God Also Thought of Me

It’s been almost sixteen months of Joanie out of the womb. She has such a big personality. I’ve been reflecting on life with her as she nears that moment when you realize, she’s not really a baby anymore… What is it that makes you realize it? Discovering they have developed opinions on things? Seeing them work so hard to be just like you? Watching them look for approval in your face as they learn a new thing? The will emerging when they are told “no?” Maybe it’s all of those things. But it’s becoming apparent that soon, she will run and jump and no longer need assistance walking, and that is so beautiful and so sad at the same time!

I struggled to find my place as a mother again when she was born. She was so different from Eliot! I didn’t expect to struggle in that capacity. Sure, I knew how to do the diapers, the feedings, the kissing of all the ouchies. I knew how to rock her, soothe her, and play with her… I knew all the lullabies and so on some level, it was much easier with a second baby. But that spunky personality… whew, that was a real curve ball. I kept expecting her to want to be clingy, to LOVE nursing, to be shy. But of course she wasn’t going to be the same as my first! She’s NOT my first.

We did things differently with her. For starters, we did not Co-Sleep, and she became a champion sleeper! She was sleeping through the night by ten weeks! And then, for whatever reason, after being an amazing nurser from the start, nursing fell out around five months, and she became even more independent. And as far as rocking, she would much rather laugh it up and crack baby jokes than put her head on my shoulder for hours!

For a while, I was so frustrated by those things and I felt like a failure as a mother. It wasn’t until recently that the common sense that each baby is different REALLY began to sink in. By considering myself a failure, I was actually considering my baby as a failure too! How awful. Once I made that realization, other means of contentedness began to fall into place.

God didn’t give me a second melancholy, clingy, highly sensitive baby, even if I felt like I would be a pro at that the second time around. I had learned with my first the beauty of that kind of child. So many snuggles, so much empathy at such a young age, such a thirst for learning… God gave me the opposite and I was going to have to learn all about this new kind of child. He gave me an independent, bouncy, good-humored baby. I was focusing on the challenges, but He wanted me to see the beauty too!

And such beauty was there to be had by this second child. She is the jelly to Eliot’s peanut-butter. What a comedian this child is… She actually cackles ALL THE TIME. She has the most adorable grin. She is so spunky that she’s not afraid to express displeasure with something. She’s also such a sweet spirit! She shares easily and is such a fan of playing!

I realized that if I had been given another melancholy child this time, the struggle that I’ve had with my anxiety and mental health would have been so much worse. There have been so many times of anxiety over the last year and a half that have been soothed by my baby! I’ll be in a state of fretting and then Joan will do something hilarious or play peekaboo, or start growling and the laughter will bubble out of me. She’s not a fix for my problems, I don’t view her that way at all. But she is a balm from the Lord for my heavy spirit. God was ACTUALLY thinking of me when he designed Joanie.

I thought I needed another highly sensitive and clingy baby to snuggle through the hardships. But what I really needed was sparkling, twinkling, playful eyes, and easy grins, and lightheartedness. Joan is pure JOY, which is why I constantly use the hashtag, “joyful joanie” to tag her.

I see her bless her brother too. She loves to play and share with him. She looks for him first when she wakes up each day, and she mimics him in almost everything. She also paves the way for him to be brave with her bold, feisty spirit! In contrast, when she gets hurt, Eliot is better than even I am at consoling her. He sings to her in the car when she’s angry and she stops. He kisses her ouchies and makes her giggle. He tells her that it’s okay to be sad if she’s upset. He holds her hand whenever she lets him. He chases her around the house to wear her out.

Joan makes me laugh. She lightens my load. Her beautiful smile brings me such joy when I come home to her, and her laid back behavior when I have to go out without her never puts me in any distress. Her giggle can part the clouds. She is so much joy.

Eliot’s detailed care and high empathy shows me the love of God at all times. When I feel alone, he hugs my neck and says, “you’re the best girl in the world and I love you,” and I remember that I’m not alone. He forgives me so easily when I mess up, and he prays for me if I’m having a difficult day of any kind. He adores books and snuggling, and asks to just “be with me,” all day. His favorite part of any outing is always, “that our whole family was together.” Eliot is pure love.

