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my top secret mom tip to help you not want to kill yourself everyday.

I spend a lot of time connecting with younger moms. I realize I'm not the most experienced mom on the planet - my oldest is only eight - so my advice is pretty limited to the younger years.  HOWEVER.  One question I get asked frequently is some variation of, "With the number of kids you wrangle, many of them still very young, how are you not insane?"

And honestly, it's true.  I'm not insane.  (At least... not because my kids are overwhelming.  I'm kind of a dummy overall, but that's not due to parenting.)  Our days actually run pretty smoothly, and I get plenty of time to recharge during the day.  Most days aren't spent putting out fires, or feeling completely behind or overwhelmed or exhausted.  Unless I have newborn, I typically get about eight hours of sleep a night.  I get daily alone time with my husband.  Life is pretty low-key in these parts, in large part because of one lifesaver rule I've set in our house.


I dictate when we sleep

I decide when we start the day.  Now, can I control whether a kid wants to wake up at the buttcrack of dawn?  No.  But can I enforce rules regarding what time they're allowed to come out of their room?  Yes.  Did you know you're allowed to do this?  I didn't for a long time.

But now our day starts when I come in and tell the kids to clean up, get dressed, and make their beds.  Before that, they're welcome to play or read in their rooms.  They're welcome to come out of their rooms only if they need to go potty or get a drink.  But other than that, the day doesn't start until I say so.  This lets me count on getting the rest I need, and not being unpleasantly surprised at 5:30 a.m. when a rando kid decides it's time to start the day.  (Obviously, there are exceptions to this for sick, teething, very young, or otherwise extra-needy kids.)  And while I get that this may not work for every kid, I will say you might be surprised to find that it will work for most.  Even Rocco is not too young for this - he just chills out until I come to get him in the morning.

I also dictate naptimes.  There is a set chunk of time in the afternoon where the under-five set are all in their beds.  (I don't wait until they show signs of being tired, just like I don't have to wait until they're starving to start making lunch.  I just try to get ahead of the need before they hit crisis mode.)  After lunch, they know it's time to go potty and get in bed.  If they sleep, great!  If they don't sleep, fine.  If they wake up early, whatever.  They're still in their beds.  I send the big kids to the basement or the back yard to play, and the house is quiet.  I really think this helps ensure that everyone (including myself) is getting plenty of rest.

Lastly, Todd and I dictate bedtimes.  We don't really have a set time for this, but usually around 7:00 or 7:30, Todd starts rounding up the troops.  We don't do an involved bedtime routine: every night but Wednesday (bath night) sees them changing into jammies, brushing their teeth, going potty and getting in bed.  We don't read to them at bedtime (usually Todd reads to them at the dinner table, and we spend plenty of school time reading aloud together.)  Todd prays and sings with each one of them, and then it's lights out.  They don't get to whine or wheedle or dink or dawdle.  Bedtime is bedtime.  The oldest two are often allowed to stay up for about half an hour reading, but other than that, everyone is in their beds.

This gives Todd and me time to 'adult.'  I clean up the kitchen and blog.  Todd runs on the treadmill and showers.  We read books.  We talk.  We Netflix and Chill.  We do married people stuff.  All sans kids.

Let me tell you - taking charge of our sleep routine has made all the difference.  It gives a predictable routine to our days, and ensures that both the kids and the grown ups are able to get the rest and recharge we need to function as civilly as possible throughout the day.  Do we still have hard days, or rough nights, or kids that refuse to nap sometimes?  Of course.  But there is a general atmosphere of predictable routine around here, and it makes it so much easier on everyone.

So there's my sanity secret:  Rest.  Rest for you, rest for your kids, just... rest.  That's it.  Also, coffee, because we all know that even the best laid plans get thrown out the window sometimes when kids are involved, so make sure you have extra backup coffee.  Also, having lots of kids is genuinely easier than just having a few.  So, really, three top secret tips: Sleep, drink some coffee, and have a bunch more kids, and your life will get significantly easier.  Trust me on this.

whut's up ~weekly.

I didn't post a W.U.W. last week because I was too exhausted from all the lengthy posts I'd written earlier in the week.  I think you can tell that I live a difficult life.  So this is a wrap-up of the past two weeks.

Highlights:

Last week was a break week, so even though we were super busy with writing blog posts, it didn't interfere with school.  (I kid, I kid.  Last week was a blur, but it was due to tons of appointments and unusual grocery shopping days and play dates.)

I got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time!  Yeah, it's a little late in the game, and I've already seen the kiddo once on ultrasound, but we couldn't 'catch' the heartbeat with the Doppler thing at my first appointment, so it was fun to actually hear its little innards working away, doing their own tiny person thing.

I have started reading books again.  It's hard.  I can tell the 'concentration' part of my brain has atrophied over the last year.  So it's slow going, but it's going.  And look - don't I have the best reading buddy?  Here, he's helping me sound out words in "The Underground Railroad."




Other highlights include the fact that Penelope lost another tooth (though I'll spare you the photo, as it's basically just a picture of a gaping, bloody hole in her gums.  After dark, and under incandescent lighting.)

Rocco apparently likes cheese.  And saying 'cheese.'



The Dark Baby toddled to Gotham Kitchen.



Also?  Here are some explanation-less photos, since I feel a bout of morning sickness rearing its head and I need to wrap things up.





It was in the sixties a few days ago, so we had all the windows open.  (Then yesterday, it snowed.)



Like Grandma Jacqi, like Mommy.  And like Mommy, like Laurelai.


(Please don't ask me why a half-naked Michael Phelps is standing next to a small child on the back of a gardening magazine.  I have no answer for you.)


Finneas had a pretty standard week.



We started taking this round of pregnancy photos.



And last night, the kids came up with this amazing game called "Paint Mommy."  Basically, they just took dry art brushes and spent like an hour 'painting' me.  The face painting was my favorite, and I basically ended up all comatose and 'zen'ed out like a total pothead.  It felt awesome.  I fully endorse "Paint Mommy."



And that's our story.  I'd stick around to ask how your week was and everything, but I need go hang my head in a toilet for a while.  It's a glamorous life, this 'growing babies' business.

turning over a new leaf.

