage that loomed over her little body like a rain cloud.  It didn’t bother her, though.  She’s not easily affected by outside circumstances.  She’s steady and stable.  Fetus, infant, toddler, child…it didn’t matter…she’s always been my calm, cool, and collected child.  I admire those attributes in her, and I have this feeling that they will still describe her well as a young woman one day.


But what sets Isla apart the most for me as her mama, and what I think of everytime I think of her birth, her existence…she saved me.  She saves me.


After we lost EJ, Isla saved me and my mama-heart.  I fought hard for her.  Fought the darkness that invaded my soul.  Fought the raincloud that loomed over her and the fear that came with it.  Fought the 41st week of pregnancy, the intense summer heat, the ankles that were the size of He-Man’s thighs, and the Pitocin.  Fought and fought and fought and won.  We won.  She saved me and we won.  I won the greatest gift when God gave me Isla. I was already the blessed mother of Ava and EJ, but with Isla came the gift of hope.  She’s my “Sunshine”, my “Bright and Shining One”.


All of my babies are so amazing and breath-taking in their own unique ways.  This is Isla’s specialty.  She saves her mama.  On days that I want to yell and throw my own tantrums, she speaks to me in her adult tones, and she may as well be holding up a mirror, because instantly, she saves me from my ridiculousness.

I look at her and I get lost in her dark eyes.  They pierce my soul, reminding me of the depth of God and His goodness, and she saves me yet again from any petty distractions I’m facing.


She climbs up next to me while I am “working” and adds her two cents to my vlogs and asks me about what I am working on, and she saves me from any loneliness that has crept into my morning as a SAH/WAHM.  In a silly kind of way, she’s like my little co-worker at times.


She randomly (and frequently) talks about Baby EJ.  It completely confounds us.  It’s as if she somehow knows that she is EJ’s womb-buddy.  They were conceived just three months apart.  Although I’ve written about EJ as a daughter, she is convinced EJ is her brother and she talks about “him” as though he is a very real part of her daily life.  It amazes me.  When she talks about EJ, she saves me from any heartache, because I am instantly reminded of this beautiful family that God is allowing me to build during my time here.

I’m humbled daily – by a four year old.

I’m changed daily – by a four year old.

I’m moved daily – by a four year old.

I’m challenged daily – by a four year old.

I am so thankful for our sweet Isla Rae.  She’s beautiful through and through.  She’s our little painter and chocoholic.  She can house a dozen donuts or chocolate chip pancakes in a single sitting.  She is all muscle, though.  Even when she was a baby, she was a teeny little muscle.  She can stand on the knuckles of her feet in an amazing and totally unnatural way.  lol


She can sass with the best of them and she loves being in the kitchen.  She’s got the most beautiful hands and nails I have ever seen.  No joke.  She’s a Rockstar and one tough cookie.  Dental work…doctor appointments…ER visits…she doesn’t even whimper.  She loves her sisters so deeply.  I can count on her to always be caring for someone.  All day, every day…she’s taking care of her sisters.


She will ask me if I like her outfit, hairdo, shoes, because she’s destined to be a fashion blogger. 😉  She loves having her nails painted and is a natural dancer.


She wants to learn to play the violin and loves to swim.  A cup of hot chocolate, a Hershey Kiss, a cookie… it doesn’t matter if we’re picking Ava up at school or if she’s returning home from a Daddy-daughter date, she is NEVER empty-handed when it comes to her big sister.  Ava is tops in her book and Isla is always thinking of little ways to bless her.


Her mealtime prayers are especially long and almost always include a wish list of some kind along with a plea for the “people that don’t have any aw-fer-ring”.  Her heart makes mine melt.


Happy Birthday, sweet Isla Rae.  Thank you for saving me.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for refining me.  I thank God for you, precious girl.  You bring such strength and beauty to my world. xoxo




Dear Daughter, I Enjoy You.

Dear Daughter, I Enjoy You.

As I was slowly making the descent from upstairs, I allowed the exhaustion to wash over me, mentally, physically, emotionally. Out of nowhere, a thought hit me, and I knew immediately that it was one worth paying attention too.

“How tiring these kids are.”
“These days are long. They are hard.”

And it hit me.

The faces I made throughout the day. The sneers. The snorts. The sighs…

And a voice asked me a simple question…

“What if you could look at yourself that way? You wouldn’t be your own friend. You would lose a friend over such behavior.  And yet, you treat your own flesh and blood…your baby in such a way.”

I have gone as far as to roll over in the bed in the morning and growl angry words like, “You are being sooo annoying right now, child.”  All they want is breakfast.  All I want is more sleep.


I did that.

And it started to sink in how I was hurting little hearts everyday. I am hurting little hearts. With my words. With my actions. With my eye rolls and sighs…

But those things aren’t  real. They aren’t reality. Reality is, I am simply exhausted and poorly behaved. Reality is that my children are…children. They are silly. They are wild.  They require a lot of energy.  They are beautiful. They are loved.

I like them.

I admire and adore them.

I enjoy them.

I need to remember their smallness. My eyes…my words…my touch…my moods…are their world. For 90% of their day, I am their world.

