Friday, August 18, 2017

A Few Favorites Right Now

Life really does seem to pass on hyperspeed. I was talking with my 13 year old nephew the other day about this exact thing. I said when I was 13, I felt like life went by so slowly. It always felt like FOREVER until my birthday! But I told him that it is so true what they say, life just starts going by so quickly and before you know it, years are flying by.

With that in mind, I am aware now of enjoying little things. Of taking 10 minutes out of my cleaning frenzy to sit down and play pretend with Victoria. Of trying not to do anything until I finish my warm cup of coffee (I learned this one the hard way after drinking one too many cold cups of coffee at 11am). Or of taking a few moments to savor the sweet unique laughs of my babies. Sometimes it is just stopping to acknowledge the convenience of something that is making life with kids more enjoyable, or that has made mom-life a little bit easier. 

In no particular order, here are a few things I am really loving right now:

How Victoria always loves to dress like this. 
I know this stage is fleeting, especially for a serious child like Victoria. But it was such a funny moment for me when I asked her to get ready to go to the store and found her dressed up in her dress, crown, and necklace, and putting on her gym shoes (sans socks apparently). 

My Lenny Lamb Ring sling,
which my very active baby, Charlotte, who literally jumps and bounces with energy all day, absolutely loves to be carried in. She will rest against me in this for as long as I am content to carry her. 

My Birkenstock Mayari sandals
This is my second pair of these sandals, and this time I got them in patent white. My first pair was black and lasted me 3 years before breaking a few weeks ago. I wore them almost daily as weather permitted, and absolutely loved them. I bought them originally because someone recommended Birkenstocks for their arch support. They can be a little pricey, so I bought mine from oversees (usually German) vendors on eBay. But the arch support is unparalleled (I routinely walk miles around the zoo in these) and they last a long time, so I think the price is worth it for the quality. 

My hydrangea bushes
This year we have completed so many house projects, and one of them was a complete landscaping of our yard. One of the things we planted were some hydrangea bushes, and I have been diligent about watering them. The fruit of my labors have been gorgeous blooms like these, which I have so many of that I always have some in a jar on my kitchen table to enjoy. 

This. 
Mind you, I was not super excited about it when I found it. In fact, I called Victoria over and showed it to her and asked her if she did this. She responded with a sweet smile and shining blue eyes and said "yes, I drew special circles for you, mama." MELT. I did explain that she isn't to draw in mama's Bible, but what started out as an annoyance has since turned into something I quite treasure. I imagine I will look back on that page in 2 Corinthians many times throughout my life and think about the special gift that is my Victoria. 

Double shopping carts
Only a handful of stores carry shopping carts that fit two children in the basket like this. I am of the opinion that every store needs them! Grocery shopping with two babies that can't walk and a toddler is SO. TOUGH. Most of the time I don't even attempt it with the kids because logistically it wouldn't work. I'd have to push two carts around the entire store by myself: one full of kids, one full of food. But these carts! They are amazing!

A grandparent bought us this wagon as a combined Christmas gift for the kids, and it has been such a blessing. It has three seats (The back is slightly wider than the front) to accommodate all of our kids, but also has seat belts to keep the twins in check and a removable canopy to block the sun. We have just started using it regularly, as the twins are finally old enough, and I've been enjoying taking them on almost daily cruises around the neighborhood. Victoria cheers in excitement every time we go. 



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Twins and Sanctification

I was never the woman who wanted twins. I have told people that before and they have looked at me like I said something I shouldn't have.

But here's the thing. I am child #4 to a woman who really didn't think she could handle 4 children. She told me that the entire time she was pregnant with me, she cried, wondering if she could handle it. She felt stretched to her limit and battled post-partum depression with each of her pregnancies, so she just didn't see how baby #4 was going to work. 

I never took offense to that story, because I knew how it ended. My mom didn't think she couldn't handle having a 4th child, yet her and I have ended up being so incredibly close. She not only survived baby #4, she rocked it! She was (and still is) the most wonderfully attentive, kind, selfless mom I have ever witnessed. And what a blessing that I got to be hers! I thank God, truly, all the time for it. After my husband, she is my best friend.
Me and my mom, who turned 28 the day after I was born
I know how my mom felt about the idea of a hypothetical fourth child, but I also know that she feels very differently about me now that I am here. 

The same goes for my twins. I am just so thankful that I have them now, and I cannot imagine life with just a Charlotte or just an Analisa. I never wanted twins, and often said flippant comments like "I'm open to having a big family, just as long as they come one at a time". I see now that was probably not an edifying thing to say....but I said it and felt it before I had my twins. 

