Thursday, May 16, 2013


My sweet Aunt Betsy sent me these beautiful little matching sweaters a few months ago.  Her daughters Erin and Meghan wore them when they were little, and now my girls get to wear them.  They fit perfectly now, and I finally remembered to get a few pictures of my girls wearing them. 

I'm always surprised how hard it is to get two little people to look at the camera at the same time, while smiling nicely.  We got a lot of shots like this.  One child, perfect.  The other, not so much.
And then of course the good pictures are blurry.
This one is pretty good.  Chloë decided to go for some fake laughing, which looks surprisingly real.
Elaina thought it was funny.
Hand gesturing is always a must.
My girls.  Elaina, 15 months old, and Chloë, 2 and 11/12.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Motherhood As My Career

...Continued from Nursing As My Career.

I realize that I haven't been doing this mom thing for very long.  There are many women that are older, wiser, and more experienced when it comes to the topic of motherhood.  Some of those women are wonderful writers, and have taken the time to write and publish their thoughts on these matters.  I also realize this has all been said before. These are just my experiences and thoughts on what I've learned.  They aren't very well written, and they certainly aren't eloquent.  But still, I find putting my thoughts on paper (er, pixels), helps me sort them out.  So in case you're curious what those thoughts might look like, here's what I have.

Our society doesn't understand why I would choose to be a stay-at-home mom.  It doesn't make sense.  You gave up a noble profession in nursing because you wanted to make mac-n-cheese, color with your kids, and wipe snotty noses?  Yep.  But keep reading.

Whatever your background, I think we can agree that there is rewarding fulfillment in volunteer work.  Even the celebrities do it. There is a certain kind of gratification in knowing you've helped someone, and someone poor or less fortunate at that.  Maybe you've volunteered at a soup kitchen before.  Maybe you once raised money to go to some third world country for 10 days.  You probably even had a moment of enlightenment while you were there.  Well, I sort of think of motherhood as the ultimate volunteer work.  I help two little people every single day.  In one sense, they are the poorest people I know.  Without me to take care of them, they would become nothing. 

Why is it that volunteering to help with children is highly admirable, but dedicating your life to the cause without monetary gain has become something to pity?  I think in part, because our society doesn't truly love children.  At least, not with the kind of love that values the other person above yourself.  Many people see kids as a hindrance to a good night's sleep, giving up the luxury of fancy vacations, and not being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want.  Children get in the way of our cultural religion of self-fulfillment.

Children have a lot of needs that require a lot of attention. And I want to be the person fulfilling the needs of my children, and pouring myself into every aspect of their lives.  Sometimes that means I have sacrifice something I want to do so I can help/serve/love/train/encourage them.  Being a mother means we have to give up ourselves.  Over and over and over.  Yes, it's hard work.  Giving things up always is.  It is our nature to be selfish and to do what we want to do, and motherhood is long, hard, sometimes exhausting work. Even so, there are many opportunities for the kind of gratification that fills our souls with joy: the unprompted "wuv yoo"s, the bedtime snuggles and storybook time, the constant singing. But more often than not, motherhood requires us to give... and give... and give.  And unless you've seen an Example of what that kind of sacrifice looks like, you might only be willing to give as long as you're also being given in return.

In case you're wondering, let's just get one thing straight.  The Bible does not actually say that women are less valuable than men, and therefore a woman's place is in the home.  Nope.  The Bible teaches us that family is important, and God created women to have the mental and emotional capacity to be good at raising our children. A wise man I know once told women that "your strength is found particularly in your beauty and your powers of nurturing life."  That does not sound demeaning to me.  It sounds like I have superpowers.

The fact that we women have powers of nurturing life does not disqualify the other things God has made us good at, and the other talents He has given us.  In fact, I find that while raising my two small children, I am able to explore and exercise the various talents God has given me. After all, people joke that being a mom is a score of professions rolled into one: a housekeeper, sure.  A chef, definitely.  And also a pre-school teacher, an advisor, a nurse, a counselor, an interior designer, a music teacher, a writer, a photographer, a hairdresser, a fashion consultant, a referee, an object-locator, etc. etc. It's fun pulling out my dusty guitar and playing until my fingers burn.  But even if I excel in all of those specialties, being multi-talented and super organized isn't what makes me a good mother. Knowing how to love, be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and have self control is what my children really need me to be good at.  Because after all, children learn by example.  And children love the things they see their parents love.