So here’s my pep talk to myself:

Get it together, girl. Straighten up, sister. You have got to use that heart and that head of your’s and wipe that nasty exhaustion off of your face. Wipe it off on purpose.  Don’t let it ruin the tenderness in your smile. Don’t give it ground. Step up your game. You are their mama. God put you over these girls like a guardian angel. One they can touch and hear and smell and look to for love and guidance. Put on your wings today, mama, because they require a whole lot of protection. And sometimes, you have to make a choice to shelter them from even yourself. Lay that bitterness of a messy house down. Cast that resentment of a sleepless night aside. Forgive those early-risers, knowing that they are just excited to start a new day. Pray for a little of that to rub off on you too… You are the mama and you enjoy them. Time to start living like it…

Dear Daughter,

Forgive me. I don’t mean to be so hard on you. I want to see you sparkle from sun-up to sun-down. You are smart, funny, vivacious, and inspiring. Your giggles are darling and your smile is so pure. You are brave and adventurous and I wish I could have more of that in my own weary bones. You are special and gifted. The Lord made you well. There is no one else like you, and no one else has my heart on a string like you do. I’d give all I have away in a moment and still be satisfied knowing that I am your mama and you are mine. I’m sorry for letting my bad mood discolor our days together. You won’t know this, but I need a reminder. Your sweet, soft cheeks are going to help me through the hard days. They were the first bits of you that I cherished. I kissed and caressed them from day one. I kissed them so gently, hoping that you could sense your precious worth when we couldn’t yet share words. I still sweep my hand along them towards your little chin to this day as a way to send you a quick love letter. So, that will be my reminder to myself to keep my word to you. To protect you from my tired looks and grumpy words. When I see them, touch them, smooch them…I will remember your smallness and my bigness, and I will behave as a mama should – with patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, love, joy, peace, gentleness and self-control. Sounds familiar, huh? Yeah, those Fruits of the Spirit {Galatians 5:22-23} that mama holds you accountable to…well, I’m going to start being those things too. You deserve that from me. I love you, Daughter. I so deeply love you.

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10 Minutes to “Better”

Yesterday, my husband arrived home at his expected time – just before dinner – and the house was chaotic as usual. Eden decided to remove a poopy pull-up and go traipsing around the living room, which elicits sheer panic in me. We captured the dirty diaper before any disasters occurred, and I whisked her up for yet another early bath thinking nothing but, “Man, this stuff just s.u.c.k.s.” Yep. It’s no fun around here sometimes. And while I enjoy my babies so much and wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything, sometimes, it just feels difficult to keep my cool.

After the bath, we sat down for dinner (hubby grilled and it was really good – more on that in a different post), and then, before I could wrap my brain around flying solo for another few hours, he was out-the-door and off to a men’s meeting. Sometimes I’m so jealous of him…adult conversation, great food prepared by people who actually, truly know what they are doing, a change of scenery… Anyway, after allowing some outside play time, I decided to forgo baths for the oldest two and put them right to bed. I then fed and gave the baby a bath and put her in the swing for her “bedtime nap,” which at this stage has been from about 9pm to 2am. Sometimes, I take her to bed early (she sleeps in our room), but most times, like last night, I just burn the late-night-oil while she sleeps, and we go upstairs together once she wakes.

Since she was sound asleep (along with the rest of the house), I decided to take a shower (I was reaching the 36 hour mark – gross, right?!). I made the mistake of thinking I could rest on the bed and read Facebook posts for awhile afterwards.  Within five minutes, I had fallen asleep. Not a deep sleep, more like that foggy twilight sleep, but not-all-there nonetheless. Thankfully, I was startled awake around midnight by Ava, who had to go to the bathroom. Once I helped her back to bed, I went back downstairs to check on Miri, and the disgustingly large pile of dishes that I had allowed to accumulate throughout the day practically smacked me in the face. I was in total avoidance mode after putting the kids to bed, so I baked a chocolate cake and topped it with a homemade salted peanut butter frosting rather than tackle any of the mess left from dinner. All of the dishes were still on the island (where we eat meals most nights now that I have chairs), and the dishwasher was full of clean dishes needing to be put away.

I almost said, “Forget it. They’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.” But I pictured my husband trying to get his breakfast and coffee in the morning, and struggling to maneuver around the mess. I decided that I would just knock it out and be done with it for both our sakes. So that’s what I did. I put all of the clean dishes away, loaded the dishwasher to the max, wiped down the counters, stove, and island, poured myself a glass of water, and looked at the clock. Just 10 minutes. That’s all it took for me to tackle that disaster. 10 little minutes.

It was then that I kind of looked back on my hectic day and recounted the good moments…

I made a conscious effort to read my Bible yesterday morning. I sat down at the island with my cup of coffee and read from Proverbs. I knew it was at least a good attempt to start my day off on the right foot. I need to be in the Word. I need to read the Bible. I need, need, need it. It felt so good to grab that little slice of time. It was probably about 10 minutes.

