Learning to say “yes”

One day, I will learn not to take all three of my kids to Target alone. Maybe.

It was a Friday morning, that fateful day. I needed a few things, and I had a hankering to peruse the home aisles of my local Target. You know, to relax and imagine a world where children don’t actually destroy everything nice I own. It started off fine. Knox and Brody were in the front of the monstrous family buggy, and Ford was in the Ergo carrier. We made it all the way to the back corner of the store, as you do, before the crying began. Ford was done shopping at Target. Like, furiously done. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but wearing an angry baby is UNACCEPTABLE and is in no way, shape or form an allowable alternative to holding said baby. So, I took him out of the carrier, which now dangled around my waist and held him. Still, no dice. His angry “I hate Target” cry quickly turned into a “feed me, woman” cry. So, we pushed our cart as quickly as possible to the front of the store, where I pushed everything and everyone into the family restroom, ignoring the “no merchandise in the restroom” sign. Sorry, Target.

I quickly nursed Ford while Knox and Brody tried to free themselves from the buggy and destroy the bathroom. I mangled to wrangle them one-handed back into their seats with only minor threatening, which I considered a success. Once Ford was finished, I foolishly thought “that was easy enough, now let’s shop some more.” FATAL ERROR, JESSICA. FATAL ERROR.

Once again, we managed to get back to the same corner of the store (school supplies, no less), when Ford promptly lost his cool. All the way lost. Of course, by this point, the section is crawling with quiet families, happily shopping for pencils and dry erase markers. All of which, by the way, are pointedly glaring at me. So, I took Ford out of the carrier again, and tried to jiggle him around. Jiggling really pisses off babies that are tired, FYI. We are nearing nap time, but I just needed to get a new notebook for Bible study. Just one, tiny notebook. “Jesus wants me to have this notebook,” I think. I need it. It’s for holy purposes. Certainly I can just grab one really quickly. Nope. The sight of notebooks is enraging to Ford. I reach out to grab one. I am throwing it in my cart when I see “wide ruled” emblazoned on the cover. WHY DO THEY EVEN MAKE WIDE-RULED NOTEBOOKS???? College-ruled or bust. I frantically start scanning the mountains of notebooks for something with thin-lines. Ford’s screaming is reaching a fever pitch. The eyes of Target people are boring into the back of my head, and I start sweating. Notebook Gate 2016 is becoming a real thing. For the love of all of the things, WHERE IS THE COLLEGE-RULED SECTION?!!! Frantic, I just pushed the cart out of the section, my wailing baby serenading us all the way. As we move to the front of the store, Ford gets quiet. I look down and see the totally red face of a baby that has let loose into silent cry. You know the one. They are so pissed that their cry has lost it’s sound, which only means that in approximately .467 seconds, the loudest cry possible will emerge out of their mouth.

S.O.S.

I knew what needed to happen. This baby needed to nurse IMMEDIATELY. I was still halfway to the checkout section. There was no way I could make it back to the family bathroom in time. I looked around and saw it: the empty furniture aisle. I shoved the cart down the aisle just as Ford started to hysterically scream. All I could think about at that moment was that crazy video where the man at Target starts berating the women for breastfeeding her baby without a cover, and I could not be the newest viral breastfeeding story: “Mom beats man senseless when he tells her to cover up, story at 11.” Because of course, I had left my cover somewhere, so I did what I had to do:

I went into the shelf.

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There, between a barstool and a side table, I scootched all the way back, shielding myself with a cart of children (who at this point were beating each other, gladiator-style, with boxes of Legos) and nursed the baby. Peace (except for the gladiator children). I was hot and sweating and praying no crazy breastfeeding-haters would stumble upon our shelf spot. Once it looked like Ford was asleep, I got up and practically ran to the checkout. Well. All the running woke the baby, who once again realized that he was in Target.

You can guess what happened next.

Every checkout lane had a line. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DID. So I had no choice but to wait. Sandwiched between a blonde lady, about my age (with no children because she was probably smart and got a babysitter), and a lady around the age of my mom, I stood holding a baby that was irate and screaming at the top of his voice. By the way, that’s really loud. My two biggest are asking for Kit Kats and Push Pops and all of the processed foods, and at this point I am like “GET WHATEVER YOU WANT, HEALTH IS STUPID” and pathetically trying to load the conveyor belt with one hand. The blonde woman keeps looking at me, and finally, she can’t help herself…

“Would you like some help?”

I opened my mouth immediately to offer a sweet “no thanks, I am fine,” but instead what came tumbling out was “yes. Yes I would.” So she and the woman behind me jumped into action, unloading my cart and then, taking it a step further, talking sweetly to my angry baby, who promptly stopped crying and smiled at all of the grandma-like attention he was getting from the woman behind us.