However, the experience of having twins has been one of the most sanctifying experiences of my life. So much so that I feel like almost daily I am being brought to my knees.

I have always wanted to me a mom, but there was a time before I had children when I wondered if I would be a good mother. I was selfish, especially with sleep. I have always been a "sleeper". My mom says I used to beg her to take naps. I used to get physically ill if I didn't get a decent amount of sleep. I wondered if I was up to the selflessness required in those first few months when babies require regular nightly feedings.

I am happy to report that I have survived that part of motherhood, and while I still love my naps, I also feel like waking up with my babies has been much easier than expected. My body has even gotten used to it. 

Having twins has pushed the selflessness of motherhood into hyperspeed for me. Having one child is difficult, because, for most of us, we are being pushed to a level of selflessness we have ever experienced before. And with the addition of a second child, that gets pushed even further, as we try to juggle the needs of children at multiple ages. But the progression gets to happen gradually with the addition of each child, as we slowly change and lose our selfish tendencies in the face of our children's needs. 

With twins, I feel like this whole gradual progression when into hyperspeed. I've been running and running and running. I used to scoff at moms who would claim they had no time to shower or put makeup on. I mean seriously, it only takes a couple minutes (I think I even have a blog post about that on here somewhere), but then I had my twins, and I discovered I not only didn't have time to shower or put makeup on, I was having trouble simply finding the time to eat properly. It was crazy, especially in the first few months when my husband was also working 7 days per week, to find myself going days on compete auto-pilot, floating from one day to the next. I had friends come over and ask me if I ever sit down, to which I usually replied "not that I can remember". 

Things have settled a bit. I am finding more time to put makeup on and get into things like this blog (hello everyone!). My children's schedule now allows me a few moments each day to sit down. 

The thing is, though, that I would never have been able to handle the demands of toddler+twins three years ago, when I was preparing for my first child to be born. I was so selfish and I didn't even realize it. And honestly, a bit of selfishness, when it leads to a shower, isn't always a bad thing! But I don't think I could have handled the sheer exhaustion, chaos, unending grind that my life has been the last 9ish months. 

But you know, I would not describe these last 9 months as bad at all. Hard, yes. Exhausting, an underestimate. But they have been some of the most wonderful months of my life as well. My heart and my life feel SO full, and God is somehow lending me His strength to get through this. I am finding a humble confidence (if there is such a thing) in seeing that I CAN do this with God's help. His strength is shining through ME, the woman who never wanted twins! And look! I'm doing it! He's doing it through me! It's a wonder and a miracle and one of the most humbling experiences. 

I have realized that I can't do this on my own. I often wonder how women without faith can function as mothers. Because honestly, if I didn't know Him and feel His strength bracing me as I take on this whole motherhood thing, I would never be able to make it. I'm sure I'd have had a complete break-down by now. But no! He is making this happen through me, and it is wonderful and humbling. 

So while I never thought I wanted twins, I really needed them. I had some major idols in my life I needed to overcome (a full night of sleep and vanity to name a few), and God has used these two little beings to make me into a woman who lives to serve. This is the season of life I am in right now, one where my babies require all of me. There will be a time in the future for complete order, full nights of uninterrupted sleep, long showers and relaxation, but right now I have these little humans to care for, and doing that has pushed me to a level of spiritual maturity and dependency on the Lord that I have never previously experienced. 

So someday I will tell Charlotte and Analisa about how I never wanted twins. And I will tell them how God, in His mercy and all-knowing grace, gave me twins and used them to sanctify me, making me more like His Son. I am so infinitely grateful that He knew better than I did, and gave me these two little girls. 
Charlotte left, Analisa right

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Everything in its Season

Hello friends. I am so sorry I have taken this long absence. I didn't intend to take such a long time away initially, but the Lord has been pressing on my heart that I need to reprioritize. Sadly, that has meant that I am putting some things on the backburner, and this blog falls into that category.

When I started Corner of Joy, I was a newly married woman with no children. And while my posts became a little more sporadic once I had my first child, having the twins has made just keeping up with daily tasks a huge undertaking. Yes, I know there are these amazing mamas out there with 10+ children who somehow are able to find a few minutes to blog, but it seems I am not one of them. 