I was given two very different kinds of blessings, and I’ve come to see God’s love for me in each of their designs. He didn’t just make Joan. He put her in this family, and she balances it beautifully. He gave her to us to raise and through raising her, we are rich beyond any treasure. God also thought of me when He formed her. The world is a fuller and better place with Joan in it. How amazing that I experience the love of God through my son and the joy of Christ through my daughter.

Thoughts on Control and Feeding my Baby

My mom and I had an intimate conversation recently about how motherhood changes over time. Perspectives broaden, little things really don’t matter as much, and things that you once couldn’t stand become things you crave.

I breastfed my firstborn until he was thirteen months old. I hated every second of it. I breastfed my second child for four months. Really hated it too, but was resigned to it. I had a lot of conversations with my mom and sister about wanting to love it, but really just doing it as a service to the kids. My mom shared how her perspective had changed through a series of events, both good and bad. She started off hating it for kid one and two, and by kid five, it was her favorite thing! My sister started off hating it at kid one, and ended hating it at kid four. I figured I’d be more like my sister, because I could NOT see myself ever enjoying it, unless something drastic happened.

Something drastic did happen. At four months postpartum, my milk started waning. I couldn’t make enough. I have come to realize that my depression was causing it to decline. It dropped off quickly, and the less milk I made, the less my daughter wanted it! Eventually, she outright refused it, screamed constantly, and we switched to bottle feeding. We tossed around the idea of seeking help for the matter, but the pros of bottle feeding really appealed to me. The stress of finding a consultant, making time to correct the problem and pumping more did NOT appeal to me. My daughter was becoming a great sleeper, loved the bottle, it made it easier for me to be away from her, and I didn’t have to endure sticky milk all over me, sore breasts, being on a timer, and feeling like a cow… So my milk pretty much dried up. I went on my way for a while… I didn’t mind the bottle feeding so much. I was really preoccupied with life. At four months, coinciding with my milk drying up, I began having steady panic attacks. My anxiety got so much worse.

I still didn’t really mind switching. It was inconsequential to me. What I wanted was to enjoy my life again. That meant I needed to control it. I needed her to take bottles so I didn’t have to spend as much time feeding her, so that I could have more time to myself to get everything under control. I needed to be able to be away from her whenever my needs arose. To enjoy my life, I just knew I needed to control it. Breastfeeding my baby wasn’t enjoyable to me. How could I enjoy something that made me feel so without control? I wasn’t going to live with the anxiety, so I needed to control my life, get the anxiety out, and then I could get back to living. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I basically ALLOWED the anxiety to control me. I wasn’t in control like I thought… I thought I quit breastfeeding because I was in control. But in reality, I quit breastfeeding because the anxiety was in control. It dictated my choices. I had this mentality that I needed to stop life for a bit to regroup. Life doesn’t work that way…

You don’t get to stop life. Instead, you fall away from your life and it goes on without you. All of the sudden, my daughter is ten months. She is as independent as they come. She’s no worse for wear even though she was bottle fed! She’s smart, fierce, independent, healthy, and tries her hardest to keep up with the toddler. Bottle feeding/breastfeeding—your child is getting fed. THAT is what matters.

But for me, bottle feeding became a symbol of my control. I wasn’t going to allow anything I didn’t want to happen to me or my life. I didn’t like breastfeeding, oh well, guess I will just bottle feed instead of taking the hard road to build up my supply again. I didn’t like the anxiety in my day to day, so I was going to ignore its presence and get my life together BY MYSELF, instead of taking the hard road of working THROUGH the challenges. By the way, trying to work through my anxiety alone basically looked like avoidance, spontaneity and a lack of maturity. It didn’t help.

Now, I really have changed my perspective. I really crave breastfeeding. I really embrace the lack of control, because I never could control it anyway. I’ve learned a reliance on God’s care of me. Breastfeeding could have actually helped my anxiety too. If I had stopped trying to control my life, who knows where I would be right now. I know I have a control problem though… And I have a hard time giving myself over to God, my kids, and my husband. I want to do better in the future. And you know what, if I am ever blessed with another child, I can feel the desire in my heart to sit, rock, nurse and bask in the goodness of God.