The Bible also doesn't say women shouldn't have jobs.  Of course not.  Proverbs praises a woman for her awesome workplace skills.  So if you don't have a problem with women working, why don't you work occasionally to keep up your nursing license and skills?  You could make extra money while serving your community.  Wouldn't it be good for you to get out of the house?  Those are really good questions.  When it comes down to it, I simply didn't want to leave my little family for 8 or 12 hours at a time, and I didn't want to become a slave to keeping my nursing license.  I knew that "just a few shifts a month" could become a burden of constant stress, always worrying that I if I didn't get the right shifts, my license would disappear.  So I just let it go.  And I actually do get out of the house without the kids occasionally.  It may be to WinCo, or choir practice, but that's fine.  I actually enjoy having my girls around.  I'm not dying to get away from them.  And sure, the extra money would be nice, but we've learned that material possessions and expensive experiences aren't what make our lives happy.

I don't say that motherhood is my new career so that I feel less guilty about leaving my nursing career behind.  I call it a career because it is.  Career means "an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework."

When I was a nurse, I would watch the other nurses around me, and pay particular attention to things they did well.  I wanted to learn how to do my job even better.  Now, I watch my mom friends.  I might ask a friend her advice or counsel on a particular aspect of motherhood, especially if I see that she has done it well.  I get together with my mom friends sometimes, and we let the kids play together.  We discuss various aspects of what we do as moms, but giving thanks, without complaining.  Since we're human, we're all familiar with the temptation to grumble.  "Little Johnny has been such a pill and is driving me nuts!  Little Susie had me up all night and I'm so tired!"  But what comes out of my mouth has an affect on mentality, I've noticed.  I might be really exhausted, but how I mention it will affect my attitude.  So instead of bemoaning how tired I am, I laugh a little, and might say something about how cute the sleep deprived child is. Being a big complainer ("ugh!" "poor me!") makes me a grumpy person.  Giving thanks, even in the irritating situations, has a strange power to turn that annoyance into not-so-annoying.  When I complain, I find things to complain about.  When I give thanks, I find things to appreciate.  Sometimes when I'm on Facebook or Pinterest, I stumble across one of those memes about the trials of motherhood.  It's usually a picture of a woman with her face in her hands, and some comment about how awful her kids are, or how miserable she is.  Yeah, being a mom can be hard work.  But complaining about it does not help me find joy in my vocation.  Nor does it help my children improve their behavior. 

As with many kinds of career training, I am learning how to problem-solve within my scope of practice.  And I don't just mean figuring out what to make for lunch when we're out of peanut butter.  I mean, a lot of times I actually don't need to ask for advice or counsel, because I already know the broad answer that I've found applies to so many situations of parenting: be patient with your children, and give yourself up.  In all of the loving, training, and teaching that I do every day, those two rules almost always apply.

How exactly to go about training and teaching your children is a very broad subject.  And I know my methods will change as my children get older.  I mentioned that children learn by example.  We know that.  I write the letter "C," and then my two-year-old tries to do what I just did.  My children mimic what I do, and they won't know how to mimic what they've never seen me do.  If my kids don't know what self-control looks like, they are going to have a hard time understanding what it means, and how to practice it. Sometimes I'm tempted to just shout arbitrary commands, like: "Hey! Stop throwing a fit!" But here's where the being patient, and giving myself up bit comes along.  It takes a lot more energy to stop whatever I'm in the middle of, approach my child, hold her hands, look her in the eyes, and calmly explain, "sweety, you may not throw a fit.  That's losing self-control.  It's okay to be disappointed.  But it is important to learn how to control our actions and our emotions, and not them control us." (Just so you know, this is not the place for me to get into what I think or don't think about spanking. Ask me in person, and I'd love to discuss it.)

Last week on Facebook, I jumped into a discussion with some of my mom friends about how much we loved doing projects. I found myself saying this:
I try to make time to do a small project every once and while, because I enjoy it so much. And it's nice to point to something, and say "look at what I've accomplished!" But I have to remind myself daily (constantly) that doing lots of awesome projects does not make be a more valuable wife and mother. Managing my time wisely is important, but most days it matters more to play with and read to the girls (and y'know, do the laundry and make the dinner). In 30 years, our well-raised adult children will be a million times more worth it than those few projects.
Childhood psychologists understand that "much of a child's personality is completely established by the age of five."  The article mentions that children neglected or abused may never be able to adjust out of that.  But my thought is, if the hard things leave scars, how much more will the good things of childhood stay with them. I want to be the person constantly influencing my children, helping to shape them to become amazing people.  I want to show them what love is.  And joy and beauty.  And patience, kindness, and goodness.  The early years may very well be the most important of their lives.  I don't want to miss those years because I felt the need to keep up my nursing license.  I'll probably go back to work in 15 or 20 years, but for now, I've given it up to be home with my girls.

