Sunday, May 1, 2016

Parenting in the Valley

This season of life has been such a mixture of emotions.  While I am relishing in the joy of being Cooper's Mama, I am feeling more defeated than ever when it comes to giving the proper attention to my other children.  Especially my third little love, who admittedly has been always my biggest parenting challenge.

I see the sadness in her eyes daily when she has to crawl out of my lap so Cooper can crawl in.  I feel her heartbreak when I'm too quick in snapping at her for not being careful enough around the baby.  I sense her desire to find her place, to please me, and most of all have my full and undivided attention.  And my heart is breaking too... Knowing I'm failing her every single day, seeing the hurt in her beautiful blue eyes.

I know God gave me these particular children with these particular needs and personalities, yet I'm not meeting those needs or nurturing those little personalities the way I should be.  And the worst part is I feel like I'm drowning trying to make it all happen and run smoothly.  No matter what I do someone gets the short end of the stick.  There is just not enough Mama to fill everyone's cup.

I would never wish away my time in the valley because I know it is there that growth happens.  I can only hope that when this season is over and we are back on the mountain tops, no damage has been done and most of all... I hope my baby girl knows how very much I love her.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Breakfast & Dinner Calendars

One of my goals this year was to really organize our family.  We have a pretty crazy schedule in this season of our lives, and I want to spend less time being frazzeled and more time basking in the beauty of the chaos!  

My first step was to change from doing monthly meal planning to quarterly meal planning.  It was a little bit of a process (as meal planning always is for me), but I think it definitely helped to do it in a bigger chunk like this.  Once my brain was going it was much easier, and I can definitely tell that I saved time.  I feel certain the next three quarters will go even faster because I'll reuse a lot of what I have.  Plus, we are a grilling family.  Once the weather gets nice again so many of our meals are thrown on the grill.  (I can't wait for the warm!!!)

I know it seems strange that we plan breakfast.  Here's the thing... I'm not a morning person AT ALL!  When I do not have a plan I honestly have no idea what my kids are scrounging up for breakfast.  It makes the morning feel stressed, and I start the day feeling like a bad mom.  And trust me, there's enough hours in the day to feel like that (bedtime for instance...).  It doesn't need to start first thing.  

Anyway, breakfast is easy to plan.  It just repeats over and over.  Can't really screw that up.  I don't always eat what the kids are eating for breakfast.  Sometimes I just make a Profit and fruit smoothie.  Like I said... not a morning person.  So I'm not always ready to interact with my people eat that early.  The kids love smoothies too (yep, even the baby)!  So there are a lot of mornings they have one with their breakfast, at lunch, for a snack, etc.  They put their Greens in their smoothie or they will drink them with 8 oz of orange juice with their breakfast.

Lunch is weird in our family.  If you go to school, you take your lunch or eat there.  Simple enough, I suppose.  The rest of us each do something different.  Our homeschooler fixes whatever she wants.  This ranges from Chinese, to pizza, to a smoothie, to sharing my freezer lunches.  Not a super great system, but it works.  The Husband isn't a big lunch eater unless things are prepared for him (leftovers, I make him something, etc.)  I actually plan on trying some freezer items for him to eat for lunches similar to what I do for myself.  Heck, maybe we'll just share items.  My plan is to replace one of my meals with a smoothie so my lunch will be dependent on my breakfast.  I will continue to make freezer meals for my lunches though because when I don't have them I don't eat then I over eat at dinner.  Ugh!  #noselfcontrol

Our dinner menu is a variety of things my people will eat.  If they decide on Wednesday when I'm fixing chicken that they stopped liking chicken last Friday, then they can fix PB&J or cereal.  I don't cater to these types of things.  I fix one meal.  Always have.  Always will.  I ask for ten submissions from each child.  I generally am able to use all of their submissions.  

