Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Call to Endurance

Here I sit typing, 40 weeks pregnant.

40 weeks! When S came at only 27, I wondered if I'd ever be able to carry a baby to term. Then W came 5 days early and I just kind of figured that all my babies would proceed their due dates.

With number 3 I did not expect to be pregnant so long. Ever since the doctors gave me a due date of early October, I've been saying this baby would be arriving at the end of September.

And yes, it is absolutely a blessing. I am so very thankful for this third child. It is still delightful to feel her wiggle around inside of me. I am trying to treasure it, because you just never know if its going to be your last opportunity to experience the miracle of life inside you.

But can I tell you that 5 days longer, right at the end, apparently makes a big difference?? I sure feel a lot more pregnant! So this is what its like to run out of room, to feel your insides squashed to maximum capacity.

Niall had a two week break off of school, in which we were hoping I would have the baby... but it has come and gone. For the last ten days I have had some intense hip and pelvic discomfort.

Nearly every night for the last three weeks we've been getting our house in serious order, "just in case" it's the big night. Vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, finishing just one more load of laundry, one more project...

The other night I commented to Niall. "I think that is part of why this feels so hard! I thought we were sprinting to the finish line with all of our preparations... but it is turning into more of a marathon."

He smirked, and commented on how the Lord knows it is good for us and we could really use the help to be more disciplined in life. We struggle to be faithful in the little things {at least I do, for sure}- keeping on top of the housework, planning ahead, sowing seeds with our kids daily of family worship, education, and routine.

Apparently being 40 weeks pregnant is my call to endurance. An opportunity to continue in faithfulness, to remain prepared, even when I am weary and just ready to be done.

Isn't this what we are called to as Christians? A constant looking to Jesus, preparing for His return. I confess I am blind to the inevitability of either His coming or my own departure... whichever may come first, it could be right around the corner.

Yet my eyes are fixed on the temporary, the here and now. And I struggle to be faithful to the Lord for the long haul. To get up each day and seek Him first. To remember the good news that I am more sinful than I could have ever imagined, but more loved than I could have ever dared to hope. To choose love and joy and grace, to pursue righteousness with a fixed and steady brow. It is hard work my friends.

Forty weeks is just another gracious reminder from the Lord- "do not grow weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you do not lose heart." Galatians 6:9.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Nesting: Post-Partum Prep

I've got to tell you that while I seriously adore the newborn baby days... the only thing that freaks me out *almost* as much as giving birth is the postpartum, hot-mess phase. 

Don't get me started on the bodily leaking from everywhere, engorgement pain, nipple pain, no sleep, the joys of going to the bathroom... *shudder.*

I'm just hoping things go smoother this time around for me. Last time was pretty rough. Not to discourage you if you're a first time mom... but hey, it could be nice to know that these things are a possibility {so you aren't too surprised when you feel like you've been hit by a truck} I guess. 

On a positive note, I am looking forward to life just shutting down for a few weeks, and cozying up at home with my three little loves. People don't expect much from you after you've given birth. There is no place really worth going. And since it is autumn it will be the perfect time of year to just tuck away quiet for a bit- read lots of books, spend whole days on the couch, and enjoy simple togetherness. 

Here are a few practical preparations I'm making to smooth the transition for myself as much as possible.

Collect good reading material. This is one of my favorite things about nursing- so much time to read all the good books I've been longing for! I've got a stack of breezier novels for the middle of the night sessions, as well as slightly deeper selections {but let's be real- not expecting too much from my sleep deprived brain} for normal awake hours. I'll keep the entire stack ready at my nursing station so that I can pick up whichever suits my fancy at any given time. Speaking of my nursing station...

Set up a nursing throne. I saw this article on the perils of back problems for nursing moms ages ago, and tucked it away for the day when I would need the information again. I need to pick up new, comfier cushions for my rocker, and grab a few pillows to suit it up properly. But I am making it happen ladies- the last thing you need when you are sleep-deprived, hormonal, and leaking from everywhere is back pain. 

Stock up on snacks. Is it just me, or does nursing make you even hungrier than pregnancy? Eating one handed, especially when you don't have lots of time or energy for kitchen prep, can be tricky. Some of my favorites are apple slices with peanut butter, raw almonds, salted cashews, muffins, and cookies. I'm collecting ahead on weekly grocery trips, and making and freezing baked goods for when I will need them. 