My husband just went through a season of working 7 days of week for almost 7 months. Until recently, he only had 3 total days not working this year so far. It has been crazy, and I'd like to say I walked through that season with no complaining, but I didn't. I was more exhausted and stressed than I have ever been in my entire life, and I knew that I needed to simplify life as much as possible just to keep some sort of sanity and joy in my home. 

I watched a video recently that talked about creating a priorities list in your life, and learning to say no to things based on those priorities. It doesn't necessarily mean I am saying no to things because they are bad, it simply means that there are some things that do not fit into this stage of my life. I am saying "not right now".

Based on the priorities I've outlined for myself, I've had to say "not right now" to quite a few things: pretty much all hobbies like sewing, playing music, recreational reading, and blogging. I now have the freedom to say yes to things like Bible time, beginning homeschooling my daughter, keeping my home clean and organized, finishing house projects, and becoming a leader in my MOPs group. The only real hobby I have been able to hang on to is exercise, and I'm clinging to that one tightly with both hands!

That said, I am missing blogging quite a bit, and have been brainstorming on some changes that will allow blogging to fit into my new life with 3 little ones. I am not gone forever from this platform, but I am having to say "not right now" for a bit longer. 
 
I am always sad when bloggers fall off the map, as I grow to know and love them and their families. So with that in mind, let me share a little update about us. 

My twins are 7 months old already (!!!)
Charlotte and Analisa
Charlotte is two pounds lighter than her younger twin, but she is very spunky and full of energy! She is trying so hard to move (I am actually watching her try to crawl as I write this). Analisa is so smiley and sweet, and doesn't care as much about moving around as she does interacting with people. Both babies are so mild-mannered, and I feel so blessed to have settled into a new normal where I am not always running around like a chicken with my head cut off with these two. 

Victoria will be 3 in just a few weeks. 
We have entered a more challenging stage of parenthood, as she is beginning to challenge established norms and rules. I am learning to pick my battles (how many times she changes her clothes every day=less important, how quickly and thoroughly she obeys=more important). She is into everything princess right now, and more often than not she is dressed up in a play dress and fake crown of some sort
She is the best big sister and oldest child that I could ask for. She is so helpful and loves making her sisters laugh. I worried when I was pregnant that she would not get enough attention with twins around, but she has never shown any jealously towards her sisters. 

I am settling back into a normal routine after the craziness of my husband's work schedule. It was awful, guys. I was a stressball and constantly felt like a impatient bear. I had so many moments when I thought "THIS is what those wild-eyed, messy-haired, yoga-pant-wearing moms must feel like!". 

But, as I said, things are settling down and I have my husband home more. We have also hired a girl from my church to help me with the kids Monday mornings so I can accomplish herculean tasks like putting away laundry (it is now normal to have anywhere from 3-5 baskets of clean laundry hanging around my house waiting to be put away). These things and the babies getting older and a bit more predictable have helped me get my head on straight, 

Some days I feel like I am just trying to keep us all alive, and I am sometimes shocked to have accomplished it!
No makeup, messy hair, but we are surviving
So I promise, I will be back here. But for right now I am doing what I need to be doing here: wife-ing and mom-ing. I love you all and am continuing to pray for you. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

10 Ways to Bless a Pregnant or New Mom

The late pregnancy and postpartum stages are very tough times for many woman, especially if they have other children to take care of. Support in the postpartum period is so vital, as women who don't receive much help are linked to higher postpartum depression rates.

That said, many people don't really know what to do to help a pregnant woman or a new mom. We assume they are fine because they don't ask for help (us pregnant women and mamas don't want to be a burden to anyone. We are "just" growing or raising a baby (or two) after all), but don't underestimate how a little help can go a long long way toward helping one of these women. Something that might not seem like a big deal to you, may seem like a HUGE deal to them. 

So here are 10 ways to bless a pregnant or new mom:

#1: Take her other child(ren) to do something fun
During and after my twin pregnancy I have been so blessed with friends coming to take Victoria now and again to go have fun. Whether they take her to storytime at the library, or just to spend the day playing at their house, I feel IMMENSE relief knowing she is safe, happy, and having a blast while I get the chance to nap, clean, or simply sit down and cuddle my new babies. My neighbor will come and grab Victoria to help her do something outside once a week or so for 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes are pure heaven for me as I get to lie down, close my eyes, or enjoy the twins without feeling an ounce of mommy guilt, because I know Victoria is enjoying herself a ton as well. 

