Motherhood: Thriving or Surviving?

As I write this post, I have huge puffy bags under my eyes and a cup of coffee in my hand.  I have been trying to nap for the past hour and a half (unsuccessful obviously) while my daughter is sleeping.  I dozed a little bit here and there, but then our lovely neighbors decided to have a concert next door (so sweet of them to do that every day allllll daaaaaaay long.  They must not have jobs.  But then again, neither do I) so I eventually admitted defeat and dragged myself over to the coffee pot.

Some days in motherhood, I really thrive.  I am energetic (it really does happen sometimes!), can’t wait until Riley wakes up from naps so I can play with her, snuggle, and plant kisses all over her little angel face.  I’ll get a shower in, maybe even some exercise, read my bible, and maybe even do a house chore! You know, the days where I actually walk out of the apartment with pants on 🙂 (story here) These days are very precious and I savor their every moment.

Then there are days, like today, where it’s all about survival.  The “one step at a time” kind of days where when I hear Riley on the monitor waking up for a nap I am silently begging her for “just 5 more minutes, sweatheart!”  Where my to-do list is my enemy and I consider de-friending anyone whose baby is sleeping through the night (not really, but survival mode will play all sorts of tricks on your mind!)

I recently read in a book about living intentionally rather than just living by reaction.  At first I felt all inspired and motivated about it, but that was quick lived and followed by guilt that I just can’t seem to live as intentionally as I would like.  Then my voice of reason piped in, “dude, you’re only 4 months into being a parent, it’s ok to be reactive sometimes.  Living intentionally is just going to look totally messy and totally inconsistent right now” (my voice of reason talks like a West Coast surfer).

Here’s the deal:  I think that belief that either extreme is a full, accurate portrayal of motherhood is a false belief.  But so very easy to fall into.  Motherhood is not all survival only (thankfully!) as many of us sometimes believe when we are resistant to the idea of having children (or more children).  It also, however, is not all thriving and roses as we sometimes believe when we are eager to have children and dream of all the playing, snuggling bliss!  It’s a beautiful, difficult cocktail of the two.  But I think that our culture surrounds us with lies that fuel us to believe one of the two extremes and get down on ourselves.

Lie #1: You should have it all together (fueling the “thriving” belief):

Our American culture constantly tells us that we should be a jack of all trades, should be able to do anything we put our mind to with a smile on our face, and should be able to balance it all: a great job, a family, a great body, a great social life, etc. etc.  That we should be able to thrive in any situation.  And there are many self help books out there that writers are making a fortune off of to help us achieve that kind of life (or at least a life that tricks others into thinking that).  This makes women believe that they should be able to have kids, and still hold it all together.  When they can’t, they hide it because they don’t want to be exposed as a fraud of thrivingness (sometimes made up words are appropriate);  Or they hide it because they know that if they don’t, unsolicited advice will be thrown at them from mom’s who apparently have it alllllll figured out! (or even worse, non-mom’s who have motherhood all figured out! I swear it feels easy to know a lot about parenting before you become one.  Then you have a kid and you’re like, “crap, that’s not working!”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–>I got these pictures off of one of the funniest blogs that you will ever read: http://crappypictures.com/ on one of her posts about “Before and after kids,” you should check it out!

Lie #2: Life is all about you (fueling the “surviving” belief):

Then there is the lie we believe that we should derive pleasure from all things and relationships in our lives, and that the main goal of life is our own happiness.   This lie really feeds the idea that motherhood is all about survival, and therefore is not desirable. We think our days and our lives are supposed to be all about us and so we feel like every little thing inconveniences us and we just can’t wait to get to that glass of wine and TV show at the end of the day (is that just me? No? 🙂 ).  We (and by “we” I mean “I” but I know I’m not the only one who thinks/feels this way) want them to take more naps during the day so we can _______ (insert favorite activities here).  We want our significant others to think about our needs and find ways to make it easier on us, rather than thinking about how we can help them.  Because God forbid we put them before ourselves, we’re already doing that with baby! We want our pre-baby body back asap, none of this “9 months up, 9 months down” mess.  We want our baby to sleep through the night at 4 months old because, “umm hello little one! Mommy needs her sleep!”