The progress I've made on house projects over the course of the last couple of weeks has been so, so good for me.  It feels good to finally take some ownership of our home, and to stop whining about it and actually do something to make it feel more like 'us.'

The thing is, I've spent the last eight months that we've lived here bellyaching about how this house is not my cup of tea.  And honestly, most of it has been about matters of personal preference.  I'd prefer my house to have more light and a bigger kitchen.  I'd prefer the character of an older home.  But at the end of the day, there were a lot of reasons we did pick it - it fit our budget.  It fit our family size.  It had a basement family room, and an extra bathroom, and a fenced yard.  It was in a great location in town with high resale potential.  It had a new roof, new appliances, new water heater, and new vinyl windows.  It was - and obviously still is - a solid house with a lot of up-sides.  And honestly, of the 25-30 houses we saw in our price range, it was by far the best. 

I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I have been acting like I'm a victim of my circumstances - we had to church plant, we had to pick this less-than-perfect-for-me house, we had no choice.  But um, those are alternative facts.  The reality is that we chose.  We chose.  I chose.

So I'm moving forward in the actual reality of my choices.  I'm choosing to stop acting as though someone put a gun to my head and made me live here.  I'm choosing to stop acting as though we were somehow signed up, without our consent or foreknowledge, for a weird contest in which, if we endure living in some kind of haunted hovel for a set amount  time, we'll eventually win the house of our dreams.  No.  This is the home we chose, and for better or for worse, for however long our time here lasts, it's ours.  And I'm going to make it feel like ours to the best of my ability.

So I've got my sights set on some big and small projects that I'd love to get gradually checked off the list.  The living room, for one, is almost totally done - I ordered a rug the other day, and I stained the frame of a large print for over the couch.  Now, only a planter, another plant, another lamp, and a doormat stand in the way of checking off the 'finished' box for the living room.

Progress across the entire house will probably be slow, as we're on a limited budget and I'm often hindered by lack of time and motivation.  But it's progress, even if it's slow.  And taking ownership of my choices and my home has been a really great first step.

i have done something(s)!

So, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have been killing it at life over the last couple of days.  Toot, toot.

I'm probably back to 80% normal functioning now that morning sickness and fatigue are finally starting to wear off (and considering I'm 18 weeks along, it's about freaking time).  So I'm apparently trying to make up for lost time and do all the things.

I painted the bathroom - ceiling, trim and walls.  I rearranged the basement and unpacked all our books - there are only two unpacked boxes in the basement at the current moment!  (Which, if you'd seen our basement at any point in the past eight months since we moved in, you'd know was a major feat.)  On Saturday I went to Menard's with a friend to pick out lumber for a mudroom-style locker system we'll be building for the garage.  I cleaned out the garage in order to make space for Aforementioned Locker System.  I helped Todd re-secure the legs on our dining room table.  And I ate a salad.

That last bullet point seems a little anticlimactic at first glance, but let me tell you it has been months since I've been able to stomach a vegetable.  I have been living on such nutritious staples as bagels, mac and cheese, cola, bean burritos and ramen.  No meat.  No fruits or veggies.  No good, clean water.  Not even a prenatal vitamin.  All those things have made me barf.  So you can imagine my feeling of victory when I ate a salad yesterday - with a couple pieces of chicken on top, to boot!  (Granted, when I say salad, what I really mean is 'lettuce swimming in ranch dressing,' so it wasn't exactly a superfood, but baby steps.)

Why am I telling you all this?  To lend credence to my assertion that I'm tired.  Like, bone tired.  Just painting the bathroom alone made my feet ache like no other.  By the end of the day, I was all groaning and aching and flopped over on the couch like I'd just gladiatored a lion or something, and all I'd done was get up onto, and then down off of, a chair a couple of times in order to reach the ceiling.  Dang. 


I have never felt so very 'thirty.  and also pregnant.' in my life.  I'm getting old, guys.

baby registry: what NOT to put on the list.

Yesterday I gave you a rundown of all the baby items I deem truly justified when registering for items for a new baby.  Today, I'll give you a rundown of the stuff that I find a little (or a lot) less necessary.  (Much of this list is modified from a post I wrote on the same topic a few years ago, with some additions and subtractions.)  Settle in.  This post is long and sometimes snarky because sometimes registry checklists make me mad.

Here we go - the stuff you really don't need to add to your registry:

Specialized diaper pail or system.  Your house will smell like baby poop, no matter what you do or how much money you spend on something gimmicky.  Pee diapers don't smell like anything, so they can just go in the regular trash can.  As for poopy diapers, just put them directly in the outside trash like you'd do with anything else that smells bad.  Your baby will be fine in the swing for the 20 seconds you're gone.  Or if that doesn't work with your situation, just find a trash can with a decent lid and empty it daily.  (And here's another thing - consignment places usually won't take diaper pail systems, and I know from experience they do NOT sell at garage sales, so you can't resell them.  You'll have spent top dollar for a glorified garbage can that you will, ironically, just have to throw away when you're done with the baby stage.)


Cutie patootie slings.  I know I mentioned this yesterday, but get the mammoth, ergonomically-designed kind.  Anything flimsy or one-shouldered will only get used occasionally and for short spurts at a time.  Migraines will abound.  My personal recommendation is the Ergo (with the newborn insert for babies that are still itty bitties).  It is a piece of cake to get on and off by yourself, and you can literally wear it for hours without back or shoulder pain.  When you put your baby in it, it's like you've got a 10-pound cloud strapped to you.  It's still 10 pounds, but something ought to be said for the fact that it's a cloud.


Expensive baby detergents and stain removers.  I know some babies have really sensitive skin and some detergents are especially harsh (anything with live enzymes in it, like Tide, might cause more problems).  But I would say more than anything it's fabric softeners and dryer sheets that are irritating to sensitive skin, and just avoiding these and using your normal detergent is way more economical.  Plus then you don't have to wash baby clothes separately from the rest of the family's, because let's be honest, it's not like you need any more excuses to fall behind on laundry when you have a new baby.  (Or when you don't.)