It hit me then as I stood there with happy kids piling candy onto the belt- why don’t we say “yes” to help when we need it? I always feel like I have to fake control and make people believe that I have it all together. Let me tell you something right now: I DO NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER. And sometimes, I need some help. I need a nice blonde lady to unload my cart and someone else’s grandma to sweet-talk my baby because I can’t do everything perfectly, all the time.  I don’t know about you, but faking it for someone else’s sake doesn’t actually make anything happen for me aside from filling me with anxiety and making me a little sweaty. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with other people: motherhood (and being a woman, in general) is messy, and it’s hard. God designed us to live in community- to build each other up and pour into one another. Sometimes we are the ones pouring out, and sometimes we’re the ones getting filled up. It’s an ebb and flow, and it is okay to accept the filling. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you human. I am thankful today for two women in Target that showed me kindness and taught me that it’s okay to say “yes.”

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” -1 Peter 3:8

P.S. I got  home and realized: I forgot the notebook.

Oh, hey.

So life with three kids. You guys keep asking me to talk about that, so I figured, why not dust off the old blog and get to typing?

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Well. Let me just start off by saying that FORD IS AMAZING. I feel like he is the baby that my soul didn’t even know it needed so much until he was here.  I am so enamored with him, it’s probably not natural. The child can do no wrong. Maybe that’s because his big brothers are hellbent on doing nothing BUT wrong nowadays?? Who knows!

Trevor and I have both said that hardest thing about having three kids is dealing with the older two- same as it was before Ford was here! Knox and Brody are wild men. Their energy levels are astounding, and their appetites are insatiable. We never have any food in our house because they are like tiny black holes in my pantry. I say “get out of the refrigerator!” 47 times a day AT MINIMUM. Knox ate two boxes of yogurt tubes this week. How the child didn’t have explosive diarrhea, I’ll never know. Maybe the entire bunch of bananas he consumed in three days evened that out? Brody’s tag line is “I need something out of the pantry.” I feel like his theme music should be the song from the McDonald’s commercials. “Mom. I need some Donald’s french fries.” Don’t we all, Brody? Don’t we all? Thankfully, since his tonsillectomy, he sleeps so much better and no longer snores! Hallelujah!

Don’t they just look like trouble? They dressed themselves. Bless.

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Sweet Ford is five months old, and he really is just that: sweet. He’s happy, always smiling and talking and loves people. He needs to be held and talked to all the time, and we are more than happy to do it. He is such a joyful little thing. He co-sleeps with me and sometimes wakes us once or twice to nurse then goes immediately back to sleep. He has slept through the night for the past month or two, which, let me just say: I never knew how glorious babies can be if you actually sleep. This is new territory for me. I’d seriously have five more babies if they were all like Ford. He’s a mama’s boy for sure, but I think all nursing babies probably are. Speaking of, he’s a chunk and weighs about 18 pounds and wears size 9 or 12 months. Big boy! Trevor started talking about Ford’s future bedroom, and I started to have heart palpitations. This baby is staying in our room forever. The end (Not really, but at least for now, that’s my stance).

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Oh, and we did a dumb, dumb thing:

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Meet Carly. Our Labradoodle daughter. At least we called her that for the first day we had her until she started peeing all over the house. Now she’s back to being our dog. She is as cute as a button, but man alive, her bladder must be dime-sized because she pees CONSTANTLY. Literally, every 20 minutes this dog pops a squat and makes me insane. We’ve rolled up all of our rugs, so thank goodness for hardwood (laminate) floors!! Our children exhaust her. I have to move her to the bathroom for a nap a few times a day or this happens:

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She just goes to sleep anywhere. She’s not dumb, though. When she’s had enough she goes under the couch where they can’t reach her and passes out.! Aside from the rampant urine situation, she is a great little puppy. We’ve had her for less than a week, but she has never shown any sort of nervousness or anxiety- she walked right in like she had lived here forever. The breeder had EIGHT children (yes, God bless them), so these puppies were very well acquainted with children. AND LOOK:

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Every boy loves her. I think she’s going to be a great dog when she grows up. Hopefully she will be potty trained soon- she’s really too little to be crate trained at only seven weeks old, at least for more than about an hour at a time, so we will stick to taking her out every 30 minutes until she has some more bladder control!

So I think that’s enough for now. I’ll come back soon and talk about my kids and dog more. I know you’re on the edge of your seat. Smooches.

 

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I compare my kids to each other all the time. I don’t compare them to one another in a judgmental fashion, holding one’s strength up to another’s weakness, rather in a nostalgic kind of way, just remembering. I remember big round eyes in each little boy- the eyes that gave everyone the false impression that the baby looked like me. I always tell them “just wait,” and those Trevor features will start taking over their little faces. It amazes me that they all look different, but they all look like their dad. If I hadn’t carried them all, I’d be certain Trevor just spit them each out himself.