Because our life is what it is, I will make anything that I can ahead of time.  In fact, all of Thursday's meals are pretty much freezer or crockpot type things.  Wednesday's meals are things I can do super quick.  Tuesday is always Italian food of some type.  Most of it will be made ahead of time.  I'll make up the chicken we use for nachos and tacos and freeze that.  Same with anything that needs ground beef.  I'd say that the majority of our menus can be prepped in someway ahead of time.  

I like to shop two weeks at a time.  I generally have a better idea of any changes to the calendar by this time.  Also, I'll decide which sides I want to do.  Most of them I already have planned in my head.  I don't list them on the calendar because it takes up so much space.  And sometimes I get a wild hair and want to try something new.  So I only put down the main dish.

After I shop, I like to spend one day doing any preparations.  Since I have done three months worth of planning, I may shop a little differently this time.  For instance, if I'm making one meal in January and the same in March, then I'll just go ahead and make them both now.  No reason to do more work than necesarry!

If you've continued reading all this non-sense... kudos and THANK YOU!  I appreciate you taking the time to see the method to our madness.  I'd love to hear how you organize your family's meal times.  I'm always willing to try something new.  And fortunately, my family is just as nuts as I am, and they love to have a good system in place.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Advent Activities 2015

It's that time again!  Tomorrow begins our 2015 Advent Activities and the return of Ollie, our Elf!  Life is about to get crazy fun!  

Our activities are based on our already full schedule so there are times we have to do morning activities, times Daddy is at work, times that not all the kids are home, and we won't throw in the fact that we try to make these things all our babies will enjoy (from little bitty to middle school age)... it's a lot to work around!  However, we love the memories we make doing all of these fun things.  Many are favorites we bring back year after year so they have become traditions that are near and dear to our hearts!  

So without further ado, here is what we'll be doing this year!
Our Advent "Calendar"

Christmas Charades

Snowman Donuts for Breakfast

Hot Chocolate by the Fire

Make Salt Dough Ornaments

Get A New Ornament

Visit Santa

Fancy Dinner

Reindeer Evangelists

Waffles and Ice Cream for Breakfast

S'mores by the Fire

Look at Christmas Lights

Grinch Movie Night

Christmas Pizzas

Christmas Bingo

Paper Snowflakes

Cinnamon Roll Trees for Breakfast

Snowman Sundaes

Christmas Party Day

Santa Hat Photo Shoot

Gingerbread Houses

Picnic by the Tree


Cookies for Santa

Open PJ's and Read Twas the Night Before Christmas

Many of these have a biblical basis (check out The ADVENTure of Christmas by Lisa Whelchel), and some are just good ol' fashioned fun!  I'm always happy to answer any questions about what on earth we are doing or how we've tied it into our faith!  I hope you follow along on Instagram (@mrsmarick) as I will be posting a pic there of each activity!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas season as we prepare to celebrate Christ's birth!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Love Her Well

Dear Kindergarten Teachers,

I appreciate the form you gave us to fill out so that you could get to know our children better, but I couldn't help but notice how small the space was underneath the section that asked if there was anything additional or special about our children that we wanted you to know.  Perhaps you didn't realize how special my Hadlie is so you had no idea that I would need more space.  

You see, Hadlie is going to walk in your room tall and brave tomorrow.  She'll do that because that's what Hadlie does.  She'll speak with confidence and make us all laugh before we leave.  She never misses an opportunity to be funny when she's with us.  But it's when we walk away that I need you to see into her eyes and into her soul.  I won't be there to tell you, so I'm trusting you'll know.

Hadlie will not seek attention nor will she cry.  But she will be just as nervous as the rest of the children.  Hadlie will not disobey or act out.  She is very fearful of getting in trouble.  In fact, should she accidentally do something that is displeasing to you, she will look very sad and withdraw into herself.  I tell you this because this is how she lets you know that it hurts her heart to see you disappointed.  She hates disappointing others.