Baby toys for the under-toddler set.  Maybe a couple to hang from the car seat.  But as far as anything else goes, I swear they'll ignore it for the first six months and after that they'll only want to chew on your tupperware instead, so why bother?  (And, on a side note, I TOTALLY get how this makes me Public Enemy #1, but can we please stop pretending that two-month-old babies need to be "reading" board books with you, and that they actually enjoy "reading"?  I can tell you that they don't, and they don't.  It's okay if you also want to skip the books until they're a bit older.)


Those weird head-to-toe snowsuit things they make for babies.  Newsflash: babies do not play in the snow.  And heaven forbid any Internet moms see you buckling your puffywear-clad child into a carseat.  DON'T YOU KNOW HE COULD BE BODILY EJECTED FROM HIS FIVE-POINT HARNESS IN THE EVENT OF A NUCLEAR BLAST?!  And in the 3.2 seconds it takes to get them from the door to the car, where you apparently have to dewinterize them anyway, most can be effectively bundled with a hat and a warm blanket or two over the top of the carseat.  Or gimmickier, but quite effective, a carseat cover.  (These were pretty unusual to see when I had Atticus - now they're pretty standard, I think.)


Baby powder. I do not know anyone who uses this.  I literally don't even know what it's for.  I would also put large jars of petroleum jelly on the 'do not buy' list.  Other than for occasionally lubing up rectal thermometers and about a weeks' worth of circumcision care, you will never use this stuff, and in either case of its actual usefulness, it's very concerning if you need such a large jar of it.  Get like the tiniest travel-sized jar or tube you can find.


Half the weird stuff that comes in a baby grooming kit.  You will get a cheapo but very effective baby hairbrush at the hospital.  Ditto for a nose sucker thing - they'll give you forty million of those if you ask for them.  And any time your baby needs a medicine dropper, it will come with the medication.  And what on earth anyone uses tweezers or tiny scissors for on a baby, I don't know.  Why spend the extra money on this stuff?  The major exception is baby nail clippers - NECESSARY. and how.  Get the kind that are normal-hand-sized with a tiny clipper on the end (ours have big bulbous handle things), not the kind where the whole clipper is tiny and you can't see what the heck you're doing.  You will bloody your kid's hands so fast you won't know what happened.


Wipes warmer.  I'm sorry, but there's nothing that makes my blood boil over first world privilege than people who act like wipes warmers are some kind of survival necessity.  Like, "In the event of the apocalypse, grab the canned goods and the crank generator so we can keep the wipes warm, or the baby won't know he's loved and he'll grow to resent us..." 

In my more-passionate-than-the-topic-really-warrants opinion, kids should just be thankful that you're actually cleaning them up, and not making them crawl around in their own poop all day.  Cold wipes teach character and gratitude, that's what I say.  And if I'm being honest, not one of my kids has ever indicated in any way that using a room temperature wipe is even the slightest bit inhumane.  (Plus, wipes warmers just remind me of whatever movie it is where they give some guy a hot towel on the plane and he doesn't know what to do with it so he just wipes his face and puts it back in the bowl.  What movie is that??  I think it's Adam Sandler...)


Specialty make-your-own-baby-food-at-home gear.  I will say I do have a little hand-held puree-er thing, and it really did come in handy sometimes when I was still making baby food, but if I'd had a functioning food processor, I really wouldn't have needed both.  You probably already have on hand everything you need without registering for any extra equipment.  Puree up some veggies in your food processor, pour the resulting goo in some ice cube trays, and pop those in the freezer.   Or do what I do now and skip the baby food phase altogether and just mush some normal-people dinner up after a while.  (Baby led weaning has made life so much easier.  It has been years since I've served purees.  So, maybe put the Baby Led Weaning book on your registry instead of the food masher thing.)


Stroller sack.  Why are these a thing you can buy?  Didn't you already succumb to the pressure to buy a diaper bag? (Which I also maintain you don't need - get a roomy purse.  Stick a ziplock in there with a FEW necessities and call it a day.)  Didn't you already take my advice and get a simple foldable stroller, most of which already come with a basket underneath?  WHY DO WE NEED YET ANOTHER BAG?!  Oh yes.  To hold all the rest of the unnecessary items on the registry checklist.


Breast pump.  Don't get me wrong; you'll need a breast pump if you're planning on nursing.  But don't put it on your registry.  Often, your insurance will cover part or all of the cost, or you can rent a hospital-grade one from the pharmacy, the lactation consultant, or WIC.  (I rented a really high end one for free from WIC, since we qualified, and when it came time to give it back, they gave me a brand new Medela for free to keep.)  Whichever way you get yours, it will come with new bottles, shields, and tubes.  No need to ask someone to pay full price for this stuff.


And there is the list of items that, through much trial and error, I have really found to be unnecessary to register for.  Hope it saves you a little space in your home, and a little cash in your wallet.  You're free to buy me a coffee with a percentage of your savings; it's a free country, I can't tell you what to do with your money.

baby registry: what to put on the list.

Friends, I have produced six human people in my body.  I have had the privilege of raising five of them so far.  I have seen some stuff.  I have seen some absolutely pyrotechnic barf.  I have fished someone else's poop out of a bathtub drain by hand.  I have lived many lives worth of seeing some stuff.  And if I've learned nothing else, I've learned this:  BABY REGISTRY CHECKLISTS DO NOT VALUE YOUR BEST INTERESTS AS A PERSON.  They are trying to squeeze as many pennies from you and your loved ones as they can.  So let me set the record straight and walk you through the things I think you should register for, and the stuff I think you should skip.


Here are some things of the big things you really should have on your registry.  These are just the highlights I feel are worth mentioning, so this is not an exhaustive list.:

Car seat.  Crib. Mattress. Changing table/pad.  Etc. etc. etc.  You know, the basic 'keeping a person alive' stuff.