Adjust wardrobe. After W I couldn't for the life of me get dressed in a way that made me feel attractive. Feeling roly-poly and unattractive only compacted my postpartum misery. This time I've made sure my closet includes lots of loose and flowy, elegant tops that make me feel put together and pretty. I've been able to wear normal pants with a belly band through this pregnancy, so I plan on continuing to use the belly band postpartum so that I have nice jeans I can squeeze into. 

I've also packed pretty earrings and bracelets, make-up, and nice perfume to make me feel lovely while still in the hospital. These little efforts can have a big impact on a woman's general sense of well-being!

What postpartum lifesavers am I missing? 

Helpful Links:
20 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Post-Partum {a little vulgar language here... but in saying things like they are, I think this article could be very helpful for first time moms}

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nesting: Preparing the Siblings

When W was born, I was fairly concerned with how his big sister S, just two at the time, would adjust. 

Thankfully, she did wonderfully. She has always loved her brother, and while she was significantly more cranky for a few weeks after W was born, her negativity was never directly aimed at her brother. I think we have to give kids lots of grace and expect some behavioral issues when navigating new and uncharted waters. 

To ensure that she didn't feel neglected, I made a point of including S in as much of her baby brother's care as possible- fetching and throwing away diapers, bringing me toys or changes of clothes, holding him whenever she was interested. I also read books aloud to her during most of my day time nursing sessions {boy there were a lot of those}. Books are her love language, so I'm sure this really helped her to not feel left out.

This time S is four and uber excited about having a sister. W talks about the new baby, but I'm sure he doesn't really have a clue what's about to rock his world. He is a serious mama's boy, and needs lots of snuggles. I'm going to be conscientious about giving him the attention he needs once our new babushka arrives. 

To get both kids ready, we have been reading lots of books about new babies. You can find a list of our favorites here

I've also prepped special "sibling boxes"- shoe box sized tubs with games, crafts, and toys from the dollar store to keep them occupied especially and only when mom is busy with the new baby. Some good items to include if you make your own would be puzzles, stickers, mini chalk boards, new board books, coloring books, paper dolls... anything that can keep a toddler busy indefinitely.

My mother also snagged a great deal on a cabbage patch doll, so S can take her own baby home from the hospital. And I'm still trying to think of a good big brother gift for W... so if you have any brilliant ideas for a two year old boy, I'm all ears! 

How have you helped older kids welcome new brothers and sisters? I would love to hear what's worked at your house!  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nesting: Freezer Cooking

There is so much unknown when welcoming a new little one into your family. When will the little bundle make their entrance? How smooth will delivery, and thus recovery, be? What will the adjustment be like for the entire family? How long will it take for everyone to settle into a new normal?

All of these unknowns make freezer cooking a huge priority on my nesting agenda. While I do know that friends and church family will bless us with meals for the first week or two after I get home from the hospital, I don't know how long it will be before I will have the time and energy to start serious meal preparation again. 

Even if I am feeling stellar and managing three littles with great finesse {ha!}, it is always nice on a busy day to be able to pull a homemade dinner out of the freezer and not have to think, plan, or prepare any further. 

Starting at around 35 weeks I plan on cooking double for dinner, 2-3 nights a week. This is my biggest secret for getting more meals done without adding too much to my plate. Who has time for an entire freezer cooking day? Since I'm already making a meal anyway, I just double it and throw half into the freezer. When meal planning I make sure to pick freezer friendly dishes- lasagna, shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, and lots of soups and chilis.  

I do the same with baking. Often Saturday is the day that I bake bread, a batch of bagels, muffins, etc. So I double up yet again and add ziploc bags of baked goodies to my freezer for quick and easy breakfasts. 

I'm typing this post two days shy of 39 weeks, and I've managed to stockpile about two weeks worth of dinners, with a few breakfast goodies as well. As long as this baby keeps I'll continue cooking double!