One thing that was really eye opening to me when I was feeling frustrated about getting up throughout the night was a study titled “Normal Infant Sleep.”  It talked about how we have unrealistic expectations about infants and sleep.  We think that babies should be sleeping through the night by 4 or 6 months, but studies proved it is actually more normal for it to take a year for a baby to sleep through the night.  We’re not ok with that, so we take matters into our own hands.  Because in America we just don’t put up with things that call us to serve and deny ourselves.  Patience and service are a lost art.  If something is causing us to give up our precious conveniences, well then we’re just going to have to get rid of that, even if it is at the detriment of others!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never do anything to get rid of inconveniences.  I’m also not saying that you should feel guilty about thriving days, or like you should have a good, selfless attitude during surviving days.  Trust me, I’m writing in the midst of a surviving day right now (writing makes me feel better.  And so does coffee.  More than writing. 😉 )  As a matter of fact, I hear Riley on the monitor and I’m sending her those brain waves asking for 5 more minutes.  What I’m saying is essentially this: motherhood isn’t all hard, and it isn’t all easy.  It is what it is.  It requires our whole selves for service, and brings amazing joys along the way!  Some days you thrive, others you just make it by, but it does not have to be one or the other.  Nor does it have to be one more than the other.  So for those of you mothers out there thriving today, write down the details of your enjoyable day so that you don’t forget those sweet moments! And for those of you surviving, I’ll give you this quote I read earlier today on facebook: “Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of champagne in the fridge.”   You’re welcome 🙂

Mouth Watering Meals

Last night Jordan told me that I’ve hit a lot of “home runs” with our dinners over these past few weeks.  Thanks to my friends Pinterest, skinnymom.com,  MK, and my sister- my man and myself have been well fed :).  Since I’ve often appreciated other bloggers posting their recipe successes and favorites, I thought I would do the same and hopefully offer you a week off of meal planning, filled with deliciousness!  Together Jordan and I picked our 7  favorites that I’ve made lately (to give you 1 week’s worth) and BONUS: most of it’s healthy!

Salsa Chicken   I served this over rice, and it was good! Jordan loved it.

Skinny BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches (Jordan’s favorite):  you get to use root beer in this one, how fun is that?!

Taco Pie: This is a recipe I just randomly made up one night with no idea how it would turn out.  It ended up tasting so good, I made it again a week later 🙂

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 package of Grands biscuits
1 bag of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tomato, diced
1/2 onion, diced
Directions:
-Grease the bottom of a pie dish and spread out half of the biscuit dough on the bottom
-Brown beef and add taco seasoning
-mix diced tomato and onion in with the taco beef
-spread the meat on top of the biscuit dough
-spread shredded cheddar on top of the meat
-layer the remaining biscuit dough on top
-bake on 350 for 30 minutes

serve with salsa and sour cream if you wish!

*substitue with ground turkey, reduced fat grands biscuits, and reduced fat cheddar cheese and sour cream for a healthier version

Crock Pot Turkey Chili: This started out as a Weight Watchers Recipe, then I tweaked it and made it my own.  This is a great meal for a cold day or for when you have people over.  It’s been a big hit every time I’ve made it!

Ingredients:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (the dry mix)
1 can of stewed tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1-2 cans of black beans (you can add any other beans you like too, and up to 4 cans, I’m just not a very big bean person)
1 9oz. bag of frozen white corn
1 tsp. cumin
1 diced chili pepper
Directions:
-brown the ground turkey and add just a little bit of the taco seasoning to help it absorb some more flavor
-add the turkey along with all other ingredients into the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours

Serve with shredded chedder, sour cream, and tortilla chips!  Leftovers are awesome for lunch the next day 🙂