Baby carrier.  Even if "baby wearing" as a lifestyle isn't your jam.  There will come a day when you need two hands to do something necessary, and New Baby will be voicing their shrill opinions on being set down for two seconds. Enter: baby carrier.  You both will love it.  Do NOT get anything that puts all their weight on one shoulder.  Do NOT get anything that has tons of fabric you have to origami around yourself just to use it.  Ain't nobody got time for that. Get something that distributes the baby's heft evenly across your shoulders and your back, and can accommodate larger children so you can use it longer.  My personal recommendation is the Ergo, WITH the infant insert.

Stroller. Just a normal fold-up one that accommodates a carseat and fits in the back of your van when not in use.  Just ONE.  Not a jogging stroller - unless you're an actual jogger, and not just a person with good intentions of one day becoming a jogger.  You will not suddenly become more athletically ambitious once you have a stroller-aged baby.  Let's be realistic. 

Pack and play.  NOT a Moses basket and a bassinet and a pack and play.  Pick one.  ONE.  Of the three, I vote for the pack and play (with a bassinet insert) because it's portable, small to store, and accommodates kiddos up through toddler age.  Don't forget to throw some sheets and waterproof pads for this on the registry, too.

Glider rocker and ottoman.  I am on my sixth pregnancy and still dream of the perfect glider.  I don't care if it's ugly.  I don't care if I will never want to put it in my living room as regular furniture after I'm done nursing babies.  So. Many. Hours. are logged nursing that this is really necessary.

Nursing pillow.  I was at a garage sale with a friend when I was pregnant with Atticus, and she found a Boppy pillow for five bucks and was like, "OH! You NEED this!"  And I was like, "Great! I'll take it!  What is it?"  It's basically like a pillow-shelf to put your baby on while you nurse so that you don't get Hunchback.  Register for a cover, too, since it will definitely get covered in baby barf and you'll need a quick way to erase all evidence of the carnage that just came out of your baby's stomach.

Burp cloths (like a million).  Hooded towels and baby washcloths, if you're into that.  (Although normal-people towels and washcloths work just fine, too.)  Crib sheets and waterproof pads.  You know, baby linens.  You may be tempted to lump in receiving blankets or crib quilts with this set, but don't bother registering for those.  You will get so many unsolicited blankets that don't match anything else you've registered for.  You will have blankets coming out your ears.  Don't enable people by putting more on your list.

Muslin swaddling blankets.  Yeah, the really spendy ones.  They're that much better.  You need these.

One of those swaddly-wraps.  I like the SwaddleMe brand because the straightjacket arms are wide enough to keep those flailers in place, and the Velcro is seriously heavy duty.  I've heard Halo brand is good, too.  DO NOT GO WITH AN OFF-BRAND.  I made this mistake and they're absolute garbage.  And you might think you can get away with just the swaddle blankets OR the swaddle wraps, but this is false.  Babies have very specific opinions on how they like to be swaddled.  And they usually voice them in the middle of the night.  Don't be caught underprepared.

High chair.  The kind that straps to a chair you already own, not one that takes up its own valuable floor real estate.

Bottles of your choice.  Bottle brush.  Breastmilk bags.

Baby gates.  Baby monitor.  Outlet plugs so Baby doesn't end up crispy fried.  Cabinet locks are your choice - I'm more of the camp that would rather just train them to not dig through my cupboards than have to remember to 'unlock' my pans every time I need one.  But I also am of the camp that doesn't want to walk in and find my kitchen items strewn around, so I have gone both ways in the various houses we've lived in. 

Thermometer.  Tylenol, or whatever homeopathic incense your personal healer suggests.  Nail clippers.  (The kind with the bulby end.  Don't settle for anything other than the kind with the bulbous handle.)

Baby holding cells.  I mean... A swing.  An exersaucer OR a jumper-thing.  A bouncy seat.  I regularly use all three of these things with my kids, so this is a case where I think having 'more' can be justified.  Consider the footprint of each of these - they're all massive, so the smaller you can find, the better.  Also, one of those activity mat things - and make sure it's the kind that folds up and stores flat under the couch.

Clothing: The thing I will say about clothing is that people will pick whatever the heck cutesy outfits they feel like picking.  They will not care one iota about the specific jeans-and-sweater set you picked out.  They will get whatever catches their own fancy.  (Plus, seasons change so quickly that usually your registry picks aren't still available by the time someone's buying stuff for your shower anyway.)  So skip registering for too many actual 'outfit'-type outfits: jeans, dresses, sweaters, etc.  If it has suspenders or a bow tie, it fits under this category.  Save the registry for necessary clothing, and trust that people will fill in the gaps on their own - people love buying baby outfits.

Okay, so what is necessary?
  • At least two packs of white or patterned onesies in each of the following sizes: 0-3 months, 3-6 months, and 6-9 months.
  • Tiny pants in the same sizes.
  • Sleep suits or whatever they're called - those long sleeve, long pants onesie things.  The kind that ZIP from the foot to the neck, NOT the kind that button.  If there's one thing a new baby doesn't tolerate, it's you trying to snap twenty individual buttons while begging the baby to hold still.
  • Those blanket-bag jammies that zip over their normal clothes to keep them warm once they're done being swaddled.  Just like two of these to alternate between.
  • Heavy duty elasticized socks.  The kind that will stay glued to their tiny feet.

Pampers Swaddlers diapers in NB and size 1.  Normally, I'd say to just let something like this go to chance and not bother specifying it on your registry - diapers are diapers, right?  WRONG.  These diapers are so incredibly wonderful - snuggly, soft, good-smelling, with this weird net thing that keeps their booties a little drier, and as decent at stopping leaks as you can reasonably expect from a diaper on a baby that shoots out pure liquid poop 10-12 times a day.


And that is a basic rundown of the things I think you should include on your registry.  Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the stuff that I think you could probably stand to skip.  See you tomorrow!

advice for my new-mom self.

If I could go back in time and give First Time Mom Paige a few words of advice, they'd probably sound a little something like this...


Take a goldarn nap, ya idiot.