#2: Bring her a meal
People do this all the time for new moms, and it is such a blessing. But bringing a meal to a pregnant woman, especially in those early days of intense nausea or in the late days of exhaustion, is just as helpful. I have a neighbor who often text me while I was pregnant saying "I made extra food tonight, can I bring you some?". And before I knew it, I had a dinner all prepared for my family that I didn't have to worry about. It was SUCH a blessing.
My MOPS group also arranged a meal train for me (and every other new mom) on TakeThemAMeal, which I highly recommend for anyone. It was so convenient for people to sign up for meals and give me an idea of what they would be bringing. Be sure to ask new moms if they have a meal train set up and if they would allow you to set one up for them. Having this burden taken off their shoulders is a huge blessing. 

#3: Vacuum or floor cleaning
Vacuuming is exhausting, and you are never more aware of this than when you are huge pregnant and there are miles of flooring in front of you that needs to be cleaned. I had a neighbor call me while I was pregnant with the twins and say "Hey, I was just thinking, vacuuming is exhausting. Can I come vacuum your house tonight?". And being the gracious receiver I try to be (it's not only important to be a gracious giver), I said yes. It was glorious. She vacuumed my entire house and I was SO thankful. 

#4: Clean
On the same thread as above, going to a new mom's or expectant mom's house with a bucket of cleaning supplies is a huge help. Tell her you are coming over, show up with your supplies, and just start cleaning where you can. Bathrooms are a great place to start, as are cleaning the floors, cleaning out the refrigerator, or doing the dishes. It takes a lot of humility to watch someone else clean your bathrooms! But it is such a blessing. 

#5: Send her for a nap or shower
Whether she is pregnant or a new mom, she is probably exhausted. Send her to bed (with her new baby if she desires) while you watch her older children and keep them occupied with quiet activities. Or simply offer to care for her new baby while she takes a long, relaxing shower and fixes herself up a bit. I had a friend come over a few days ago and she sent me upstairs and said "don't come down for at least 45 minutes". I went upstairs and took a long, leisurely shower and actually blow-dried my hair (!!!). By the time I came down I felt like a new woman and was ready to conquer the rest of the day.

#6: Take her shopping list or pick up her groceries
I have recently discovered the joy of curbside shopping. I always thought it would be expensive or I would hate it, but it is awesome and not expensive at all at my grocery store. For less than $5 I can order all of my groceries online, leaving instructions for each item (such as "2 large flatter shapped onions" or "substitute for green grapes if red is not available"), and pick them up the next day without leaving my car. It's a new mom/pregnant woman's dream. My neighbor has offered more than once to pick up items for me from the store or to pick up my groceries after I ordered them. It's such a help when leaving the house is tough.

#7: Give her a gift for herself
Whether it is a subscription to audible.com so she can listen to books while she does her chores, a massage or facial from Groupon, a mani-pedi gift certificate and an offer to babysit, or some pampering items like bubble bath and luxurious hand or foot cream, these kinds of gifts are such a blessing to new moms! We are giving so much of ourselves to these little people, being able to take something for ourselves can be such a blessing.

#8: Provide some "date" time
New parents often have a tough time finding time to connect. Sometimes even after the baby is asleep it can be tough as you are both listening for cries. An offer to provide a little "date" time can provide some much-needed connection time. Whether you offer to watch the children for an hour or two while they go out to eat, or you simply give them a half hour to go for a walk around the neighborhood, you are providing a huge gift.

#9: Find out what she still needs for the baby
If she has a baby registry, it can be easy to see what she still needs for her baby. But even if she has older children already or no registry, a new baby still requires things like diapers and wipes, not to mention things like double strollers, play yards, and baby carriers that make life easier with more than one child. Whether you are able to purchase an item for her, go in on larger item with someone else, can give a gift certificate to go towards items she may still need, or have a 2nd hand item you can pass along, these are all great ways to help put a mom at ease as she prepares for her baby.

#10: Pray for her
Because we all need prayer, especially when we are going through such large changes in our lives. Pray for her body, her strength, her faith, her family, and her children. Pray that the Lord would provide her with what she needs to get through this time joyfully, and ask that He show you how you can best be a blessing to her.

Another quick note: new moms and pregnant woman often feel like we need to be superwomen and do it all ourselves. When people ask how they can help but don't genuinely seem to want to, it is easy to turn them down and continue pretending like we don't need anything. So in offering help, be genuinely eager, and instead of saying "Can I come vacuum your house sometime?", say something like "I want to help you with something practical. Please let me come vacuum your home! Can I come Wednesday?"

Do you have anything to add this list? I'd love to hear your own stories of how someone was a blessing to you!