My Hadlie will also sit alone and play alone.  Not because she lacks social skills or because she is not friendly, but because it doesn't bother her to play alone.  If she is not invited or encouraged to play with others, often times she will not.  My Hadlie is hesitant to include herself, but once she has been included she is well liked and tons of fun.  I need you to make sure she's included.  I will worry all day that she's not making friends.  I'm trusting that you'll make sure she does.

Hadlie will not ask you for help, and if she does I beg you to take the time to give it to her.  It is not lost on me that there are a zillion little people all vying for your attention tomorrow.  But she is not needy, and she will not ask for anything unless she really needs it.  She will speak quietly and appear very shy.  This is because she will feel nervous to actually speak to you.  I promise this will change by the end of the year.  

My girl is afraid to try things she may not be good at, and she fears getting an answer wrong.  Please do not mistake her for unintelligent.  Just keep encouraging her.  And praise her effort.  

I know so much of this may seem silly.  She's not the first kindergartner you've ever had.  I know, you've got this.  That's why you are the teacher!

But I am the parent, and tomorrow a piece of my heart will leave me for the first time in almost 6 years.  She will go to a place I will not be, with people I do not know, and make friends that I have not met.  I will miss seeing her smile light up the room when she learns something new, and I will miss the laughter that she fills our home with.  

I beg you to see what a light she is in the lives of all she meets.  She is smart, and funny, and she has the most beautiful soul.  She knows and loves Jesus in a way most cannot comprehend.  She is a proud big sister and an adored little sister.  Part of my heart beats solely because she exists in my world.  

Tomorrow I will hand you my baby girl, and you will introduce her to a world she must navigate without me.  Please love her well for me... 

Hadlie's Mom

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cooper's Birth Story

Today my sweet baby boy is one week old.  I figured it was time that I write down his birth story so one day I'll be able to share it with him.  So here goes...

On Thursday, March 26 at 37 weeks pregnant, we arrived at the hospital for my 6:00 AM induction.  Of course it was a slow process of checking in (why they have you pre-register, I do not understand because I'm not sure it sped anything up).  I believe it was around 7:45 AM by the time I was all hooked up and officially strapped to the IV pole.  It was an extremely calm morning, and I was actually getting frustrated because I didn't feel as if I was making any progress.  It showed I was having contractions, but it didn't feel like anything more than Braxton Hicks at the most.

Around 10 something my precious doctor came in and broke my water.  I was only at 3 centimeters at this point which only made me more frustrated.  However, the kids were there so for the most part I just chilled and took it all in.  About 10:30 AM I felt my first contractions and had the kids leave the room with my mom.  My sister and hubby stayed with me.  

It's amazing how your body works because by 11:00 AM I was hurting so badly!  I decided to forgo my natural childbirth plan and begged for an epidural.  The nurse checked me at 11:10 AM, and I was at 4 centimeters.  I remember looking at the clock and being so frustrated.  I was in tears by this point because I was now "in line" for an epidural, but I did not have one.  As I was crying and saying bad words through contractions (because I was in total control of myself, of course) I just felt something was wrong.  I kept telling the nurse I wanted to push because it felt good, and she was telling me not to.  I know she checked me somewhere in there because I remember her saying I was at an 8 and knowing that I wasn't going to get the epidural.  This only upset me more realizing I was going to have to do this because I was sure I couldn't.  (Not one of my prouder moments that day in the delivery room.)

By 11:30 I was ready to push as my doctor walked in.  She got me focused enough to push and reminded me that I didn't really want an epidural anyway.  I don't think she cared that I changed my mind in there.  I'll never forget how casual it was.  There was a room filled with people... most likely due to the fit I was having.  Honestly, I have no idea who they were or where they came from, but they were there watching.  My doctor just sat at the end of the bed.  No crazy stirrups or lights.  No blue surgery looking cover up thing.  Some gloves and a mask thing that I had to wait for her to put on, and then she let me push.  I pushed four times, and she laid my baby boy on stomach.  