I stopped what I was doing when Eden was having a meltdown. I scooped her up and held her. She was still being a pill and squeezed my chest – hard and on purpose. I scolded her and she cried. You know, if you are a nursing mama, that kind of stuff can really, really hurt! I let my flesh respond to her and wasn’t understanding. She didn’t know how badly that would hurt me, and I yelled at her. I felt so guilty when her little lip quivered and she started to cry in my arms. In an attempt to apologize, I told her that Mommy was sorry for yelling, and I tried my best to communicate to her that she had hurt me. Then, I started giving her nose-kisses. You know, the ones where you rub noses – eskimo kisses.  She responded in a way that totally melted my mama-heart. She began sniffing my lips and cheeks, and stared into my eyes, like she was exploring my face for the first time. Rubbing her little nose against mine, she’d crack a smile and giggle. It was so unbelievably peaceful. Looking back on it now, it too probably only lasted 10 minutes, but it changed the entire course of a bad situation and served as a beautiful time of bonding between the two of us. Mamas of multiples, you know those moments can be rare. We’re so busy, busy, busy that it’s hard to remember to slow down and make those pockets of preciousness happen. Just 10 minutes.

I listened to Ava read her school books…10 minutes. 

I helped Ava sort toys in the playroom…10 minutes. 

I played with and cooed at Miri on our bed…10 minutes. 

I sat and held Isla after her nap…10 minutes…

Thinking about those things and what a positive impact they made on me, my children, our day…it hit me. 10 minutes to “better”. That’s all it takes. So, today I am putting it to the test. Even if I have to set a timer, I am going to take 10 minutes of every hour today to make something better…

10 minutes to:

  • tidy up a room
  • snuggle a baby
  • play with a little one
  • read a few stories
  • stretch out on the floor and just breathe
  • walk around outside
  • dance to a few songs
  • worship to a few songs
  • read the Bible
  • enjoy my coffee or a cup of tea
  • call a friend
  • work on a task/chore
  • declutter

I’m already looking forward to what this day can bring if I make 10 minutes intentional.

Try it and share!  What did you accomplish in just 10 minutes?


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Bad Day; Good Life

Today was one of those days.  One of those rotten, awful, bad days.  Yesterday, I talked about making memories, well, today was the kind of day that I don’t care to remember.

I started the day at 5 AM and by 7:55 AM I had already given one poopy child a bath.  By 3 PM, I had JUST finished my only cup of coffee and had cleaned poop off of three separate children four times and had redressed two of those kids twice!  You following??  I cleaned up a pee puddle in the kitchen and Play Doh in the dining room.  By 6 PM, I was making dinner and discovering my lunch in the microwave, and by 8 PM, I had scrubbed Eden’s carpet twice and stripped two different kids’ beds.  I washed, dried, and folded two loads of laundry, loaded and emptied the dishwasher twice before hubs came home and did it a third time.  I showered while he set the kids up for dinner, and that was only because, in my exhausted stupidity, I grabbed the hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven glass Pyrex dish with my bare hand, so I had “had it” and needed a breather.  I vacuumed the second floor for the third time this week and changed our sheets, because I have been sleeping on cake crumbs for two days.  (The Bigs were just trying to “get away from Eden” while they ate their cake, and our bed seemed like a good place to hide.)  Miri has been crying all afternoon/evening because I caved and ate chocolate yesterday.  After this day, it’s taking all of my willpower not to dive into what’s left of the chocolate raspberry meltaway egg. It’s now 9:45 PM and I can’t touch another dish or toy.  The house is just going to have to look like the post-dinner mess that it is for the rest of the night.

Tomorrow, we start all over again, and I am praying that it goes much better than today has gone.  I love my babies.  I enjoy them.  Today was rotten, but I kept rolling that quote around in my head about it being a bad day, good life, just so I could maintain my sanity.  It worked about 80% of the time.  The other 20% I had to try to control the cursing in my head.  I kept coming up with phrases that included a whole lot of potty talk, like, “It’s not the pits, just the s***s.”  Because well, as Isla admitted, today was donned the “Poopy Day”.  I mean…who has to clean up poop like six times in ONE day?!  Ok, I’m sure some people do, but I can’t.  I just can’t.  It’s where I draw the line!  *Sigh*

So, anyway, if you had a crappy day, literally or figuratively or both…I’m sorry.  I feel for you, mama.  Tomorrow will be better.  It HAS to be better.  Just remember this:

Father God, I come to you as a tired, exhausted mess of a woman.  Please forgive me for my shortcomings today and for my impatience with everyone in my household.  I pray for grace and strength to do better tomorrow.  Help me to grow my children up in a household built on love and understanding.  I invite you, Holy Spirit to bring peace to our home in a deeper way.  Help us to feel Your presence and follow your lead in every moment of the day, especially the rough and yucky ones.  Help us to see this day for what it was, just a messy one, and help me to enter tomorrow with a new and refreshed perspective, rested and recharged, ready to take on the day.  Thank you for my family.  It is a gift that I treasure.  Let my words to them tomorrow be words of kindness, life and hope.  When I am tempted to yell, I ask that you would be there and give me wisdom on how to handle whatever challenges I am facing as a mother and wife in a more Christ-like way.  Help me to make our home a sanctuary for these people that I love.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

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Memories over Milestones

My precious Miri is 10 weeks old today.  As I sat looking at her the other night, trying to coax her into a smile, I found myself already wondering when she’d start to giggle.  She waved her little hands around and when they met mine, they paused, and I thought, “Did she try to touch me on purpose?  I wonder when she will reach for my face.  Is this a milestone that I should record?”

Suddenly, I was thinking of Ava, our five year old.  She’s so grown up, so well-spoken, so…not a baby anymore.  My heart felt a little broken at the realization that I spend (and had already spent) too much precious time thinking about the “what’s next” and sacrificing the “now”.