Chicken Parmesan: My version of a classic dish

Ingredients:
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (depending on how many people you are going to serve)
Shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
Any kind of marinara or spaghetti sauce that your little heart desires (some people are good at homemade, I just go with Bertolli)
fresh basil
oregano
shaved Parmesan cheese
Angel hair pasta (or regular spaghetti will do)
2-4 eggs (depending on how much chicken you’re making)
1 cup of flour
1 and 1/2 cups flour
Italian Bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
Directions:
-mix eggs together in a small bowl
-sprinkle salt & pepper over each chicken breast, then spread a little bit of flour over each side of the chicken
-dip each chicken breast in egg mixture, and then roll it in a plate of the breadcrumbs
-saute chicken in a pan with olive oil
-once the breadcrumbs have turned a golden brown, move the chicken into a greased baking dish
-put a little bit of mozzarella on top of each chicken breast, and then top the chicken with marinara/pasta  sauce, more mozzarella cheese, shaved Parmesan, oregano and fresh basil
-bake in the oven at 350 for 25-35 minutes

Serve over angel hair pasta or spaghetti with sauce and enjoy!

Roasted Sausage, Peppers and Sweet Potatoes (My favorite): This one was posted on a friend’s blog.  It was so flavorful, I LOVED the taste combo of the turkey sausage and sweet potatoes, yum!

Skinny Pizza Pasta Casserole If I could eat this all the time and be skinny, I would be a happy gal 🙂

LOVE: A Parenting Philosophy

For Valentines day, I thought it would be appropriate to write a blog post about love.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to use this space to blah blah blah about my marriage or talk about romantic things, although I do love my husband!  But instead I want to write about a realization I have had recently that was ignited by love.

First of all, let me tell you something that has been difficult about parenting: comparison, competition (we’ll call it “mompetition”), dealing with the “I-know-everything-and-want-to-tell-you-exactly-how-to-parent” momsies, all wrapped with the lovely bow of insecurity.  I’ve heard that  this is more of a first timer problem, it seems mommy veterans don’t seem to have an issue with it once they’re on child 2+; but it has been something I’ve struggled with for sure.  I’ve had some comments made to me, but honestly it is more an issue of my own insecurity than anything else.  I have never done this before, there’s no real way of knowing if I am doing a good job and while there are a zillion books out there on motherhood, they are all so different that it seems the more reading I do the more confused and insecure I become.  When Riley has a rough night, won’t stop crying, seems upset, or has trouble with sleeping or eating, etc. it is really difficult not to believe that it is my fault and I am doing something wrong.  I have spent most of the past 3 months reading books, blogs, asking advice and googling about sleeping, feeding, swaddling, pacifying, etc.  The only conclusion I’ve arrived at is that my baby is an individual and it is unrealistic to copy and paste some method into our lives and in doing so produce a perfect cutout of a child who does exactly as the books say.  No matter how creative an acronym might be in how to get your baby to do x,y, or z, it is not nearly as creative as our Creator in His design of Riley!

Insert: L.O.V.E.

My new parenting philosophy.  And no, it’s not an acronym.  Now before I explain, I must inform you that I really want to adopt a child one day.  Or two.  Like, really want to.  And that desire has only increased since having Riley.  Often when I hold her I cannot help but think about all of the babies and children in the world that are not loved like she is.  I mean, I cannot think about 3 month old babies who are neglected and not loved without getting angry, sad, and just emotional altogether.  So the other day I was doing this, just looking at my daughter and thinking about these orphaned children and it hit me:  It really doesn’t matter what method I do or do not apply in raising my daughter.  She.is.so.loved. SO Loved!  Yes, perhaps one method that a proclaimed “expert” discovers will help her sleep better.  Maybe this acronym or that advice really will make her cry less or cause her to be more obedient.  Or maybe it won’t.  Whatever.  It so doesn’t matter in the big picture because my child is so entirely loved!  And there are so.many.children. out there that are not :(.  Who cares if these orphaned or hungry children are sleeping through the night or learning their alphabet at 2 weeks old, when they have no one to love them? It seriously breaks my heart.

So I am spending this Valentines day enjoying my new “method” of parenting: loving my daughter!  And praying for my (hopefully) future child out there who is going through or will go through a period of time without love.  I wish I could send little brain waves of thought to him or her saying, “hang in there! We’re coming! We’re coming to get you one day and we are going to love you so much! I can’t guarantee that I will be able to get you to sleep through the night, get you on a specific feeding schedule, or have you potty trained by 2, but I promise I will love you every single day of your life no matter who you are or what you do!”