The mixture of emotions was overwhelming.  He was here.  He was okay.  We had waited what felt like forever to know this.  I was okay, too.  And I felt such a relief of having him out of my body!  (If you've pushed a baby out, you know this instant feeling of relief.)

This was an experience like no other.  Not only was it fast and furious and oh so painful, but it was pretty amazing.  I've never had a natural birth before so feeling everything was such a different experience.  The labor itself, the pushing, all of it.  There is something so primal and beautiful about it while in the same moment it's painful and agonizing.  The human body is certainly amazing.  And I will forever be grateful that God knew I needed that experience... I needed to feel those moments of pain, fear, and failure before He victoriously brought my son into this world and into my arms.

I have had the honor of loving two little boys and being a "mom" to them both.  But there has been a longing in my heart to be the mother of a boy that I gave birth to.  I had honestly given up that dream, and I was so satisfied with my three precious babies.  I wrestled with the reason for this pregnancy, and I questioned God's plan more times than I believed in it.  

As I look back, I see all of this was part of His plan.  He saw fit that this pregnancy was viable when my heart wasn't in it.  He put it on my heart not to find out the sex of this baby, which would have provided the answer to so many "whys" for me.  He walked us through a valley of uncertainty with our baby's health.  He made sure I felt the struggle.  He made sure I had no where to go but to Him, even when He knew I didn't want to.  Even when He knew it was the hardest thing for me to do.  

On March 26 at 11:34 AM, I became the mother to a little boy weighing 5 lbs. 6 oz. measuring 18 1/2 inches long.  A part of me that was missing, is now whole.  Cooper Byron is my miracle... my redemption... my precious son.  God did THAT!

A side note - Choosing a name for a baby whose sex is unknown was a difficult task for us.  Many people have asked me what our name choices were since we kept a lot of things pretty hush hush.

For a girl we had it narrowed down to: 
Georgia Rae
Sadie Rae
Clara Rae
(Rae honoring my sister Rachel)

For a boy we had it narrowed down to:
Tripp Byron
Hayes Byron
Cooper Byron

In the end, we chose Cooper Byron.  We knew we wanted to honor my father by using his name as the middle name.  Then we looked at our family and who we are in this season of life.  When we described ourselves we came up with the words: Jesus, Gymnastics, and Baseball.  So it only seemed right that we chose Cooper taken from Cooperstown where the Baseball Hall of Fame resides.  We love our Mini Coop :)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Baby 4 - 35 Weeks

We went for our weekly visit to the perinatologist today so I thought I'd update.  (There really wasn't much to say last week so that's why I didn't post anything.)  

Today they measured Baby 4.  We are now a whopping 4 lbs. 5 oz.  The doctor seemed pleased with this growth.  (Almost a pound since they measured two weeks ago when we were 3 lbs. 9 oz.)  However, we are still on the tiny side for a normal 35 weeker.  So that means the same rules of kick counts and not doing anything continue.  In addition to that they have decided we will have the baby at 37 weeks.

The way the doctor explained it is that right now it appears that Baby 4 is just tiny with no other issues.  However, there really is no way to know this until baby arrives.  So she felt it would be best to let the baby get "full term", but not wait any longer so as not to risk any further complications.  I guess that all makes sense.  I'm really just going with the flow since I'm not in the baby doctor business.

I'm torn on how I feel about this because I really wanted to go into labor naturally this time.  I'm also ready to meet this baby, and I feel like a lot of my emotional stress will be gone once Baby 4 is actually in my arms.  I think this 37 week time frame gives us good odds for no NICU time (unless something is wrong, which I do not suspect).  I know that Baby 4 will be tinier than "average" so my hope is really just to get and stay over the 5 lb. mark, which I think we can easily do.

My nerves have calmed down since my last update.  I think it helps that we see one doctor or the other twice a week.  That's a lot of hearing the baby and seeing the baby so it's very reassuring.  My OB is also the most amazing person ever.  I was nervous at the beginning of the pregnancy about having a new doctor than my past pregnancies, but this has clearly been a "God thing".  

