Monday, June 29, 2015

my love/hate relationship with Cry It Out

Oh good! Another post about baby sleep.

Sorry folks, it's endlessly exasperating/fascinating to me so I'm just going to keep posting about it.

My mom once told me that as soon as she began to notice any sort of pattern or routine with any of her babies' sleep, it would change. We have found that to be true with Johnny.

We had just fallen into good bedtime routine, Johnny was weened, the floor bed was working like a dream, Alex was getting him to sleep in about 15 minutes- short for us. And he was sleeping well. We started to notice a change when the days started getting longer. It was taking longer and longer to get Johnny to bed. 20 minutes turned into 30 minutes, and then it was taking us almost an hour to get him to sleep. We'd take 20 minute shifts lying down with him, which always turned into a wrestling match of trying to get him to stay in his bed.

One night after and hour and a half of this tag-teaming, Alex said in exasperation, "I won't be able to spend this much time putting him to bed once school starts." I knew he was right. That meant we'd have to figure out a way to get Johnny to go to sleep faster, or I'd be doing it all on my own.

The next night when it became apparent we were in for another bedtime marathon, I knew something different was needed.  So I tucked Johnny in his covers, gave him his water glass, kissed his forehead and left the room, closing the door behind me. He started crying immediately, but I told myself to give it 3 minutes.  I stared at my phone in agony the whole time. When I went back in after the 3 minutes were up I was surprised to see that Johnny had stayed in bed exactly where I had put him. I laid down with him to soothe his crying, and when he started climbing on me and jumping up and down I tucked him in and left again.

3 more minutes of crying, I needed Alex to wait with me by his door this time because I couldn't stand it by myself. After 3 minutes Alex went in to soothe him, and then left again. This time we decided to wait five minutes, and before the 5 minutes were up he had fallen asleep.

I felt conflicted the remainder of the evening, I was relieved that we had gotten him to sleep in less than 30 minutes, but I also felt guilty for letting him cry, and like a failure of an attached-parent for having to resort to this heartless method of sleep training.

The next night, after a few minutes of snuggle-wrestling we reluctantly decided to try crying it out again.  And he fell asleep after only a few minutes. After being accustomed to hour and half battles over bedtime this felt way too easy. More feelings of guilt. Shouldn't I be working harder and earning some glorious parenting battle scars? This isn't how we parent!

After my 50 hour labor and almost c-section delivery of Johnny, where nothing had gone according to my "birth plan" I learned that the best birth plan is a to have no birth plan.

Now I'm learning the same thing about parenting. There is no best and perfect parenting method. Flexibility is more important than ideology. And the way you parent often changes with a child's development.

I never let Johnny cry it out as an infant. I personally wouldn't let an infant cry it out. An infant's needs are immediate, and they don't understand why you're gone.  I'm glad I chose to do it that way and I plan to do it that way with baby #2. But a two year old is so different than a 6 month old who has no idea why you're gone and feels like you will never come back. Johnny knows when it's bedtime, and he tries to put it off. Instead of my presence being helpful and soothing, it was distracting him and keeping him awake.

Some nights Johnny falls asleep right away with one of us lying down with him.  I love when that happens and wish it was like that every night. But most nights he fidgets and talks and won't close his eyes, and so after a few minutes of snugging, I leave. I still don't like doing it, even though he hardly cries at all. But I love that he goes to sleep within 5 minutes. Some nights I tuck Johnny in his bed, he asks for his water cup, then pushes me away and says "bye bye". Then I'm a puddle of emotions as my heartstrings go SNAP! My baby doesn't need me to fall asleep any more! It's a little sad, but mostly it's a good thing.


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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dream Come True?

We are having my cousin, his wife, and their kids stay with us this weekend. My cousin-in-law, Bethany, writes so many beautiful and reflective words over at Child of the Church. I was getting all caught up on her blog before they arrive (because I am a terrible blog reader), and I came across this post. And I said, yes, yes, yes. This is what I have been feeling.

When I think back to my college-aged self I can chuckle a little at some of my dreams, to be a performer, classical, or play in a rock band. If that didn't pan out maybe be married to a rock star and be the woman behind the man. Or maybe move to India and be a missionary.

But honestly, I never put much stock in those dreams.  I never even really put much stock in a career. (Can you say, piano performance major?) Because I think I've always known that my dream was to marry a great guy (check), have kids (check), and raise my own little family on my own little piece of land. (check, check).

I'm one of those really lucky people who get live their dream!

But if this is my dream come true, why does it feel so hard? And why am I crabby most days?

I love my husband. I love my baby. I love where we live and the house we live in. I love that we have another baby on the way. My husband did start grad school, and that's been kind of hard. But I love that he's doing something he's excited about and that has great job prospects! We're enjoying good health. It's summer time! Things are good!

But things are still hard. Johnny is still a toddler who sticks his hands in the toilet when I'm trying to put my make-up on. I still don't get to see my husband that much because he has to study all the time. I'm still only one (pregnant) person who can't get done all the knitting projects, house work, yard work, and other things that I would like to get done each day.