I'm not saying I never miss being a nurse.  Because sometime, I really do.  I'm saying that I think being a mom is the most important thing for me to be doing.  I'm saying, "hey world, check it out. I'm a stay-at-home mom that is learning more every day how to be a better mom; by loving, hugging, and selflessly giving myself up.  And it's worth it."

I write these words to remind myself.  Sorting out these thoughts helps me see what my shortcomings are; where I'm falling short.  And so I pray for strength and diligence in raising my children.  Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.  It can be easy to forget the purpose behind the routine, and easier still to just let things slide. So this is me, reminding myself.

Now excuse me while I load into the car with my husband, two girls, and two of my brothers.  We're going on an ice cream run. 

Happy Mother's Day on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nursing As My Career

I never know quite what to say to new friends. "Oh yeah, I'm a nurse.  Well... I was for three years.  But I quit and let my license expire.  So I'm not really a nurse anymore?  I used to be a nurse.  I guess I'm retired."

This week is National Nurses Week.  It happens to end on Sunday, which is also Mother's Day.  I feel as though that transition echos the story of my career.  Or careers, really.  It's funny to me that being a stay-at-home mom is not really recognized in our culture as a real career.  Because if I'm just a stay-at-home mom, it must be because I'm too lazy to juggle both a job and motherhood. Or, since I'm a Christian, maybe it's because I've been brainwashed into thinking that my only purpose in life is crank out babies and make sure dinner is on the table.

Ever since I was little girl, part of me wanted to be "a nurse that delivered babies."  So I studied for four intense years to become a nurse. I didn't get a job in OB, but I still loved my career as a nurse.  I clashed with some of my coworkers, developed close friendships with others, tried to let the stress of the job roll off my shoulders, and loved serving those around me.

As much as I loved my job, I knew there was a different career waiting for me.  Dare I say, a more important one.  So when I told my boss that I was pregnant, she already knew what that meant.  I worked my last shift as a nurse at the end of May, 2010.  Two weeks later I had Chloë, and launched into motherhood.

I got paychecks for my first career, which according to our culture's standards, meant I was valuable to our society.  For my second career, I don't actually make a dime doing what I'm doing.  Since a salary is so highly worshiped and interpreted as success, it's no wonder that a zero-income profession is often viewed as a useless waste of life.

I'll be honest.  Sometimes I feel the pressure from the mindset of our culture.  What did you do today?  Two loads of laundry, and you made dinner?  Yeah, well I worked for eight hours, brought home a paycheck, and still managed to do two loads of laundry, and made dinner. Clearly I'm more valuable/a better person/a harder worker.  I don't want to disregard the heavy load of mothers that do have to work.  Because I know many of you.  You work insanely hard, and I know God blesses that. 

But because my husband has been blessed with a good job, and we live within our means (gasp!), we don't actually need a second income.  We don't have fancy cars or expensive hobbies, we don't have cable, and we don't buy coffees or sodas every day (it adds up fast: averaging $1,092 per adult, per year for coffee, and $850 per household for soft drinks!) Things like eating out and going to movies are considered special splurges.  I don't consider my life boring or deprived because I've only been to three movies in the last three years. 

So, you bought into the religious dogma that you had to give up an amazing and rewarding career so you can sit around with your kids all day? Not exactly.  Yes, I gave up a wonderful career.  But I traded it for a better one.  Wow, you really did feel pressured to quit your career.  Nope.  I wanted to.  Yes, being a nurse was gratifying.  Every day, I could point to something and say, "see what I accomplished!  I helped someone get better!  I did lots of awesome procedures! I was kind to my employees!  The company awarded me Employee Of The Year! One of my patients thanked me for my work!" 

I'm really grateful for that chapter in my life.  The experience helps with my current career, believe it or not.

To Be Continued on Motherhood As My Career.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Face Lift

I'm not very good at this internet stuff.  I manage, but half the time I really don't know what I'm doing. I've been trying to figure out why the photos I upload are so grainy, even when the original picture is clear.  Well.  Good thing I have a smart husband... who also happens to have a career in web development.  Having failed multiple times to find a solution, Bryan showed me where to tweak my html.