Knox and Ford look the most alike, of the three. So much so, in fact, that sometimes Ford’s expression or pose will conjure up an nearly photographic memory of Knox in the same position or making the same face. I often have to scroll through hundreds of pictures to locate just the one Ford make me think of- a moment in time with Knox that I can barely remember.

Knox, Brody and Ford 3 months

It’s such a shame that these baby years fade from my memory so quickly. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation or the stress, I’m not sure which. I do know that I can’t seem to hold onto those squishy, sweet-smelling baby faces in my mind. I remember bits and pieces of Knox as a baby- certain moments stand out more than others. Our time in the NICU is emblazoned in my head, the beeps and the wires and the desperate prayers. I remember worrying over him endlessly, even before I was pregnant with him, as bizarre as that sounds, all the way to now. He’s always the one my worries fall heaviest upon. I barely remember Brody as an infant, at all. I KNOW that one is due to lack of sleep and postpartum depression, both of which made my mind and memories hazy and tired. I do remember him crying. All the time. And his precious soft curls, long gone, but easily recounted. I used to tell his baby self that it was lucky he was so cute, because he certainly wasn’t easy!

I purpose to remember these days with Ford. I soak them up and live on them. A fuel for my long days of mothering and working and for my worn-out spirit. Even when I’m too tired to do anything else, I hold onto him, smelling his sweet head, willing myself not to forget a single thing. The way his right ear points a little more than his left. The way his lips move, remembering feeding time even when he’s asleep. The way his weight feels against me as I sway back and forth, calming him into rest. The way he settles the second I pick him up. These sweet days where they love their mommy most of all- I know they’ll be gone before I can blink.

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These three boys and their father are my greatest treasure here on earth. I thank God for each and every day with them, even if I say some curse words under my breath when they make me crazy. The praise always rises above the pain- every time. I just hope I remember exactly how much I love them today. Even though I’ll love them more tomorrow.

Under the Knife

Three weeks ago, Brody had surgery to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. We went to the ENT back in January when I was hugely pregnant, and he told us that Brody almost certainly had sleep apnea due to the size of his adenoids. He suggested removing them and his tonsils to improve Brody’s quality of sleep.

His attitude had been ABYSMAL for many a month, driving us absolutely insane. Every little disagreement or something not going his way turned into a full-blown meltdown, nuclear tantrum or screaming fit. Beyond the typical threenager attitude issues- we knew this was something out of the ordinary. We were to the end of our rope with him, when I talked to a friend (thanks, Jocelyn!), and she suggested it may be sleep apnea causing his attitude problems. Eureka, I think we stumbled upon something here! We’ve noticed for quite a while that Brody was not sleeping well. He snored like a full-grown man and woke up multiple times a night, even at four years-old. So we took him to the pediatrician, who referred us to an ENT, who then confirmed our suspicions.

Even though we knew it would help, we were dreading the surgery. Who wants to hand their child over to get put under and cut on?? Not me! So, we waited until after we were fairly settled after Ford’s birth, then we bit the bullet and made the appointment. Brody didn’t know a whole lot, aside from the fact he was going to a “special doctor appointment” and would breath into a mask that sounds like Darth Vader, take a nap, wake up and eat lots of ice cream. “That sounds like so much fun!,” Brody told me. Yeah. Sorry, buddy, but I don’t think so!! He did awesome on the morning of the surgery without a single tear. It wasn’t until he got wheeled down the hall without us that he turned around and cried out for us, “Mommy, Daddy!!” And then the tears came… but not from him! Man, that’s heart-wrenching to hand your baby over!

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After about 30 minutes, the surgeon called us back, He said Brody’s surgery went very well, and that he had some “big ole’ adenoids.” He said that we’d see a huge difference in his sleep within the next week. Then the fun began. Brody didn’t exactly react well to the anesthesia and was in absolute hysterics coming out of it. They warned us he’d likely be inconsolable, but he even exceeded their expectations! He was livid. “PUT ME DOWN RIGHT NOW!!!” He wanted nothing more than to rub his eyes (which he wasn’t allowed to do) and run away (also, not exactly allowed). He screamed. And screamed. And screamed. <— Ouch considering the procedure he just had done. So, they ended up having to give him some morphine. Still, didn’t calm down a whole lot, but enough to drink a bit of water and get discharged with a promise from the nurses that he’d surely pass out the second we got into the car. On the way out, Brody was pretty insistent on us taking his Darth Vader mask (oxygen mask), AND that he needed a black Darth Vader mask, too. So his sweet grandpa (Poopa, as Brody calls him… they’re BFFs) went out and bought him one and delivered it to our house. Brody talked to me about Darth Vader the whole way home, even though he was still pretty mad at the world.