(I say none of this to start the ridiculous breastfeeding/bottle-feeding war, so if you’re on the hunt to fight on the internet, there are much better places to look.)

It’s never perfect

But within the chaos, there’s such beauty. We held a private baptism for our little Joan this past Sunday the thirteenth of August surrounded by many of our nearest and dearest. It was such a beautiful, real moment in the messiness of life. It was small. The toddler had one little meltdown. We didn’t really know the logistics until last minute. But the grace of the sacrament was present, the toddler stopped freaking out the moment that the deacon began praying a blessing and the baby was brought into the church. It was such a special moment. 

We are blessed beyond measure. 

Sixteen Summers

I only have sixteen summers left with my firstborn. 

Sure that’s a stereotype and overgeneralization of the time it takes to parent. It could be less. It could be more. We don’t know anything about the time each of us has for anything, much less life in general. It’s a speculation. 


I guess I’m realizing how “up close” the perspective and lens to view the world seems to be in parenting. We don’t linger long on the big picture. It’s too easy to get caught up in the part of the frame where the toddler whines a lot and has an excessive amount of needs. Or the part where there’s no time for adult conversation and connection with the spouse. Or maybe the part where the daily grind consists of coffee, diapers, nap, peanut butter scraping, bedtime, repeat. All of that sounds so bleak. There are so many bright moments too! But it’s hard to see those moments unless you widen your perspective and try to see more of the picture. 


For instance, the toddler whining has a much less powerful influence on my mood when I take into account that it comes with complex concepts that he is learning and a huge amount of information he is taking into his overtired brain and emotional being. He can count to ten, knows our Christian names, understands the days of the week, prays his own prayers, and recognizes the subtle difference of emotion in someone else. The whining seems small in comparison to the amazing stuff I get to witness in addition. The witnessing of formation of a little soul and citizen brings a lot of joy to balance out the frustration of our close lens. 


And as things form and fuse together, a sense of permanency arises with it. My firstborn has a wonderful sense of empathy. It is one of the factors that contributes to how sensitive he is and why he feels such strong emotions. That is probably not going to change, so rather than wishing away the moments and hours of frustration, I need to help him cultivate this gift and navigate the negative emotion that comes with it. After all, sixteen years is not a long time in that big picture. I don’t want to miss out on the wonder of this boy before he becomes a man. 


He needs me now. He won’t always need me. He needs an extra sippy of milk, an extra story at bedtime, and an extra set of minutes to snuggle alone. He needs patience when he can’t understand and guidance when he faces a problem for the hundredth time that day. If he does not get these things, he will find a cruel world awaiting him that he will form and fuse himself to and that little flame of empathy will be put out. It will be replaced by cold, unfeeling, cynicism and desensitization. He will have much work to undo in his behavior if he even makes the realization that there is work to undo as he becomes a man and a citizen. 

He will struggle to find joy unless I can find it first. This up close view is so important and I can only react properly if I take a step back and fit it all into the frame. 

That is how we laugh at the ridiculous, cry at the sorrowful, and love when it’s hard. That is how we see the joy when it’s difficult to find. 


What am I going to try to do with these sixteen summers? 


Give a little more, fight less battles, spend more time taking a step back to look and listen, and ultimately, be a joyful mom. Life is too precious to waste it without true joy in each day with whatever we have been given. 

Dear Daughter

My dear little daughter,You are not out in this crazy world yet, but you are known here in our family. We talk about you and to you daily, and we experience your mark on this world daily. Your father speaks in his deep bear voice every morning and you dance for him in what I can only imagine as excitement. I sing songs and laugh and you jump in a joyful way. But the most enthusiastic companion for you is your sensitive, happy, adoring brother who dotes on you multiple times every single day. You make his world a bright, cheerful place. 
It was for him that you first gave us all a taste of your feisty, joyful life within my womb. I spent hours, one hopeless evening, attempting to put your brother to bed through songs, bottles, rocking, cuddling, and silent begging. My tummy growled because you demanded extra calories and the hours it was taking to lay him down for sleep didn’t please either of us. I faced the ceiling with your brother sprawled across my growing belly in the dark and suddenly, you jabbed with all your might. I sucked in breath because it tickled and your brother raised his head, sleepily. He grinned and stretched the fingers of his right hand as far as they would expand and began stroking my belly. His gentle strokes tickled me terribly, and for a brief minute, you both were ganging up on me. You jabbed again, and your brother couldn’t contain laughter. From that moment, you two had a beautiful relationship of fun, silliness, and companionship. 