Ava begins Kindergarten in the fall, and Isla will be going to preschool for the first time.  Our home will be different.  I will be missing two little people throughout the day.  My home will be a lot quieter.  Our lazy Tuesdays and Thursdays will no longer be just that.  Instead, we will be in the car for most of the morning and our schedule will never be as free as it is now.  We will long for summer days just to have the blessed time that I have been taking for granted.

When will this one walk?  We have to get that one potty-trained.  She’ll be eating rice cereal next month, so maybe I should start stocking up now.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they stayed in their own beds all night…

I catch myself thinking about such things often.  Too often.  I need, we need, to soak up the now.  I need to sit and listen to Isla’s conversations, because all too soon, her little accents and quirks will have faded, and she’ll be as well-spoken as her sister.  I need to relish in Ava’s nose-kisses and the way she wants to be touching me in some way at all times, because she’s growing more and more independent every day, and maybe tomorrow will be the day she decides she’s “too big” for that stuff.  I need to hold Miri on my chest, and feel her weightiness that’s comprised of nothing but squishy baby rolls, because those rolls melt faster than any mama wants them to.  I need to enjoy the way her feathery, little mohawk tickles my chin when I hold her, because, if she’s anything like her sisters, it’ll be down to her shoulders faster than I can blink, and I’ll be trying to convince her to let me brush it.  I need to chase Eden around the house in her disastrous potty-training nakedness, and tickle her belly and pinch her bum cheeks, because this hilarious, albeit messy, stage won’t last long, and she’ll be taking herself to the bathroom like my big girls do.

I just need to live in the now.  It’s one of those things that you tell yourself, and that others will remind you to do…”Enjoy them.”  And you think, “Yeah, yeah.  I know”, but then, you get caught up in preparing for everything else that’s coming.  And before you know it, another day has ended.  Another day will have gone by without you savoring the moments.  We’re too worried about the schedules, and the checklists, and the milestones, and we’re sacrificing the memories.  I don’t care to dwell on the future as much from here on out.  We’ll work towards what we need to work towards for the children to be healthy, safe, and on-track developmentally, but I’m tired of using my mental space as a to-do list when it should simply be used in being present.

Will you join me in being present today?  Stop thinking about summer vacation or school in the fall.  Stop wondering when baby will sit-up when you just need to be enjoying her newness.  Stop getting frustrated if your potty-training tot just “isn’t getting it”.  Instead, savor the sight of ornery little tushies running wild and making messes with the toilet paper.  Sit and record every expression.  Write their quotes on the tablet of your heart.  Play a game or build a puzzle and take a moment to touch their hand and take in how soft they are.  Even at five, my sweet girl still has darling, pudgy, dimpled fingers.  I need to pay attention to those details before they are gone, and I have a house full of little women and not little ones.  Read a story and smell their hair.  They all have their own, sweet smell beneath that maple syrup…  Enjoy them, right now, mama.  I appreciate you reading this, but close up your laptop, put down your phone for a few, forget about those mile markers, and go make a memory. xoxoxo

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For the Overwhelmed Mom of Multiples

Hey there, Mama. Are you tired? Did you spend your day kind of wondering how to get your Littles under control? Do you yo-yo back and forth between feeling like Supermom and a total failure? Do you stare at those little faces looking up at you and wonder how someone so beautiful, so innocent, so small could cause you to feel more overwhelmed and underprepared than you did the morning of taking the SATs?

Seriously. I get you. I am you. 

I am an overwhelmed mom.
I forget doctor’s appointments, I walk into rooms and stand there, completely forgetting why I am there, and I take long showers just to find ten minutes of peace. I lose my cool over the whining, and I cry over spilled milk. And you know what I have come to realize…
I am overwhelmed but don’t have to be.

That’s right.

I don’t have to be. I don’t have to feel this way.

How do I know this?

Well, it’s a little something…a BIG something called perspective. It really does change everything.

Lately, I have felt so frazzled and just all over the place, mentally, emotionally… My mothering of these precious people has suffered greatly, because of exhaustion and impatience. Every two seconds (and I am NOT exaggerating) it’s “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Their “Mommy-Do” List is longer than my “Honey-Do” List! Really. And it’s annoying sometimes, you know?

I found myself snapping at one of my kids not too long ago. I can’t remember what it was over. I know that they were doing something that I just found irritating. Like being too silly at an inopportune time or something like that. Totally not a big deal, but I caught myself making it a big deal. That’s when this thought occurred to me…


“Kristi, remember when it was just Ava? Would this behavior have annoyed you?”

And you guessed it, that answer was a blaring “No.”

It didn’t even take a lot of pondering. It was not that big of a deal. Even the biggest of deals wouldn’t have ruffled my feathers when it was just one child. So, it hit me…

They aren’t the problem. They are just being silly, funny, goofy, lively KIDS. You, my dear, are the one looking at it differently…negatively.

Yes, multiplying your children will definitely shorten your nerves and attention span, BUT, the root of the issue is worth recognizing and addressing. At least it has been for me. Just like I mentioned in a previous post regarding birth order and parenting, I believe that taking a minute to imagine the scenario you’re facing under different circumstances can possibly change everything, and change it for the better.  Sometimes, as parents, our perspectives stink just as badly as that pile of poopy diapers in the corner.  (Mine are actually piling up in the girls’ bathroom, but that’s beside the point…)

It really does work. Making a conscious effort to remove the behavior from the rest of the context of your day and your life and see it for what it really is can be such a reality check.