So all that to say... we have an induction date.  I'm only 1 cm. dilated right now so I suspect we'll move forward on the induction date and not sooner.  My next update should be that Baby 4 has arrived!

Thank you all for your prayers for Baby 4 and our family.  They have been felt, and I know that is why we continue to receive such wonderful news at each doctor's visit.  I'm beyond grateful for each and every one of you who has taken the time to read this and care about our sweet growing family!  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Baby 4 - 33 Weeks

I've debated how much of this we would share because really there isn't a lot to say, and we have more questions than we do answers.  However, we have good people in our lives who really love us and our family, and this seems the easiest avenue to keep everyone updated on Baby 4.

Those of you on Facebook or who have talked to us lately are aware that a few weeks ago there was some concern about the size of Baby 4.  So we waited a couple of weeks and we had a sonogram to determine if this was a concern that needed to be validated or not.  At that sonogram our OB measured Baby 4 to be in the less than third percentile.  This came with a referral to a perinatologist.  

So Thursday (at exactly 33 weeks) we went to our first visit with the perinatologist.  Now I should be honest and admit that I really was not worried about this appointment.  I assumed we'd go and she'd look at the baby and say, "Yep.  Baby is small, but so were your other babies.  However, all is well.  It was nice to meet you.  Oh, and don't forget to take these pictures of your cute little munchkin."

But it didn't go exactly like that.  For one she did not use words like munchkin.  She was much more sophisticated and official than that.  Instead she said words to us like chromosomal abnormalities and still birth.  Which was not at all how I pictured this visit going.  

She wrapped it all up with our new care plan of once a week sonograms, three times daily kick counts (10 movements per hour), and our regular visits with the OB as well.  I thought she was going to set me ablaze with her eyes when she asked what type of job I had.  Yeah, needless to say my new day will consist of going to work and sitting (no more coaching or moving really at all) and then coming home and doing nothing.  Then she told me how her goal is to keep the baby in until 37 weeks, but she will decide week to week how that will go.  So just to be sure she was really serious about all this news she'd thrown my way, I asked her if I could travel (since Lexie has an out of town meet coming up), and she said, "Um, no.  Once you are considered high risk you do not get to go anywhere."

Ohhhh... so this is a high risk thing?!?  I hadn't really put all that together.  Then it all started to sink in.  "Yes, that's right... She said chromosomal abnormalities and still birth.  Oh wait, and she said I can't do anything.  But my kids have activities."  It all just started to get jumbled in my mind because that's what things do to me.  So we made appointments for the next few weeks, and we were on our way.

On the way home Josh suggested that we find out the sex of the baby.  He didn't say it, but I was sure he was thinking it was because our baby could die before it was ever born.  She did say there was a very high risk of that in tiny babies.  Maybe he was putting those pieces together.  So I said maybe we should find out too.  Just to take one element of surprise away and to allow us to bond better with the baby.  Maybe if we love it better then it will be okay.  Maybe if I wouldn't have been so devastated at finding out I was pregnant then it would be okay.

And that's how my mind works.  In a big jumbled mess.  And usually it just spirals out of control until I have a complete emotional melt down and completely fall apart.  Then my precious husband comes and puts me back together.  But I knew yesterday was the day for quiet tears and sleep.  He was processing too.  It wasn't fair to lose it on him yet.  

I felt better after I slept.  And I started to think more rationally.  The doctor did say at the very beginning of our appointment the words I'm going to hang on to, believe in, and pray for... "There is a chance that the baby is perfectly healthy, but just small."  

So I ask that you join my family and I in prayer that this chance is reality for Baby 4, and that I will keep what's left of my sanity.  And please pray for my husband who would never let one know he is worried about a thing, but he loves this baby too and has from day one.

I will update again next week.  I'm sure it will be short and sweet.  And hopefully it will say, "Baby 4 has miraculously grown to normal baby size!"  Thank you for your love and support, sweet friends!