After that first time of feeling your life grow, I knew how much you were needed in this family. Your kicks remind me daily that our tiny world is changed for the better and the joy you bring even now brings us so much goodness into our lives. 

Everyday, I rock your brother to sleep for nap, and your growth has made it impossible to be alone with him in that chair. But he insists upon rocking, shoves a hand in my shirt and lovingly says, “bebe” or “luv da Bebe” or some kind of variation. He includes you even now and you bring him comfort. He giggles at your kicks, and sometimes, he shares his beloved “Softy Kitty” with you with a simple explanation, “itsa Softy!” You enjoy the lullabies that I sing for him just as much as he does and you wiggle excitedly. You two have an undeniable bond of siblings that no one could miss upon observation. I have no concern that you will fit into this family, because just as he did with the rocking chair, your big brother will make you fit and guide you along. 

You are the next little piece to our life and love’s puzzle, and you will never lack in belonging. Our family needs you, and needs exactly who you are even now. When your brother comes in and asks for you, you bring him comfort and he smiles and snuggles. When your father feels exhausted and hopeless, you bring joy and tenderness and so much hope as he waits to feel you move under my skin. When I sometimes feel lost, your little body lights my path back to the love of our family and the love packed into this vocation. Your whole existence is a mark of God’s love for me through all of his many gifts to me. 

I hope we can deserve you. I hope we can give you all that you have already given us. I hope you will always know how perfectly joyful you have made us and how glad we are to be your family. We can’t wait for you to get here, little one. 

Marveling.

Now that I’m not dealing with overwhelming health stuff, I really am finding myself catching up on marveling. Does that ever happen to you? I remember being in bed and thinking, “I want this all to be over so that I can just slow down and enjoy the little things about parenthood.” God heard my plea, and now we are all enjoying such wonderful, deliberate, slow, meandering days just in time for toddlerhood. *cue time outs* In addition to the tantrum time outs, we’re taking on a whole new meaning to the words “time out” and observing the wondrous curiosity, joy, and love that this little guy has for life! Let’s marvel over the faces of Eliot, shall we?

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While Daniel was graduating, I snapped a bunch of photos of the day, but never got a chance to really look at them. I’m glad I did, now, when I can finally stop and look! I love their relationship!

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Cheese grinning it up with chalk all over his body. Look at that ham!

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Even the pooched out sad face just makes me grin like a fool! This was back before he could walk and was crawling everywhere. I do believe he got stuck between the rocker and oversized chair, and that’s why he was crying. Don’t worry, I got him unstuck right after documenting the sad face. 😉

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Can we talk about this hair? Is it there, is it not? Whatever it is, it’s fine and fuzzy and uneven and I ADORE IT.

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Those little red cheeks and that big ol’ pot belly! Classic toddler.

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Anybody want to stick their fingers in between those teeth? I didn’t think so…the rewards of us all hanging on during the teething!

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New FAVORITE picture.  Those eyes are so full of life and joy and just gazing at this photo makes me forget all the crazy that comes along with parenting.

Life is precious and amazing.

In this house, we imagine…

Looking at the overcast expanse above with the tips of the trees stretching their branches, reaching, and clawing for the heavens within my gaze, I stirred my soup and marveled at the pleasure it brought me to cook a meal for my big family and several friends under the open sky. I knew they would be hungry and tired after the drive. After all, covered wagons were an amenity to be thankful for, but not known for their comfort and ease in journeying. With the baby on my hip, I spooned a big serving of savory stew into each bowl and nodded as each member thanked me profusely. Finally, I sat down and enjoyed a meal, myself, and wondered how far we had gone that day. It had been a long day. After supper, we all retired to our blankets under the wagon and tried to catch some sleep. Who knew how far we had left to travel tomorrow?