I know that reactions/responses are sometimes at the mercy of our schedules and other children, but when we have the chance to slow down and approach something a little differently during the day, I say, let’s try it!

For example:

Your firstborn asks if she can help you bake cookies. Of course! How sweet! Some mommy-daughter bonding time.

Your second of four asks the same question. Maybe next time, honey. Mommy has so much to do right now.

Maybe I am in a hurry, and my response is innocent, but I still could see myself having involved Ava at that age in some way or another, and I most-likely would have initiated the involvement in the first place.

That may be a poor example, but I hope that I am conveying my heart correctly here. Honestly speaking…children are time-consuming, and since our days just slip by so quickly, it may be so easy to brush them off and avoid certain activities altogether. Throw in sleepless nights, tending to infants, potty-training toddlers, cleaning up after pre-schoolers, and it’s really no wonder that we snap at the 25th “Mommy!!!” when it used to take 150 times to even remotely drive us buggy.

Truth be told, our subsequent children are growing up with a drastically different dynamic present than their oldest sibling experienced, and it’s our responsibility, as their mamas and papas, not to rob them of the joys of being little, simply because the plate is full and what’s left of the brain is overflowing.

At this point in my journey, as a mother to four, there are simply more of them and less of me. Oh, how it shows. Often. But my new mission in 2015 is to make each little person in my care feel like the ONLY person in my world while I am interacting with them, even if it’s just for that two whole seconds when they’re asking me for their fourth breakfast of the morning or the (what seems like forever) 25 minutes it takes for me to watch as they show me how they can put a 18-piece puzzle together.

I am more and more convinced every day that mothering is the most involved “job” on earth, and yes, it can be so overwhelming, but…my new motto serves to remind me…it doesn’t have to be.

So, when you feel overwhelmed today, take these steps:

1 – Stop.  Stop what you are doing and thinking.
2 – Reflect upon happier/easier times of focusing on one person.  Ask yourself, “Would this behavior/situation have made me frazzled then?”
3 – If the answer is “no”, redirect your own thoughts and responses so that you leave the little one feeling loved and yourself feeling like Mom of the Year.  (Or at least Mom of the Moment. 😉 ) *If the answer is “yes”, then by all means proceed in acting like a ninny.
4 – Give that little stinker a big squeeze, because you probably need it more than they do!

You’re not alone in this thing, mama.  I’m just one gray hair away…

And…if you just scrubbed poo off of your toddler’s bedroom carpet, like I just did, then you are really not alone.  We may be tired.  We may be cranky at times, but we’ve got this!  It’s in the bag.  Like the poo… xo

Need a few more laughs?
Check out these posts next.  I think they’ll make you feel better!

Confessions of a Mother of Multiples
I Owe Them JOY
I’ll Find It…Go to Bed
That Took For-everrrr
It’s a Mom’s Life

One of my most popular posts and another perspective changer:
Bedtime Lessons the Change Everything

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facing reality: time to tackle the toys

I don’t know about you, but everyday is a struggle around here when it comes to the mess. Mess of laundry… dishes… clutter… TOYS. With kids 5, 3.5, and 21 months, toys have to be the worst by far, and, while I am trying desperately to teach my girls to clean up after themselves, it feels more like a daily battle than a healthy process. Most of the time, we end up in yelling, tears, and threats. 

“If you don’t pick up those (600) dolls, they are going… in the trash… to another child who doesn’t have any toys… on top of the refrigerator… in the basement…!!!” 

“You have 15 minutes to clean this room, and whatever is left on the floor is going away for a week!” 

And the list goes on. Crazy enough…we actually follow through with our threats, and they STILL don’t care!  They have “Clean Up Toys” on their chore charts. Guess which space is NEVER filled with a magnet? That one.

It seems simple enough, and I feel as though I have tried everything. I talked with them about it.  I have shown them how to do it and where everything belongs.  I have cleaned with them on a consistent basis.  I have tried to keep things simple and organized in the playroom.  {You can see a post about the playroom here.} 

The only thing I haven’t done, which I would like to do in the near future, is label each bin with pictures, like Abby, of Just a Girl and Her Blog, has done. {See that post here.}  A great and talented friend of mine can easily make them. {You can visit her Facebook page here.} I simply haven’t yet, b/c I can’t seem to commit to locations, contents, and some bins have endured more than others and need replaced. {We have these ones from Ikea.}

Here are a few snap shots of the “Battle Zone” and what it typically looks like through the day:

At first, I thought, “If I could just properly organize it all, it won’t be so bad, and it will stay where it needs to stay.  The girls will learn that everything has a place, and they’ll actually put it there!”

Reality was – I was always cleaning up myself and stashing things that were either too messy or dangerous in the few high places that we have in there.  It wasn’t how I had intended for an organized play/work space to function.

We had a really old bookcase in the basement.  It was left in the garage by the previous owners.  They had used it to house paint cans, oily stuff, etc.  It was a mess.  We cleaned it up as well as we could and moved it into the basement for the storage of shoes and random things.  Hubby wants to finish the basement in the near future, so we talked about trashing it.  I saw a glimmer of hope for it, though, and begged him to let me keep it.  He wasn’t fully on-board, but we sanded and painted it.  He reinforced some of the weaker spots along the bottom (since it’s basically 30-year-old plywood), and he moved it into the playroom for me.  