Not tweaked:


I changed the layout a little, too. After 3 ½ years, I figured a little face lift might be appropriate. But really, I'm just so happy that I can finally have clear, non-grainy pictures. I just edited the last post so the images would be pretty. They look fabulous. Now I'm going to go edit some more old posts.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

15 Months Old

Sometimes I'm surprised when Elaina says or does something that I have not taught her.  I guess she has learned lots of things from her big sister. She uses new words almost daily, it seems.  Trying to decipher what words she's picked up can be quite the challenge.  Daddy, Thirsty, and sometimes Chloë, all sound extremely similar.

She likes games.  When I put her on the changing table to change her diaper, she says "boop! boop!" It actually doesn't mean what you might think.  Somehow we invented a little game much like tickling.  I poke her round tummy and say "boop!" And then she giggles. We do it a dozen or so times before getting to her diaper.  Her giggle is the best.

She also likes to point to and name parts of her body.  Noooo! Mow! Ah-eee! and maybe my favorite, toe-tee, toe-tee, toe-tee, which of course is toesies, toesies, toesies.  Her daddy taught her to put her hands on her cheeks and push them forward and say "I'm chubby!"  Hilarious.  She also likes peek-a-boo, although sometimes her hands don't quite cover her eyes. One hand on an eyebrow, and the other on her forehead, and the game is just as fun.

She loves to say hi to people and animals.  We have lots of cats and dogs in our neighborhood, and every time she sees one, she get excited and says, "hi dog hi dog, woo woo woo!" or "cat! hi cat! Moww, moww!"

She is our very own little watch dog when it comes to bugs.  At our house, April means that the carpenter ants start showing up everywhere.  The poor kid has been bitten a couple of times, and the chompers on those things can draw blood!  So any time she sees anything that she thinks could even possibly be something belonging to the insect species, she yells "bug! BUG!" Sometimes she ends up yelling at a piece of lint, or even the dark spots in the wood grain of our floor.  We might start using the term "crying bug" instead of "crying wolf," since we never know when she actually needs rescuing.

I finally realized that her adorable mullet would work really well for pigtails.  So I tried them.  And I was right.
Waiting for Daddy to get home.

This is how excited she gets when her daddy does get home:

We've had our normal crazy weather lately.  In the last week, we've seen everything from 70 degrees and sunny, to freezing hail and snow.  We went outside a few days ago and played in the backyard even though it was chilly.
She wasn't very fond of the frigid breeze, but she does love to swing.

This was the first time one of my children fell asleep in her highchair.  It may be due to the fact that we weaned her of her binkie last month!  I snipped off the very tip of it, and every day would cut off a tiny bit more, until there wasn't much left.  Then we were just done with it.  The first few days without it were a little rough, and she kept asking for her "bean-tee," but now she is sleeping like a champ. I'm glad we decided to get rid of it now.  We waited much longer with Chloë, and I think it actually developed some poor sleeping habits on her part.

The girls helping me with some Spring cleaning.

 Elaina likes to snuggle and hug things.  Even her sippy cup.  She was patting it while saying "oh bay-bee, oh bay-bee."  When she isn't sleeping or snuggling her sippy cup, she usually eats pretty well.  Her favorite foods are cheerios and soy milk, PB&J, and fresh bread.  In the last few weeks, we've started giving her food with tiny amounts of dairy, and she has been doing well.  I tried giving her a small bowl of yogurt, and that didn't go well.  We'll try that again in a few months.  But for now, she's not totally dairy-free anymore, which is a blessing.

After playing in the dirt, Elaina had some pretzels for a snack. No, they were not chocolate covered pretzels.  Yes, I believe that ingesting a little dirt is good for children.

She is walking everywhere!

It has been three weeks since she's used crawling for mobility.  My little baby isn't a baby anymore.  She's a toddler.  I'm still trying to adjust.  I don't have a baby and a toddler anymore.  I have a toddler and big kid.

Speaking of which, it is such a joy watching their relationship develop.  They are very kind to each other, and both will say "thank you" when the other shares.  Chloë just loves her little sister sooo much, that sometimes her affection is too much for Elaina to handle.  She then lets out a little warning squeal, and I tell Chloë to give her sister some space.  It's such a good "problem" to have.  They play little games together, often involving tickling.  If Elaina wakes up before Chloë does, she gets really excited when she finally hears footsteps. "Low-ee! Low-ee!" she says excitedly, and there are lots of hugs and kisses.

Her teeth are still coming in in all sorts of weird order.  Her two upper molars and two lateral incisors have broken through, but still no signs of those four middle teeth.

With her left lateral incisor dangling in the corner of her mouth, I think she looks like a cartoon character when she smiles.

Here's what Chloë was up to when she was this age.