A few helpful hints:
  • Use a straw to stuck all of the air out of your freezer bags before sealing completely.
  • Lay soups, chilis and casseroles as flat as possible {I smooth them out carefully and stick them on a cookie sheet for the first few hours of freezing} to take up less space. After they freeze in a flat block I stack them sideways next to each other, or in stacks. It is amazing how many meals you can fit it into the small freezer above your refrigerator this way! 
  • Foil pans are a must for freezer cooking. Not only will your freezer meal save you time cooking, it also means no dishes later. These also stack neatly and take up less space. I use mine for casseroles, pies, and the like.

Here are some freezer-friendly online recipes that our family approves:

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala. This recipe tastes exactly like what I would order at our local Indian restaurant. While it is time consuming to prepare, one batch usually makes plenty for my family to eat now and freeze for later. We get one dinner and a few lunches out of it, then I toss the rest in a freezer ziploc to pull out later. It is my husband's favorite.

Crock Pot Stuffed Pepper Soup. Mixing it up a little from your average chili. You could either freeze before or after cooking in the slow cooker, whatever suits. 

Individual Frozen Pizzas. I love that these take up less room in my freezer! They are handy to pull out for a lazy dinner or a fancier lunch. Just use your favorite dough recipe and follow the freezing instructions. 

Sausage and White Bean Slow Cooker Soup. This soup is incredibly delicious. I can't wait to pull mine out of the freezer on a chilly autumn day!

Sausage and Cheese Biscuits. Take breakfast up a notch with this super flavorful, perfect for husband-and-kids-on-the-go handheld savory. My husband is kind of in heaven when I send him to work with a few of these in the morning. 

Helpful Links:
My Postpartum Freezer Cooking Plan - This post from Jami was my main motivation for freezer cooking this pregnancy! She has a huge list of recipes and ideas. It's a must read!

My Feeding the Family board on Pinterest is the place I collect all of the delicious dinner ideas I need for meal planning inspiration. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nesting: Get Organized

The thing about kids is that kids seem to bring hither-to-fore unknown amounts of STUFF along with them. Clothing, toys, furniture, books, accessories, shoes... the rapid pace of their development and changes in sizes, phases, and interests means you have a constantly fluctuating, constantly growing collection. When you plan on having more children, frugality and common sense dictate hanging onto all of the outgrown things too. Yikes. 

On top of all of our kid's stuff, most of us also have a personal stuff problem. And probably a husband with his own stuff problems. 

I've always felt like if I can't fix a problem now, it is only going to get more impossible to tackle the longer I put it off. This is especially true when adding another person to your family. More kids= less time + more stuff. 

Keeping a neat and tidy home space is much easier the less stuff you have. With less clutter, I have less to pick up before cleaning, and less to move during cleaning. 

When I was a first time mom, I pretty much kept everything anyone gave me. We are talking about garbage bags galore of clothing, huge bins of toys, and every silly little baby "must-have" invention. If it was free, it might come in handy someday. 

As my family grows I'm becoming pickier and pickier, and much more of a minimalist. 

Instead of having all three of her wide dresser drawers packed with clothing and accessories like she did as a baby, my daughter now has one drawer. Drawer 2 is for the new baby, and drawer 3 houses games and puzzles. My son has two narrower dresser drawers. I hang almost all of my kids' clothing in the single large closet in my daughter's bedroom, their drawers are for undergarments, socks, pajamas and pants. 

My best advice for paring down clothes is to ask yourself how many outfits your child actually needs. If you do laundry regularly, they most likely don't need more than 10. Maybe 20 if they tend to be extra messy, have re-flux issues, or are potty training. :) Pare down ruthlessly and keep only what you LOVE. If you love dressing your child in an outfit, they will get a lot of wear out of it. If it is stained, torn, or just not your favorite... it is just taking up space. 

As for toys, I went into greater detail on how we cut back and organized in this post

During this pregnancy I did a 30 Day minimalist challenge. It made a huge dent in our stuff problem! I'm also currently reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (who isn't or hasn't... am I right?) and finding lots of good inspiration in it. 

With my due date looming, my days to declutter and organize are seriously numbered. But I would love to get a few more large garbage bags and boxes dropped at Goodwill before welcoming this new little lady! 

Recommended Reading:
Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

Helpful links:

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