Here are a few shots of that:

This was never my original plan for this space {you can find that here in this post}, but money, time, and necessity kind of forced my hand.  Eventually, I’m sure that this room will evolve yet again, but for now, this was my only solution.  I picked up a few little bins at the Dollar Store and packed it up while the kids slept.  I was even able to create an “Eden-friendly” zone.  The girls loved it and were so delighted by it the following morning.

They’ve done a decent job of keeping things on the shelf, but it still looks like a tornado ripped through there for the majority of the day, and I am still going in every night to clean up and reorganize.  It’s just not working as well as I had hoped.

So, long story short, I have had it. It seems like I’m not alone either. I have read at least three posts in the past month from other bloggers regarding how toys have bogged them down, and not just them…their kids too! Their common solution: Get rid of it. Period.

My husband and I have talked about that option for years now. We even intended to carry out the:  “For every toy that comes in, one goes out” rule.  Honestly, it never happened consistently.  We simply have too much. The kids have too much. We know it, but yet we haven’t done anything about it. 

Here is why I believe that is happening:

1) Love.  You want your kids to have it all. You love them, and you are grateful for the ability to provide them with things that make them happy, make them smile, and honestly, the high you get when gifting them with something new and longed-for is hard to give up.

2) Guilt.  You know how much something cost. Either you or your friends or your family members dropped a pretty penny on x,y,z, and you see dollar signs when you consider donating it or throwing it away. You avoid it altogether, b/c, in a sense, you feel your hands are tied and you’re just stuck with the item until it breaks or your babes outgrow it. This is why we currently own 4 of those Disney riding/push toys that play delightfully obnoxious music.

3) Sentiment.  Grandpa and Grandma So-n-So bought that. And that. And that. And those too. As a matter of fact, they probably bought 85% of the stuff your children own. It’s hard when you attach a piece of someone you love to an object, isn’t it? “We can’t donate that book…Auntie wrote her a letter in it.” “We can’t throw away that doll. Yes, I know, its arm fell off two years ago, but Grammy brought it over for her 2nd birthday.” You feelin’ me?

4) Laziness / Procrastination. Guilty! It takes time, effort, and some serious willpower to clean out your kids’ toys. Most of the time, I don’t know where to start, I don’t want to complete it halfway, or I’m too tired to explain, rationalize and argue a toy out of the house. “But Mooommmm…I played with that yesterday!!!” (Yesterday being 32 months ago.)

5) Denial. “My kids don’t have that much, really. I mean two bins of baby dolls aren’t excessive. All of the play food fits well in that tub. Yes, a six year old could take a nap in it easily too, but that’s beside the point.”  The truth is: There.Is.Too.Much.

This morning, I read this post, “Fewer Things. More Peace.” by one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Mae (she was a guest writer for another blog: BecomingMinimalist).  And like I had mentioned previously, it hit me that I have been reading a lot of these kinds of posts lately.  Many of us are feeling overwhelmed by the mess that seems to naturally overtake our homes.  I finally came to the firm decision that it’s time to take action.  I don’t know if we’ll get down to 20 toys, but I am certain that we can trim a great deal if we just set our minds to it and press through.  I may even start setting a timer once a week, taking the girls into the playroom or their bedrooms and saying, “Ok, we’re going to spend just ten minutes looking for five things that we don’t need anymore and that would make another child smile.”  Something like that…

A bonus find… Sarah Mae’s book, 31 Days to Clean – Having a Martha House the Mary Way is just $0.99 today!  I have read the Foreword and Intro and I am already excited to dig deeper into the book.  It just makes so much sense – to create a warm, inviting space, but I just need some practical direction from a fellow mom who’s “been there.”  You can find it by clicking the Amazon link below (aff. link). 

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Dear Baby

**The following post is one of my first published works.  It can be found in the paperback, New Life Within:  Real Babies.  Real Moms.  Real Stories.  It was such an honor to be approached for this project, and even more so to be one of just two proofreaders selected to assist the editor prior to printing.  Thank you in advance for reading.  Hope it blesses you.

Dear Baby,

How could I have known how you were going to change my life?

I used to spend hours in front of a mirror; I’d brush my hair, my long, thick hair. I’d paint my nails, and lotion my legs after a long, hot bath. I knew every freckle, every scratch, every detail of myself. After all, who else did I have to pay attention to every day and night? Then, you came into my world, and I have traded those tendencies for a new form of pampering. You. I would trade every beauty tool, every manicure, bubble bath…anything…to spend my time running tired fingers through your feather-soft curls, scrubbing your teeny, little toes as you splash me wildly with lukewarm bath water, massaging lavender-scented baby cream all over your sweet, soft skin. I have memorized every inch of your God-painted canvas. I know that you have a second piggy on that pudgy little foot that bends slightly to the left, and I could draw that little, round birthmark with my eyes closed. You are precious to me. How could I have ever known just how precious to me you would be?