Babies sleep a ton.  Like, 
a ton.  Granted, it's all during the day, and it's usually in infinitesimally short stretches (or, you know, like four-hour-long ones.  Either/or.).  But count on a good 18-20 daily hours of baby-is-asleep time for the first six weeks.  You will think this offers you a great excuse to catch up on blogs.  But then night will come, and you will want to sleep, and New Baby will think it's time to drop some ecstasy and rave it out.  So instead of being an idiot, take a nap during the day.  You won't feel like it.  But do it anyway.  Otherwise, once you have more kids, you will bang your head against the wall, thinking about all those lost opportunities for newborn-mom-naptime.



Your baby is scamming you.

You will get your new baby home, and for the first two weeks, you will be all, "I think I got this!  Yeah, I'm tired; yeah, I'm sore.  But we have friends bringing meals by, and I have help from my husband/MIL/rando ladies at church.  The baby sleeps all day.  We'll pull through."  And then the Dastardly Two Weeks hits.  Suddenly, once they turn two weeks old, the baby will stop sleeping.  Your husband will be back at work.  The meals will have likely stopped.  You are on your own.

Know for a fact that this is temporary.  (I'll talk more about this later.)  Do not let yourself think for an instant that this is how it will always feel.  It will get better, and sooner than you think.  Usually by six or seven weeks, you'll have that "I am a conqueror" feeling back again.  It is a season.  Get through it one day at a time.


Ask for the good stuff now.

What I mean by that is "GET AN ERGO CARRIER."  (I've heard Tulas, Becos and Sollys are acceptable substitutes, but Ergo is the one I've fallen in love with by now.)  You will spend  ton of time flirting with, and spending money on, and then hating lesser-than carriers, but just save yourself the hassle and get the good one now.  They are NOT cheap, they are NOT cute, and honestly, you may not get tons of use out of it with your first baby.  But people love to get gifts for first-time moms.  Try having your fourth and then asking for a $150 carrier from a friend.  Just try it.  Wamp wamp, you just lost a friend.  (Or so I assume.  I have thankfully never actually had the guts to try this out.)

Also?  A gliding rocker.  A gliding rocker so luxurious you would offer it as prime seating to the Queen, if you should ever have the pleasure of entertaining her.

 (Tomorrow I'll give you a rundown of all the baby stuff you actually need, and all the stuff you only think you need but will only make your life more cluttery and therefore worse.)

You will never be more of a novice, or more of an expert, than you are right now 

You feel clueless because you are - and honestly, if I'm speaking directly to proud, First-Time-Mom Paige, I'd say to ask for advice.  Books are great, but they don't require you to humble yourself and find a mom you trust who's been there before and ask her about her parenting style, philosophy, methods.  Ask for ADVICE, not just anecdotes - ask, "What should I do?" and then do it.  I'd say to Young Paige, you don't know anything at all.  Listen to someone.  (And someone on the internet doesn't count.)

And on the flip side of that coin, I'd say, you know more than you think you do.  Trust your gut.  Leave that prone-to-sweatiness infant in a Tshirt during the day even if the lady at the nursing home you're visiting tells you it's too cold for that (and then tells you about a thousand more times, because she's already forgotten she said it in the first place).  And if babywearing isn't your thing, that's cool.  You can be a good mom without needing to develop scoliosis just because the sinister world of Internet Moms tells you kangaroo-joeying your baby for the next two years is a requirement if you don't want them to grow up to be some kind of co-dependent, alcoholic, Hep B-positive inmate.  Everyone has an opinion on every stupid little thing.  Don't listen to just anyone about just anything.  



It's totally normal to resent your baby.  

Maybe I'm alone in this, but again, if I'm just speaking to New Mom Paige, I'd say, you will fall out of love with your baby sometimes.  Namely, in the middle of the night when they JUST WON'T STOP CRYING AND GO TO SLEEP FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.  You will cry.  You will scream.  You will wonder if you've made a huge mistake.  And then you will sleep for a (very tiny) little bit, and wake up next to a tiny sleeping baby whose tiny baby mouth is making tiny baby spit bubbles next to their tiny fingers and OHMYWORDLOOKATHOWCUTE and you will bawl your head off at how perfect your life is.  It's cool.  You're exhausted and hormonal and on a steep learning curve and recovering from the major physical exertion of labor, and only simultaneously expected to ensure the survival of a newborn human.  It's normal for it to feel heavy sometimes.



IN THE NAME OF ALL THINGS GOOD AND HOLY, PUT PEOPLE TO WORK.  

If they come over to hold the baby, they better first do some dishes to earn that privilege or they're not welcome in your home.  Sounds extreme, but seriously - if someone offers to help, let them.  Ask.  Insist.  Make it a matter of personal principle.  I can't stress this enough - even if you don't feel like you need it, even if you don't feel like you want it, accept help.

Why?  Because this is a marathon, friend-o.  If someone offers you water at Mile One, you take it, even if don't feel thirsty yet.  You need to settle in for the literal long run.  Nap when you don't feel tired while someone else watches the baby, let someone cook for you even if you can do it yourself, don't feel guilty if the neighbor lady  comes over to do your dishes.  You'll have the opportunity to pay them all back later - but not right now.  Right now, you just need to park your butt on the couch with that baby and watch a bunch of Netflix and eat spaghetti that someone else cooked.  Also, you need to take a shower.  Because...


You will feel so gross.

All the time.  You will feel gross all the time.  The hormonal fluctuations will give you B.O. and night sweats.  You will leak breastmilk all over everything and everyone in the general vicinity.  That sweet baby of yours has one waking goal: To cover you in variably-digested stomach fluids in whatever way they can possibly manage to.  You will get to a point where you are fine with wiping baby poop on your yoga pants after you get it on your finger, without batting an eye.  Invest in some nice body wash now, and enlist someone to sit with the baby while you shower.  Because you will really need to shower.  I'm begging you: take a shower.

You will do things you swore you'd never do.  

You will co-sleep sometimes.  You will one day encapsulate your placenta in a desperate attempt to ward off yet another bout of PPD.  You will use the TV as a babysitter.  You will be a much worse parent in reality than you imagined you'd be before you had kids.  Welcome to the club. 