After all, isn’t that what my Heavenly Father did for me?

Getting to Know 3 Month Old Riley

I cannot believe that my little baby girl is 3 months old today!  I know it will only get better, but this has definitely been my favorite stage of her life thus far.  She is turning into a little PERSON! How crazy is that?  She is no longer just my little baby who eats and sleeps all the time, but she is developing opinions, preferences, and idiosyncrasies.  Watching them develop is quickly becoming one of my favorite things in the world!   So I thought those of you following my blog might want to get to know this spirited little 3 month old a little bit better.  So I’m turning it over to Riley 🙂

Hi my name is Riley and I am 3 months old today!  My hair is starting to stick up constantly on the top, my eyelashes are a mile long and look like I’m wearing mascara, and I have a cute little birthmark on the bottom of my right leg.  I have a very sweet heart and am pretty chill, but I am also a little bit feisty ;-).  I am opinionated (wonder where I get that from, Dad?….) I know what I like and what I don’t like.  What I like is to be held by my mom as much as possible.  What I don’t like is sleep.  So that makes me very different from my mom. My mom has always loved sleep, even as a baby.  She was the best sleeper as a baby, loved sleep in high school, especially in college, and misses it now.  But not me!  Who wants to sleep when you can be AWAKE!?  Being awake is so fun, it’s my favorite.   Probably because I am a little extrovert, which is weird because both of my parents are introverts.  So that will be fun in the future when I always want to drag my mom out to the park or to birthday parties and playgroups when she just wants to stay in and watch a movie or play dolls ;-).  I am also quite the chatterbox now that I discovered that I have a voice.  Which is another reason I don’t like sleep, I’m not finished talking and getting all my thoughts out there but mom wants me to go to bed! Doesn’t she want to hear what I have to say?  So sometimes I will just talk to myself in my crib for awhile; but other times I get frustrated and upset about it, and I’m not afraid to show it.  Mom and Dad need to know how I feel about the situation.  And I mean, there are no people in my room when I go to sleep! What’s up with that? I don’t want to be alone in a quiet room.  ESPECIALLY when I know Mom and Dad are downstairs being awake without me!  Oh this one time, they thought they were going to watch a new episode of Modern Family without me… I.DON’T.THINK.SO. Don’t they know I have to see what Cam and Mitchell are up to this week?  But don’t you worry, I let them know what’s up.  That is my favorite show, maybe because Mom watched it all the time when I lived in her belly.  But anyway, I love being around people and Mom and Dad are my favorite.  My grandparents are a close second, they always give me what I want- lots of attention!  I’m also pretty confident.  I’m not gonna lie, I know I’m cute.  So you better believe that when the camera is around, I’m not going to be shy!  I love to smile.  To quote Elf (a movie I know I will love one day), “I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite!”  I know I already said being awake is my favorite, but smiling is also a favorite. It tends to provoke an excited response from those staring at me and, like I mentioned earlier, I like attention.

Here are some of my preferences:

  • I prefer not to be swaddled.  Come on now.  I know I flail my arms and legs all over the place, wake myself up and scratch my face when I’m not swaddled, but I like to be free!  Don’t put me in a straight jacket.  It stunts my independence!
  • I prefer to not be confined in any way.  Shoes? Hate them.  Socks? Always get them off.  I’m not going to mention swaddles again, but if I did I would say that they are awful.  Slings and Carriers?  I am not an accessory or part of your outfit so please don’t try to wear me like one, thank you very much.  It must be known that I am my own little person not a doll.
  • I prefer for everyone in the room to be looking at me
  • I prefer to nap in the bed with mom (where I prefer to take up the whole bed) but she keeps just putting me down in the crib :/
  • I love going on car rides, playing on my activity mat, standing (while being held), rolling over on my side, and being held vertically so I can look over your shoulder and see what is going on in the world around me. Oh and I LOVE chewing on my hand.  I jut discovered my hands and they are awesome.