I sang to you in the car every morning on the drive to work. Before I knew if you were a girl or boy, and you were a wriggling little bean in an ever-expanding bump, I’d sing. It was my time to be loud – to be quiet. I’d sing to you, for you, at you. Sometimes I would sing to you a praise song at the top of my voice, and other times, I’d whisper you a lullaby. How would I have ever known that those car ride serenades would seem so small in comparison to the songs to come? As I cradled your newborn body in my arms each night, singing over your tininess…I would melt inside at the awesome revelation that God says He sings over me too. Just as I sang over you, He sings over us. (Zephaniah 3:17) That alone would have been enough to make motherhood amazing, but then, you got a little bigger, and one night, you decided to sing my song to you right back to me. How could I have ever known that your voice would make such an imprint on my soul? That the soundtrack of my happiness would come from your lips?

Your innocence is the light in my world.  Your laughter, my favorite sound.  I thought I was creative, until I heard you playing make-believe and realized that your imagination is genius.  You read my eyes and know me.  You heard my heart beating from the inside, and somehow, I think you always will.

You call me “Mommy.” I call you “tangible joy.” You call me “Mother.” I call you “Baby.” You call me ‘Mama.” I call you “Angel.”

No one on earth loves me like you do. No one on earth needs me like you do. No one on earth sees me like you do. I say ‘earth’, because I know where your love for me comes from. It comes from the same heart that has gifted me with my love for you. God. I have loved you with an everlasting love. You love, because I first loved you. (Jeremiah 31:3 and 1 John 4:19)

Dear Baby, I don’t know what life has in store for you and me, but if what has been is any indicator as to what is coming…I know it will be nothing short of Heaven.

saturday pin-it party and affirmations for mamas!

welcome to the weekly pin-it party!  

featured from last week:
“one-line affirmations for moms” from katie of pick any two.
these are seriously good, and each is a line that i could and should say to myself daily.  pin-it for later, or head there now for an instant reality-check and breathe a big sigh of relief.  you’ve got this, mama.

participating in the party is so easy!
here’s what to do:

1. follow the co-hosts on pinterest (links below)

paula from beauty through imperfection

becky from your modern family

gabrielle from MamaGab

me! kristi from klover house

2. pin our “pin-it party” picture. (one of these)

3. add as many of your great pins as you want!  remember to get your pins from pinterest & not from your blog page. it will make it easier to re-pin a pin instead of a post.

4. hop around and re-pin other pins from this page- lets share the love!

5. adding your link gives us permission to use an image from the pin (or post connected to the pin) to feature on next week’s pin-it party. because of this we ask that you only link up images from your own site, and images that you have taken, created or have legal rights to.

thanks!!!! REMEMBER: when it asks for your NAME, you can put your PIN NAME or your BLOG NAME. essentially, it’s your pin’s title.

***PLEASE NOTE*** if the post that your pin leads to contains any offensive or derogatory wording (e.g. profanity), i will not be able to feature your pin, no matter how great the article or how terrific the idea. the use of those terms simply doesn’t align with my personal convictions, and what we, at klover house, aim to promote. thank you in advance for understanding!

join the klover house family on facebook, pinterest, and twitter!

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Respect for the “Solo” Mama and 5 Things that Keep This One Sane…

I must say… I have such a new level of respect for the “solo” mama.  I’m not going to go as far as to say “single”, because I know you can be married and still spend the majority of your time parenting alone.  And by “alone”, you know what I mean, right?  Like, physically the only adult in the picture, hands-on.

My husband has been traveling more this year than I ever thought he would.  The weeks are long, and the nights are longer.  With three little ones under the age of five and being almost six months pregnant, I am well out of steam by 10am Monday morning.  That makes for a looong week when the hubs is off daddy-duty, friends.

I thank God for my mom popping in a couple of times here and there on those weeks to drop something off for our business (Eden Gray Clothing) or to bring lunch or dinner on a whim.  She babysits full-time for my brother, so I can’t steal her away for long, but if it weren’t for her little visits, I would surely unravel by Friday.

This last trip of his, I found myself thinking a lot about single moms and military mamas or wives of other men that spend more than the tolerable time (for a wife) at the workplace – doctors, fellow travelers, etc.  some of us women spend a lot of time parenting alone, and it’s hard!

My hat goes off to you, mamas!  God bless you with a visitor, a nap, a phone call from a friend, a surprise meal…
God bless you with sanity!

And on that note…here are some things that I have gotten into the habit of doing to keep my sanity with these little, needy, beautiful, dear souls entrusted to me when the days are extra long and tiring…

1 – Say “I love you.” A lot.  Especially when you want to throw them outside but can’t (because it’s raining or freezing or dark… haha).
My husband has called me in total frustration in the past, “Where are you?!  How much longer?!  Are you almost home?!  I can’t take any more of this!  You were made for this!  God gave you more patience than me!”,  and the list goes on.  Ever get those same calls or texts while you were simply making a grocery run?  haha  Yep.  Made for this.  Well, maybe that’s it, because I’d like to believe that I am “made for” this mothering thing, but I admit that I lose my cool with the kids just like Dad does.  I get tired and frustrated too.  The whining…the tattling…the constant requests…it can be like nails on a chalkboard at times, but… I still adore them, and telling them out loud does something to my soul.  It resets my nerves and gets my focus back on track.