This is all so very temporary.
This is a double-edged sword.  Both sides are good.  On the one hand, there will be nights where you look out on the horizon of parenthood and think, 'I can't do this.  I can't do this anymore.'  The absolute most hopeless points of new motherhood (or really, motherhood in general) come when you believe the lie that things will always be the way they are now.  Do not allow yourself to assume you know what tomorrow will look like.  Do not assume that today will hold any of yesterday's successes.  Just tackle each moment as it comes, and know every single hard thing really is temporary.

Also know that this is very temporary.  The second you get used to one stage, they're on to the next, and you're left reeling and wondering if you got enough pictures because it went way too quickly.  But know that, for every stage you leave behind, the next one really is better.  New Mom Paige, you won't believe it, but Atticus at age 8 is as wonderful - more wonderful - than Atticus as a newborn.  Know that every single day that goes by will offer opportunities to love this baby more deeply, and know them more fully, than you did the day before.  Things are about to get so good.

eight years and six pregnancies ago...

A friend is expecting her first baby, and recently asked what it's like looking back on the days when I first had Atticus - what I didn't know then that I know now, etc.  It really got me thinking, and reminiscing, and at the same time, it startled me to think about how I need to 'look back' to those days - it wasn't that long ago, right? RIGHT?!

Except that it weirdly was.  In some ways, I feel a little more seasoned.  There are things you really do learn along the way and streamline as you go.  But I think I'm also equally surprised by how everything still feels very new - I really do wonder if the motherfeelings of awe and privilege and inadequacy ever fade.




I vividly remember one night when Atticus was just shy of three weeks old.  It was Christmas Eve night (or, technically, verrrry early Christmas morning).  I was home by myself with him, since Todd was still working overnight shifts then, and Atticus would not. stop. crying.  And I felt so helpless and alone, because who was I going to call to come over and help me at 1:00 a.m. on Christmas?  And the upstairs neighbors were banging on the ceiling, yelling at me to get Atticus to cool it, and I was like, I'M TRYING MY BEST AND I CAN'T GET HIM TO SHUT UP AND I CAN'T DO ANY OF THIS.  And at that point, I was like, I think I'm in over my head.

I didn't know that the floundering feeling was normal.  I didn't know that it comes with every baby, no matter how many you've had, and at the end of the day, all you want is your own stay-at-home-mom to come mother you while you try to clumsily mother your own baby.  It's normal for it to be messy.



Luckily, there are also a few things I've learned since then, like:

1). Get someone (an actual warmblooded person, not just the book) to walk you through how to flexibly use a Babywise schedule, and your life will get a million times easier.  (Later that Christmas day, we went to the house of a friend who'd had six kids of her own, and by the end of the day, she had effectively gotten Atticus on a sleeping and eating schedule.  My life changed that day because I let someone mother me through Babywise.)

2).  Do not expect anything from a newborn.  Like, anything.  Especially in the middle of the night.  It took me until Laurelai to figure this one out, but it's a game changer.  If they wake up at 2:30 in the morning, do not expect them to stay awake.  Similarly, do not expect them to fall back to sleep.   If they do stay awake, do not assume they will stay awake for hours on end.  If they do fall asleep, do not assume they will sleep for longer than 30 minutes.  DO NOT EVER THINK AHEAD OF THIS VERY SECOND when you have a newborn.  Just do what's right in front of you.  Are they awake again?  Then get up again.  Don't calculate how much sleep you're losing, or how long it's been since they last ate, or how much sleep you'll get if they just go back to bed by such-and-such a time.  Just don't.  Don't ever look beyond this very second, and how you can muster the strength to meet this moment's demands.  You will be much less miserable this way.

3).  God shows his amazing strength most when we feel most inadequate.  Prepare yourself to see some amazing things happen with every single newborn.  Even now, I look at those photos of Atticus, and marvel at what an answer to prayer he was - it seems so silly, but I prayed and prayed and prayed he'd have tons of hair, and now every time I see these photos, I see answered prayer.  It seems silly, but that's the way it is with babies.  You will marvel over small things.  Every time.

I did some more thinking over the weekend about what else I would tell New Mom Paige if I could go back in time, knowing now what I didn't yet know then, and I compiled some advice I'd give her.  I'll post that tomorrow, so stay tuned!

what was up this week.

Okay, NOW I can tell you about how the week went.  And surprisingly, even though things seemed to start off on a rocky foot, it all went as smoothly as can be hoped for at this point in life.

The weather here has been craycray.  We began the week with a light dusting of snow and some temperatures in the thirties, so I sent the kids outside for a snow day.



Then it warmed way up and we had a few days in the upper sixties and lower seventies.  At one point I discovered Finneas running around outside with mittens on, but sans shoes.



Today, there's a forecast for a huge ice storm, with freezing rain and high winds, that is projected to last through Monday.  Todd's office and all the schools are closed today because it's supposed to get so bad.  Part of me wants to shake my fist at the weather for being so schizophrenic, but then I'm like, it's January, and no one can be expected to act rationally in January.  Not even the weather, I guess.  

In other news, we actually got a full week of school in without scrambling or falling off the wagon midweek.  We did move nature study to Wednesday from its regular slot this afternoon, since the weather was so much nicer then, and we'll spend today hunkering down, drinking tea and doing art all day.  



We read Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' this week, and the kids weirdly loved it.  (I'm still needing to be convinced of Shakespeare's plot-writing genius; when Todd asked what it was about, I was like, "It was Shakespeare.  Everyone was banishing everyone else, and trying to kill their brother, and falling in love with their enemy's daughter.  You know.  Shakespeare."  He's basically the original soap opera writer.)  But anyway, the kids insisted on creating a puppet show afterward, and when I couldn't find my Shakespeare finger puppet set, they created their own.  You should see Atticus' Orlando puppet.  It's so cute I want to eat it.  Or whatever.




Rocco ate an apple like a bare-chested boss.



We had a dance party, and this ensued.  Take a good, long look at this photo, as it is a rare glimpse of an indoors-yet-fully-clothed Finneas.  




The big kids are both hitting coming-of-age milestones as we speak:  Atticus is nearing the end of his very first independent read-through of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Penelope has just jumped in to Anne of Green Gables.  So at night, after the little kids are in bed, the big kids and I will cozy up in our respective reading spots in the living room and do what Van Voorsts do best:  watch Netflix.  I mean, read books.