Sometimes I feel like my life is stuck on a repeat of meals, diaper changes, bath times and bedtimes. Sometimes I feel like I'd rather be doing something else. That's how I feel. But in my heart of hearts I know that I am living my dream.

It's just kind of a hard dream.

Monday, June 15, 2015

On Choosing Joy

We have to choose joy, 
and keep choosing it every day.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

We are two weeks into my husbands grad school program. And we're still adjusting.

He's adjusting to being disciplined, spending every spare minute studying, having less time with our son, and going to bed 2-3 hours after I've turned out the lights.  

I'm adjusting to a lot of solo parenting. I had long days alone when my husband worked a 40-50 hour work week. But I was used to talking to him a lot during the day. And I could look forward to the evenings spent together, enjoying a leisurely dinner, putting our son to bed, and then hanging out after he was asleep.

We've converted part of our walk-in closet into a study space for Alex and when he's home he's mostly up there memorizing every bone, muscle, nerve and artery in the human body.  And I try to keep Johnny out of the way, and resist the temptation to call on him for diaper changes. I try to stave off monotony with play dates, errands, and chores around the house. Johnny loves doing chores. We all have dinner together where we talk about what we've been up to that day. Then Alex hits the books again and I do bath time and bedtime alone. And when Johnny's asleep I hang out by myself.

I will be perfectly honest and say that it's been hard and lonely. And I get a little worried about two and a half years of this. But I have no doubt that this is what Alex is supposed to be doing, and that supporting him is what I'm supposed to be doing.

I never thought for a moment when I said yes to marriage and yes to life that it would be easy. And today is not easy. But we are choosing joy. We have to. 

There is joy in going to bed with tired, aching feet, because it means I've had a day full of activity. 

There is joy in playing with the same toys over and over and over again, and watching my child laugh and develop through it. 

There is joy in the time spent in the kitchen over the stove, because it means I am meeting the physical needs of my family. 

There is joy in letting the to-do lists fall by the wayside, because nothing could be more important than spending my husband's study break watching him sprawled out on the floor with my son in a family wrestling match.

And there is joy in knowing we are where God has placed us, and we are seeking His will.

Everyday is hard. Every day is full. I will make sure that every day is full of joy.


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Friday, June 5, 2015

Where's My Village?

Have you seen Call the Midwife yet? I've watched all three season more times than I care to admit here. I love the birth stories, I love the self-sacrificial work of the midwives, and I really love seeing the close knit community of the East End of London.

Sometimes I even feel a little jealous of the women whose stories are told in this BBC mini series. Not jealous of the poverty, crowded living conditions, and shared toilets. But jealous of the community. To step outside and always have another woman to talk to during the day, to always have a extra set of eyes to watch out for your family, to always have other kids for your kids to play with - that's what I get a jealous of.

Motherhood in the 21st century can get a little lonely. As far as I know there are no other stay-at-home moms on my block; I don't think there are even kids younger than high-school-aged.  I often go from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm without interacting with another adult, unless we've gone to Target, but then it's just the check out person who I'm sure doesn't feel like discussing the intricate nuances of baby sleep with me. 

The old adage says that it takes a village to raise a baby and sometimes I wonder, where's my village? 

My village doesn't look the same as it would have in the 1950's. And how could it? Culture has changed so much. 

Sometimes my village looks like this:

Ah, the group texts, it's like your friends are right there with you. A nice way to vent about the nap that never was, a nice way to have a little laugh during the day, a nice way to know you're not the only one doing this right now. 

Or sometimes my village looks like this:

A big part of why I blog is the online community. Reading what other women are going through and thinking about lets me share in their lives and make friends. And hearing feedback on what I write, either in the comments or on Facebook, means a lot to me.  It says I'm not doing this alone.

Sometimes my village looks like my sister coming over to do laundry and then playing with Johnny so that I can put my makeup on in peace.

Sometimes my village looks like my husband taking Johnny for a walk so that I can have alone time to read, or write this blog post! 

Sometimes my village looks like me bringing a meal to girlfriend who just had a baby. Because my village isn't just about people helping me. I'm a part of someone else's village and they need my help just like I need theirs. 

And sometimes my village looks exactly the way I want it to look, four or five girlfriends and their kids and babies all crammed in my house, with noise and mess and chaos. And community. 

This is the hardest kind of village-building to do. Everyone one is so busy, everyone's schedules are so different, sometimes it feels like it's not worth it pack up and put on shoes and buckle car seats and maybe I should just stay home. 

But I say it is worth it. I say that nothing replaces face to face conversations. I say that nothing ministers to a bruised soul like the presence of a true friend. 

And I say all these things because I am at the end of a very long week. I'm over-tired, a little stressed, and a little crabby.  But I got to spend some time with some girlfriends this morning and it made my soul ten times lighter. It was loud and crazy and chaotic, but it was laughing together, sharing stories, sharing motherhood. And that kind of community, that kind of village, makes motherhood feel more doable and more enjoyable. 

So go find your village, wherever it is, whatever it may look like, even if it's takes effort. Because doing motherhood all alone is not how it's meant to be done. We were made for community. We were made first for God, and second for each other. 