I first noticed it when my second was a newborn.  I remember she was up, miserable, crying incessantly one night.  I had a bad cold, and she was nearly brand-new.  It was late, like 3am, and I wanted so badly to just lay her down in her crib, shut the door and go to bed.  I didn’t.  Instead, I remember standing in our living room, holding her unhappy self in my arms and just saying over and over, “I love you.  I love you.  I love you.”  I’d kiss her forehead and say it, and you know what, it’s when I feel the least “together” that the “I love you” wants to flow out of me the most.  It has become my grounding mechanism.  Whispering “I love you” to your child when aggravated is like a soothing force over a weary mind.

2 – Touch them.
Now, not in the spanking sense that you may want to gravitate towards when they are acting up, but rather, get down on one knee if you can, and touch their arm, their hands, their face…  make a connection with your eyes and your hands.

I just used this method today.  My child was acting up badly.  She shoved her little sister right in front of me and was sent immediately to “time out”.  “Time out” was going poorly too.  She was standing on the chair, jumping out of the chair, touching things on the table beside her that she wasn’t allowed to be touching, sticking her tongue out.  She was acting rotten to put it plainly.  All of that bought her extra time of course, which was explained to her over her 11 minute stay in isolation (normally 5, because she’s just seven weeks shy of her 5th birthday).

My frustrated self wanted to scream, wanted to demand that she go and take a nap… but, I also could realize that she was acting this way for a few possible reasons:  she’s tired after school and refuses to fall asleep for naptime after lunch, she was up several times throughout the night and went to bed later than usual, she was feeling unhappy/grumpy about something that happened at school, and she was arguing with her sister (who was still trying to mock her from the other room)…  So, after her ‘time out’, I called her sister over, dropped to my knees and took them both by the hand.

My physical touch helped to hold their undivided attention.  I didn’t have to squeeze or hold them in place, I just held their hands and told them to listen to my words and look at my eyes.  I kept my expectations brief and simple:

“Mommy has to finish some work, and I have to clean up the house.  I need you to play quietly (because the baby was sleeping) and nicely together, or you will have to go to your bedroom.  No fighting.  No yelling.  No walking or jumping on the couch.  Do you understand?”


That was over an hour ago, and I haven’t had to yell at them or break up one argument since.  A soft but firm tone and a gentle touch that says, “I love you, but I mean business” seems to go far most of the time.

3 – Keep the house straightened up.
I know – you want to smack me, right?  Yeah.  I get it.  I can’t stand cleaning up this house every day.  I think of how much simpler it was when we were selling our last home and 85% of our belongings were boxed up and out-of-sight.  Life was so less cluttered and so was my mind!  Now, these little tornadoes are just that…tornadoes.

I am tempted to just let it go…let it be.  After all, you can only do so much, right?  Especially when you are the only parent at home for an extended time, but I have learned the hard way that when I “let it go”, I pay with my sanity.  The mountain on the kitchen island…the random piles of laundry…the dishes calling my name…the sea of crumbs on the floor…  they take my anxiety level from bad to oh-my-gosh-help-me-get-out-of-this-nightmare-worse.  Seriously.  When you are tired and stressed, the last thing you need is to also feel like you are living in an episode of “Hoarders”.

So, I adopted the motto:  A clean home is a calm home.

I fail at keeping the place looking top-notch, and I never accomplish as much as I wish that I could, but I force myself to clean something before carting myself off to the couch or the bed.  I may not tackle every area, but generally tidying up the house each evening does wonders for my soul come morning.

4 – Read to them
Nothing calms my nerves more than sitting down on the couch with my favorite blondies snuggled beside me and a book in my lap.  When they are super tired (and I am super tired), they will happily sit at my side for an hour at times.  Just sit there.  No fussing, no whining, no fighting.  A few times, I have gotten lucky and our story time has led to a late afternoon movie and a couch nap!  Seriously though, if your babes are tired, but fight sleep like mine, have a story time with them and enjoy the chance to sit quietly together while they calm down and you recharge.

5 – Play with them / get silly   
My kids just want my attention (don’t all kids want that from their parents 24/7?).

When I am flying solo or having a lousy day, sometimes, I just stop whatever it is that I am doing and play with them.  A lot of their play time is with one another.  I try to play, but they leave me in their dust!  (I am pregnant, remember? lol) But even if my body could keep up, often my imagination can’t!  I have noticed that on the rough days, just being there – on the floor, in the same room – they will calm down, and everyone (especially me) starts to smile a little more. It resets the mood of the day.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that when I am about to lose my mind, if I actually let my grumpy guard down and succumb to the madness – SING a song that they love in a goofy voice, act out the scene of a favorite movie, talk to them with an English accent, anything remotely goofy… my mood improves immediately.  Life gets better immediately!  Yes, the mess is still surrounding me.  Yes, dinner is still needing to be prepared.  Yes, the garbage still needs taken out.  But, I am soooo much calmer and ready to tackle my tasks and mother appropriately when the “reset” button is hit.  Bringing out my inner “fun mom” helps tremendously.

So those are a few of the ways that I maintain my sanity as an overworked, overtired, pregnant mama of little people.  How about you?  What are your go-to methods / sanity-saving practices?  I would love to hear about them!












Update: Since writing this article, we have added to our crew! Our fourth daughter was born in 2015, and, while my husband has a new job that requires less travel, I feel the need to reread this post and follow my advice daily! Four kiddos, six and under, is exhausting!

Remember, keep your love on, keep your perspective in check, drop the perfection, and just breathe.

You’ve got this, Mama. I know you do. xoxo