In reality, this story looked a bit different. Same scenery, different sets. A lone girl (sometimes with the aid of a friend or sibling) smiled and talked to herself and her imaginary historical friends in the middle of her parent’s woods behind the house with an old bent pot from her mother tied between two small saplings. She held a baby doll in one hand and a stirring stick in the other. The pot was full of dirt, leaves, water, and bark and resembled a bad mud puddle to be avoided. A pile of pokey pine branches and needles underneath a bouncy lower tree branch served as a makeshift bed and covered wagon whose only owner and master was the imagination of a child.

This kind of day occurred nearly every day between the ages of four and eleven.

I remember my childhood with fondness and often laugh with my husband as we recount crazy imaginative games we would play in preparation of growing up and facing the trials of adulthood. Our childhood filled with imagination gave us many gifts to guide us through life at every stage. The gifts of kindness, humility, charity, and love, only to name a few. As I raise a curious, silly, and social little boy, my childhood games of pretend and make believe pop back into my head and remind me to encourage my son in those ways.

It’s not just about growing imagination. It’s about growing virtue. Imagination is an essential part of our moral formation and a great tool to grow virtue!

Let me explain in a more applicable manner. When my fourteen month old son runs to the cabinet and picks up an over-sized bowl and then begins to stir with one of my many spatulas, he’s imitating and imagining.

He picks up the empty spatula,

holds it to his mouth,

makes an eating sound,

and then gives a comical cheesy smile while clutching his tummy.

He then dips it back in and spoons a bite to my mouth and waits. It’s not an empty spoon to him. It’s a tasty dish that he worked to make, and then offered to share with those he loved. He often loads the dishwasher with his utensils after he’s shared and signs “all done” to me as he happily walks off to go imagine with something or someone else.

What wonder is his little mind! What wonder it is to see his heart on display through his imagination! What wonder it is to see him learn virtue in these beginning stages of life! This imagination is a tool to be used to grow him in charity and kindness as he shares, hard work and perseverance as he helps me clean, and more as his mind develops everyday!

Fourteen months is really young still, but I’m of the impression that you can help your child play and imagine from day one. I would like to share some ways and toys that we use to help cultivate imagination in this house, even at itty bitty toddler stage.

Grocery Cart and/or Kitchen: I mentioned his cooking earlier, and he stores all of my pots and pans and bowls in his little cart and pushes it through the house collecting things. Sometimes he puts a doll or bear in the child’s seat! We also just acquired a pretty neat little play kitchen second hand at a steal, and he adores it. He loves making pretend soup and tea and giving us sips!

Baby dolls: Yes, I have a boy. But there’s no good reason that boys cannot play with dolls, and Eliot is quite fascinated with babies. He puts their clothes on and off, uses a bath scrubbie to rub their heads, feeds them a bottle, and rocks them in his arms. He’s so tender with them and I can see his mind pick up more and more with his baby dolls and apply it when he sees a real baby!

Blanket forts: He brings his animals and pillows in the fort and pretends to sleep! And honestly, what parent doesn’t want to make a blanket fort and relive their awesome childhood memories! We often do blanket forts for movie nights and rainy days.
Phones: In this day and age, everyone has a phone. Even kids. I’m not saying I advocate phones for little ones because I really don’t see the point when they can use their mother’s for any necessary talking, however, babies love to imitate! It wasn’t long before Eliot started putting every little toy, hot wheel, and piece of bread against his ear to babble. We gave him his grandfather’s old flip phone with the loose parts and battery missing and Eliot is quite taken with it. He walks around chatting and we can hear his inflection changing everyday. He’s turning into such a little boy!

Books: I can’t leave out the most magical tool of imagination growth, and even at this young age, toddlers need to have someone read aloud to them. Just listen to Read Aloud Revival for all the great reasons why! I may write another post containing our favorites at this age. Books are things I splurge on and are by far the biggest collection of anything Eliot owns, even over clothes and toys!

Right now, these are the tools we use to help Eliot grow and imagine. It’s such a gift to help shape a little mind and access his creative brain. All I can leave you with is the thought that your child’s—any child’s—imagination is a beautiful, wonderful gift, and as guides and parents responsible for shaping a new generation, we shouldn’t squander this opportunity!

Have you played pretend with your little one today?