Other than that, it's been a pretty typical week.  On Tuesday, a couple of friends came over to help me deal with some of the maelstrom that comes every Tuesday in the name of prepping to host Connection Group.  I have been having such a hard time juggling everything lately, and Tuesdays are especially hard: a full homeschool day, morning sickness, top-to-bottom housecleaning, and dinner prep for extra guests, not to mention needing to actually shower and put on make up, all end up converging in a hurricane of great weeping and gnashing of teeth.  So a couple friends have offered to start coming early on Tuesdays to help with cleaning and dinner management, and LET ME TELL YOU WHAT - it was so helpful.  I kind of hate having to accept help like this, but it really did make a difference.

And that was our week!  Good, full, pretty normal; just like I like it.

whoops.

I was just about to write about how the week has gone, and how it's been a busy one - busy, but good - and I was about to upload stuff from the camera card so that I could find photos for What's Up Weekly... when I was suddenly like, "Hey Dumdum!  It's only Tuesday!"

I have a feeling I'm in for a long week.  Probably one full of mistakes and missed appointments.  Oh well.  That's just who I am and how I roll now.

Unfortunately, it means that today's planned post is a bust, since I still have a few more days to live through before I have any authority to write a blog post about how my week has gone.  So... I guess that's all I'm here to say.

Just so I don't feel like I've entirely wasted your time in popping over here today, let me tell you what I ate yesterday.

Breakfast: bacon, egg, RC Cola

School time: lemon La Croix, two giant bagels with too much cream cheese

Lunch: ramen (although, I feel like I must mention that it was fancy GF ramen from the Asian food section, made with 'forbidden rice' and miso powder, and while it was actually delicious, it was black.  Like, black.  The noodles were purple-black.  The broth was brown-black.  I could not stop imagining that the whole bowl was actually just compost worms swimming around in swamp water.  I ate it, but I won't be buying it again.)  Also, RC Cola.

Dinner (and this is where things start disintegrating): four packs of Gushers, some Nut Thins, some Boursin, and about fourteen pounds of Red Hots.  And a lemon La Croix.  And then another lemon La Croix.


I think a few things are made clear by this list:

1. I am starting to branch out of my early-pregnancy food limitations, but I've picked some weird stuff to start with.

2.  We spend way more money on canned beverages than we should, because water still makes me throw up.

3.  I eat very little protein, and NO fresh foods.  After breakfast, it's basically all carbs.  This baby is at a serious disadvantage.  Please pray for its health and well being.


christmas with the van voorsts.

Now that we're tons and tons of weeks out from the actual event, how about I share some Christmas photos with you all?

We started the morning with Atticus looking very grown-up.  And it wasn't just because the mug he was holding says "Best Dad Ever," which normally wouldn't be convincing when held by an eight-year-old.  But that morning he really did look like he could be someone's dad.  And he really did look like he'd "Dad" the heck out of that kid.



For breakfast, we had our traditional Christmas fare: Bagels and lox.  The kids mostly just ate bagels with cream cheese... all except Atticus, who ate like a regular boss dad: he not only ate bagels and lox with all the fixin's, but he sandwiched it all up and ate four of these bad boys.





After breakfast, it was gifty-gift time.  We started with stockings.  Along with dried fruit, chocolate, Christmas tree ornaments, Monsters Inc Band-Aids and stickers, the kids each got one personal gift in their stocking.  Laurelai got some peg doll princesses I made, Penelope got a book light, Atticus got a pocket knife for whittling, and Finneas got a flashlight. 







After opening their stockings, the kids took turns opening the gifts from under the tree.







Apparently, as Laurelai opened her gifts, she covertly started stockpiling them in her own little magpie hole to keep them away from the other kids.  Necessary survival skills in large family.



Later, while the grown-ups opened their gifts, three of the kids played with their new Lego table, which made itself right at home in the basement.  Penelope sat at the dining room table, writing letters on her new stationery, with her new multi-colored pen, aided by the glow of her new booklight.




After the busy morning, the house was trashed and the grownups were spent.  So we had hors d'oeuvres for lunch, and soup for dinner and called it a day.  A really, really good day.


what's up (weekly this time!)

This week has been a bit more productive than previous weeks have been, and it feels good.  I'm finally getting to a point where I'm starting to have consistent stretches each day where I feel pretty close to normal, as long as I can stay ahead of getting hungry.  I'm still pretty limited in regards to what I can stomach, but as long as I stick to the tried-and-true foods, I end up doing pretty well throughout the day.

Because I'm so stoked to finally have more energy, I kind of find myself going overboard and trying to make up for all the work and projects I've slacked on lately, and then I wear myself out and am completely useless for the rest of the day, because I'm still dead tired.  Oh well, even working half-days is more than I was doing, so I've gotten caught up on quite a bit, and have even plunged ahead with some bigger projects.

First, I took down the Christmas tree and put away all the decorations and ornaments.  Then, I took all the Lowe's gift cards we've been asking for as birthday/Christmas gifts over the course of the last year and I bought closet systems for the nursery and the boys' room, living room paint, and garage shelving.  So I spent a few hours assembling and installing the various shelves, and then unpacking boxes of stuff that now has a place to go!  It is a great, great feeling.

Especially because our garage was looking like this:



YIKES.  It's looking much better now, although I still have a ways to go.  Our garage holds everything from decor, to carseats, to yard toys, to strollers, to suitcases, to school supplies and curriculum, to all our coats and shoes.  It will be a while before this space is totally under control, but a friend of ours is going to come over soon and help us build some coat lockers, and I have a bunch of stuff to take to Goodwill, including a loveseat, so that will definitely clear some more space.  I'm feeling hopeful.

I also finished painting our living room/dining room/hallway area, and it looks precisely ONE MILLION TIMES BETTER.  Guys, there's starting to be some light at the end of the tunnel. 

In other news, Laurelai got to go on a Daddy Date with Todd, and they both loved every second of it.  He took her to the mall for pizza and strawberry smoothies, and to watch the carousel.