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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Cooking From the Garden: Rhubarb Pie

I got my rhubarb from my parents, who got it from my grandparents, who got it from my granddad's family farm out in Howard Lake, MN. So yeah, there's a history of rhubarb in my family. My grandma says rhubarb tastes best earlier in the season so I'm trying to use mine now.

I love rhubarb pie, not only because of it's prominent place on A Prarie Home Companion, but because I truly enjoy the taste of rhubarb. Strawberry rhubarb pie tends to get all the glory, but I say leave out the strawberries and embrace the tartness, balanced of course with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.

This rhubarb pie is adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe. And I think it turned out pretty great.

You will need a pastry shell.  You can make one or buy a pre-made one, I won't think any less of you.  I used to be a real dunce at making pie crusts, but then I tried the recipe for pastry dough in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I have not been let down once.

If you're making your pie crust from scratch, mix it all together and then let it chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. In the mean time you can go out back and chop your rhubarb, or head to your nearest farmer's market and pick some up.

I distinctly remember rhubarb being very fun to play with as a kid. I think it's a universal thing.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Discard the leaves of your rhubarb (if they haven't been already), wash the stalks and cut crosswise into small pieces.

Toss the chopped rhubarb with some sugar, vanilla, cardamom, cornstarch, and salt.

Make sure it's evenly coated

Now roll out your pastry dough which has been chilling in the fridge and line your pie plate with it. Then just pour the rhubarb in. Martha uses a crumble topping for her pie which I'm sure is yummy, but I prefer pie crust on top. I had just enough pie dough to do a little lattice. Note to self: in the future, double the pie dough. 

Then, if you want to be fancy, crack an egg into a small dish, add a little splash of water and beat it up for an egg wash. 

Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for an hour and 15 minutes.Check halfway through. If the crust is getting too brown cover it with some tinfoil. 

You're going to want to let this cool completely before serving it. Martha even says it tastes best the next day and she is right.  So, if you have the patience it pays off. 

Top with some freshly whipped cream and you are on your way to summer perfection. 

Home Made Rhubarb Pie

You will need:

2 pastry shells
6 cups of rhubarb, washed and chopped into small pieces.
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine rhubarb with all the other ingredients and toss to coat evenly.  Pour into pie plate lined with prepared pastry shell, and cover with second pastry shell. Slit some holes in the top shell if not doing a lattice top.  Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling. Cover with tinfoil halfway through if the the crust is getting too brown. Let cool completely before serving.  


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Monday, June 1, 2015

let me get you all caught up.

Back to life, back to reality.....

Anyone remember that song? After two weeks of staycation and having Alex home ALL DAY these are the words now running through my head.

We sent Alex off to PA school this morning. It was a little sad to see him go when we had gotten used to him being around during the day, but I am excited for him, too. Alex is one of those people who really loves learning and truly finds things other people may find boring, interesting.  I know he is going to enjoy school, even though it will be hard. And I know when he's done he'll have a career that he enjoys and finds rewarding.

But we had great little staycation.  We got a ton of little house projects done that we normally don't have time to do, including hanging a bunch of shelves, cleaning out the garage, and totally reorganizing our closet. We got to go on a date to our favorite little Vietnamese place. And we started watching Revolution on Netflix. It's from the same creators of Lost (such a love/hate relationship) and it feels very Lost-y. But it's exciting and not too scary for me.  Now that Alex has to study in the evenings I guess I'll have to watch it on my own. 

Johnny turned two! We had a nice "little"gathering of family to celebrate, (our immediate families alone total over 20). Johnny had a juice pouch for the first time and thought it was the bees knees. And I'm realizing that I always stand like this because whenever I do Johnny copies me. I don't usually lean on the wall like that, but I do cross my ankles.


Johnny got a kiddy kitchen. He loves it.  It's happily installed in our kitchen and I'm hoping, hoping, hoping it makes getting things done in the kitchen easier. 

Johnny doesn't like cake (weirdo) so I made him an ice cream cake inspired by something I saw on Pinterest. 

Here's the orignal.

found at
And mine was not worthy of a photo of it's own, but you can see a little of it in the photo below. Let's just say it rivaled the failed Pinterest attempts you see on buzzfeeds and things of that nature. At least it tasted real good.

Oh, and Johnny can't really blow out candles.

This is what was happening. But he tried so hard.

Last weekend we took a trip to WI with my family for my cousins wedding. In an attempt to be frugal we got two rooms; one for the the boys, my dad, two brothers, Alex and Johnny, and one for the girls, my mom, sister, future sister-in-law, and myself. This meant that I didn't have to worry about Johnny during the night at. all. And my future sister-in-law got to fulfill her dreams of rooming with her fiance's female relatives. Sorry Faith! Actually, she was pretty cool with it. 

Vacationing with family when you have babies/toddlers is the way to go.  There was always someone to watch Johnny or play with him or keep him from flushing the toilet over and over. My dad even took charge of putting Johnny to bed. Major plus. I'd definitely do it again.

It's been a couple years since Alex and I have been to a wedding. And they're not as fun with a toddler as I remember them being without one. Oh well. My dad was there again to do some chasing. And my husband looks slammin in a bow tie. So all in all it was a positive experience. 


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