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We got home, Brody put his new mask on, demanded Goldfish and started playing with his light saber. Um, morphine? Do your work, please. Or not. Brody didn’t sleep until he went to bed that night. We were shocked!

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The first two days, he did amazingly well. I had to call the surgeon’s office and make sure he could go ahead and start on the soft food diet because that kid was over mushy food in about five seconds. He had one scoop of ice cream and one chocolate pudding before he decided he needed chicken and some real food. They said he could have it if he was tolerating it with no pain. All was good.

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Until day 3 when the vomiting started. Six times this poor child threw up. Can you imagine vomiting when your throat has open wounds on it?? I felt so badly for him!! He couldn’t keep pain meds down at all. He could barely sip water, and keeping your throat moist is a big part of the healing process and pain management. I called the doctor’s office and based on Brody’s symptoms, how far out from surgery he was, etc. the doctor diagnosed Brody with an ill-timed stomach virus, on top of everything else. That’s when life pretty much started to suck for the next week.

Brody was in agony the next day. After almost a full day of no pain meds, a raw throat from throwing up and general starvation from not eating, he was pretty ticked off at everyone he came across. That was, hands-down, the worst day of parenting in our six-year career. We were having to tag-team dealing with him because he’d wear you down in a hurry. He’d scream in our faces with his dead-dog-baking-in-the-heat breath (side effect of tonsil removal… the struggle is real), and we’d want to throw up from the stink and scream back in frustration, but luckily, we made it past that wretched day. We had many a discussion about why he couldn’t have “Donald’s” french fries or chips in the days to come. He had to settle for soggy microwave fries, which he just loved. Can’t you tell?

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It was slow going after that, but thankfully, after about ten days, he started to really feel better.

He’s back to regular food and normal life now, and we’re trying to fatten him up again since all of his pants are falling off from losing so much weight while he recovered. He is sleeping so much better, now. No snoring, if he wakes up, he goes right back to sleep, and I can tell he’s so much more rested now. His attitude is better, but we still have plenty of “fun” moments. I think it’s going to take a while to correct some of the in-the-trenches parenting we were doing with him (for example, after listening to screaming for five hours, sometimes you give in just to make it stop), but it’s much easier to talk to him now than previously. We’re hoping for good things to come! Thanks for all of you that prayed for him and sent encouraging messages on social media, it meant a lot to us. We’re looking forward to having our sweet, well-rested Brody back!

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Hope Remains

One of my best friends lost her five year-old this week. After almost two years of seizures, comas, hospitals and specialists, Walker is finally resting in the arms of Jesus. I keep thinking back to when all of this started. Trevor called me that morning and told me about the medical call they ran the night before. The call where his captain turned their firetruck into our friends’ neighborhood. Then onto their street. Then pulled up at their house. Each step of the way, Trevor said he kept thinking “Please don’t let this be their house.” Only it was. Karie, my dear friend, called me from the hospital and told me about the first seizures. They came out of nowhere and suddenly their vivacious, smart, talkative three year-old was having an MRI while we all prayed and wondered how to make sense of it all. Many months later, we still can’t make it make sense. Babies shouldn’t suffer and die. Parents shouldn’t have to beg for their children’s lives. These things shouldn’t happen.

Everyone is so amazed they kept going. Not just that Andy and Karie carried on, but that they did so with immense faith and never failed to point out that God was in control. They had something bigger than their fear: they had hope. Here’s the funny thing about hope- it won’t let you give up. It’s more than just a feeling or an idea; it’s a bridge that carries you from a place that doesn’t make sense into one that does. To a place where details like autoimmunity and encephalitis don’t matter, but one piece of truth reigns over everything: that Jesus Christ is Lord. He suffered and died so that when our loved ones suffer and die, it isn’t the end. His kingship rules even over death, forcing it into submission to a mighty God that loves us recklessly and without condition. A God that fights for us even beyond death. He wants more than life for us: He wants eternity.

Walker may be gone from his earthly body, now, but his short life was not without impact. More people heard the name of Jesus through Walker’s story than I could begin to count. He mattered. He still matters. He will always matter. His life has led people to surrender theirs to Christ, to trust in God’s goodness even amidst tragedy. His strength and his parents’ strength have made us stronger.

Living in this sin-wrecked world has its perils; death is one of them. When the world has gone to pieces, we can’t expect things to make sense all the time. But. Even amidst all of the uncertainty, the fear, the all-too-human questioning, one thing stands out: love. The love of a God that made the ultimate sacrifice- his own son dying on a cross so that we, along with our own sons and daughters, can live together forever in paradise.

His love gives us hope. The world is broken, but our God is unshaken. For that, we can all rejoice, knowing that He can do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine. He is holy. He is sovereign. He is alive. He is good. He is our hope.

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