The pizza was about as big as she is.





Atticus and Rocco have really been hitting it off lately.  It's not unheard of for Atticus to get down from the dinner table, or leave his Lego Cave, for the sole purpose of finding and then snuggling Rocco.  Any time he even sees a picture of another baby or some kind of fuzzy animal, he goes, "Awww, it just makes me want to hug Rocco!"  It is insanely adorable and just seriously too much for me to handle with any kind of composure.  Which is why I'm about to post way more photos of it than are necessary for you to get the picture.




  


Annnd, lastly, just because it's too cute to not share, here's Rocco, hamming it up in a giant sweatsuit.



It's been a good, good week.  How was yours?

prepare yourself for a very short list of books.

I do it every year, so I feel compelled to maintain the tradition of posting a list of the books I read over the course of the previous year.  The problem is that this year's list is embarrassing.  Not content-wise; there are actually some really good books on it.  But it's bare-bones.

But whatever, carpe diem and all that.  So without further ado, here is the list of the only eight books I read last year.

1. Martin Luther by Martin Marty (1/13)

2. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  by J.K. Rowling (1/22)

3. L’Abri by Edith Schaeffer (2/07)

4. Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel (6/15)

5. Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

6. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

7.  The Prize-Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised Ten Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan

8.  Trim Healthy Mama by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison


Some of these were only okay (ahem, there, Marty Martin).  Some were repeat-reads from previous years (Harry Potter, and the Prize-Winner of Defiance, Ohio).  Some were purely informational (Cure Tooth Decay and THM).  Some were downright stellar (Blood, Bones and Butter, and Wild).  And some were literally life-changing (L'Abri).  I suppose I'm glad there weren't any outright stinkers mucking up the list.


I'd like to promise to do better this year.  2017 is the cure-all for the failed bookworm (and any other type of failure), after all.  But, I'm too much of a realist to make any such promise.  This coming year holds many of the same competitors for my time and attention as did last year.  But, I have high hopes!  So, here's to hoping I have a little bit longer list next year.

Any glowing recommendations for books I should read this year?

technology hiatus. kind of. a little.

In a surprising turn of events, I spent time reading a book yesterday.  It has been a long season of having absolutely no capacity for concentration, and a deep need to veg out and not think about how sick I feel, so I've watched a lot of Netflix and read a lot of Facebook.  Let me clarify: I have watched a lot of Netflix, and read probably all of Facebook.  All of it.

So, the natural consequence of all that is that my brain has been replaced by mashed potatoes.  That's all that's in there.  When I try to think about anything of substance, all I hear in my head is the schlllluppp, schlllupppp, schllllluppp that is my Thoughts, trying to walk around in mashed potatoes. Schlllluppp.

So I'm in need of some detox.  January has been declared a Limited Facebook and Netflix month.  No reading threads and scanning feeds.  No watching shows if I'm not simultaneously engaged in some kind of productive activity, unless lingering sickness demands it.  You know - an effort to live a more human kind of life.

And in the last two days, I've kind of failed.  While I haven't allowed myself to scroll Facebook at all, I have peeked at the top post in my feed a couple of times.  I watched Friends while I ate some popcorn, which can only barely be classified as a form of productive activity because I'm pregnant and warding off hunger and sickness by any means necessary is a top priority and the most pressing task at nearly any given moment.

But - I've also made a little bit of progress!  Multiple podcast episodes listened to!  Nearly all of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe read!  Those mashed potatoes are putting up a fight, but in the most potatoey kind of way, so I know they're no match for sustained concerted effort.  I have hope that things will eventually right themselves in there, and I will be back to normal, underwhelming mental capacity soon.

I DID SOMETHING!

You guys!  For the first time in nearly three months, I actually accomplished something!  It feels good.  Foreign, strange, new; but good.

I finished painting the living room/dining room/hallway area - or, to be more clear, I finished re-painting the living room/dining room/hallway area.  These had been the only walls that had already gotten a fresh coat of paint since we first moved in.  When we bought the house, every. single. surface. in this place was the same nasty color - the exact color of pallid dead-person skin.  Ceilings, walls, trim; upstairs, downstairs.  EVERYWHERE.  Plus, it was all flat paint, so spending my days staring at its lack of sheen and gluey top-layer of stuck-on dirt just really put the nail in the coffin of "I hate my life."  So I decided I had to paint.

I started with the ceiling and the trim.  That only took me about twelve years to complete.  Then, to make things easier on myself, I just chose the same wall color that we had in Cedar Falls, which I loved - Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore.  It's this really pretty light grey with greeny undertones in the right light.  But this current house doesn't have much light, so the walls just ended up looking sadsadsad.

So even though I really ended up being unhappy with the paint color I'd chosen, I lived with it for a while, because the thought of having to put that much effort into painting the same walls again made me die inside.  But eventually, I just couldn't take it anymore, so I went on the hunt for a better color for this specific house's needs.  Enter: Analytical Gray by Sherwin Williams.  It's a deeper brown-gray with yellow undertones.  Totally not a color I would normally pick for walls, but it works here.  It kind of makes the house seem less 'dark cave'-y and more 'cozy cigar club'-y.  Which is a cool vibe if that's your thing.  And I guess that's our thing now.

Once I finally bit the bullet and started to repaint, it only took me three months to complete because I've been so sick.  I hated laying on the couch for hours a day, just staring at my half-finished walls.  But now that it's done, I can't tell you how happy I am that I went to all the trouble of repainting.  It looks so much better.

The problem is that, with my energy beginning to return, and the euphoric high I'm still kind of riding after seeing painting efforts pay off, I'm kind of on overdrive.  I have my sights set on the bathroom and our bedroom next... (which also need the ceilings and trim done in addition to the walls, so I may run out of steam sooner rather than later on those projects.)  Also, the basement.  And the kitchen.  And the nursery.  And the inside garage door.  Also, organizing the entire garage.  Also, yardwork.  Also, building bookshelves.  Also...

You see how quickly I spiral.  I'm in full-on "If you give a mouse a cookie" mode.  Please pray for us, and for our poor house.  It has no idea what's about to hit it.