Here are some of my Nicknames:

  • Smiley Riley
  • Little bits
  • Little One
  • Smiles
  • Honey
  • Sweet Heart
  • Sugar Britches
  • Munchkin

From Minister to Mommy

Some of my fav students celebrating with me at my wedding!

This past June I ended my job as a campus minister with InterVarsity at UNC-Chapel Hill working with sorority and fraternity students (also known as Greek IV).  It is the only job I have had since graduating college up until now.  The best short description I can give for the job was that I would meet with Greek students that wanted to influence their Greek chapters for Christ, and train them in doing so.  Others on staff with Greek IV know that is far too simplistic a definition, as it is a job where we wore many hats.  Greek IV was a significant part of growing my faith in my college years so I was eager to continue to expand the vision after graduating by working full time with this organization.  Last spring I had made the prayerful decision to end my time on staff after doing it for 4 years, and shortly after found out I was pregnant.

I had always planned on being a stay at home mom, it had been the job I’ve wanted since I was in middle school.  So for the past several months I’ve been transitioning from full time minister, to full time mom! On the outside, it may seem like I have just started a job that is so entirely different then the one I left.  And in many ways it is!  The students I worked with in ministry did not wake me up in the middle of the night every night (things would not have fared well for them if they did), did not need me to change their diapers, or watch them all times of the day.  Riley cannot engage with me in spiritual discussions or read scripture with me and pray.  I have gone from asking questions every day in my job like, “where are you seeing God at work in the Greek system? What areas of your life do you want to see transformed?” To asking, “Do you have a diapy (my slang for diaper)?  Are you hungy (mommy slang for hungry)? Can I wiggle your wittle toes?”  So yea, different :).  But for the past few days I have been thinking about some of the ways that being a minister and being a mom have actually been very similar:

  • Both jobs require comforting others in tears
  • Both are unappreciated jobs.  Rarely will you hear the words “thank you.”  You do a lot of hard work that is not recognized by those receiving.
  • You are investing in the long term, while still having to manage somewhat seemingly miniscule tasks on a daily basis.  You read, ask advice, and plan on what you want to eventually see happen in these lives.  Then you invest in individuals, hopeful that it will eventually bear fruit, but you don’t always see it and can be easily tempted to think, “what is the point?”
  • Both jobs do not have very lucid boundaries; you feel like you are always working and are unsure if you are ever really “off” work.
  • You never really know if you’re doing a good job in either, which makes it easy to feel insecure.
  • Both can be lonely.  You are on your own, trying to care for an individual(s) to the best of your ability, without always knowing what they need and without anyone to help you.  (disclaimer: I am not saying that my husband does not help. He is a HUGE help as all fathers should be, I am simply referring to the daily work of motherhood when I am on my own)
  • Both my students and my daughter have absolutely no idea just.how.much I love them.
  • For both my students I worked with and my daughter: even on their worst day when they make me want to bang my head against the wall, I would still take a bullet for them in a heartbeat.  No question.
  • In both you sometimes have to say the hard thing that they don’t want to hear, because you care about them enough to put their best interest above your own desire for them to like you and always be happy with you. (although I haven’t gotten to this point with Riley yet of course.  But I know it will inevitably come!)
  • In both there are days you just wing it, but you also know that intentionality is very important, albeit exhausting when you cannot guarantee the results.
  • I am fiercely protective of the students I worked with and my daughter.  If anyone were to say something bad about any of them I get super defensive and mama bear’s claws come out!
  • Nothing beats the moment when they tell you something profound they have learned and you see them maturing into beautiful people 🙂
  • And perhaps the most difficult similarity in the two: When they are making decisions that you know are destructive, doing things you know will demand consequences that will hurt; you bite your tongue to avoid saying, “I told you so” or lecturing them and simply hold your arms out wide to hold them when they break down and simply utter the words, “I love you no.matter.what.” and “I am here.”

There are tears in my eyes as I reflect on how much I loved my students.  Constantly in my thoughts and my prayers, I thank them for allowing me to be a part of their lives and for preparing me for this beautiful, wild journey of motherhood

more faves at our summer camp

Love them!