Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thankful for Third Baby Bliss

Three is (supposedly) the most stressful number of children a family can have. Add more, and you stop feeling the need to control everything {mostly because you realize you can't}. Less than three, at least the kids don't outnumber the parents.

Before E was born I was kind of scared. Articles like this one made me giggle, but in a nervous, slightly panicked sort of way.

But there is another principle that can work in a mother's favor, known as the third child phenomenon. At least that's what I call it. Many, many mothers will vouch for their third baby being the easiest, most laid back, and/or happiest of all their babies.

Praise the Lord, I feel like I hit the baby jack pot with little E.

For several weeks now she has been sleeping through the night {a feat that took big brother at least 6 months... and then the nights began being interrupted again by teething}.

If you're getting decent sleep, you can basically handle anything, moms... am I right, or am I right?

During the day you would hardly even know she was here- she snoozes through all of the crazy sibling action, or observes it contentedly.

Contrary to my preconceived notions, taking all three out in public isn't so bad either. I put the baby in my wrap and have a hand free for each of the two big kids. Mostly it is just my two year old that keeps me on my toes, since he is very rambunctious and still learning socially acceptable behavior. My four year old is fairly contained and reasonable {though we still have our moments}, and E just sleeps.

For real. It is basically no different from taking just the two big kids out before baby was born.

Even if we hadn't been given such an easy baby, in my experience, transitioning to three has still been easier. When W was born, S still needed a lot from me. She was used to having my constant companionship and attention.

But now S and W have each other. W is the same age as S was when he was born, but S is able to help him with things that I would have had to do for S. She also keeps him marvelously entertained.

When I went from one kid to two there were so many stressful moments that both kids were crying and needed something from me. That has only happened once or twice since number three's birth! Which makes me a more relaxed mom, and the occupied kids happier since they are meeting each others' needs.

Of course not every third baby is going to be easy. Every baby, and every family dynamic, is different. I am just immensely grateful that mine has been. After two highly energetic and strong willed little ones, it is nice to have a baby with a more easy going disposition.

I also know that all of this could go up in smoke at any moment. Every phase presents new challenges. So for right now I am just trying to enjoy and cherish the moment while it lasts.

And lest you think everything is all peachy and roses around here... my older two kids frequently wake me up at night {cold because they lost their blanket. nightmare. sick. etc.}, sometimes I feel like all I am is a referee for sibling squabbles and tantrums, and I get tired and discouraged just like every other mom out there :). Full disclosure folks.

Other moms- which number of kids was the toughest transition for you so far?

There are affiliate links in this post. That simply means that if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Thank you for your support!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thankful for Fellow Moms {With Empathy and More Energy than Me!}

A few weeks ago after church I was attempting to guide my motley crew out the door. This can be a bit of a challenge, because gathering all of our "luggage" {diaper bag. bibles and notebooks. Sunday School papers. infant car seat.}, herding three small children, and dodging all of the friends that we could get stuck talking to for awhile is no small task. Usually this is the hour of day that everyone is starving and exhausted, so it is imperative that we do indeed get a move on.

Tired and hungry, and a little bit cranky myself, I called to a child-who-shall-remain-nameless and asked them to put down the game they were holding {our church library is stocked with such goodies for kids to enjoy after services} and come to me. Right now.

Instead of obeying, said child booked it in the opposite direction, making it only a few feet before tripping and sprawling the contents of the board game all. over. the. floor.

Now not only did I have a disobedient child to respond to, I also had a fussy baby who didn't want to be in her car seat, and a big mess that the responsible party was probably not going to want to help clean up. Of course that child would have to clean it up, but the battle that this would entail seemed way out of my league.

I sighed, gritted my teeth, and commanded that they pick it up NOW. Which of course brought on a mini temper tantrum. I tell you what, when it rains it pours.

At this moment another mom {whose children are all out of the tricky toddler years} swooped in. She must have recognized the look of exhaustion and desolation on my face- and boy was she a Godsend. She dropped down to eye-level with my child, made up a fun cleaning game on the spot, and helped them pick up all the pieces in record time.

Maybe it was the postpartum hormones, but I could have wept with relief.

There are so many negative posts out there about people who dare to "help" parents whose children are misbehaving, and for sure we have all been on the receiving end of help or words that really didn't help.

But can I take a moment to be thankful for the people who get it and come to the rescue of frazzled parents? Because parenting is tough, and exhausting, and requires tons of both mental and physical effort at all times- especially out in public. I don't know about you, but I am not always on top of my game. Children can really keep you on your toes! Sometimes an outsider with more energy can really make a difference for good.

So thank you to the empathetic mom who had more energy than I did. Thank you for showing love to my child when all I had was impatience and frustration. And thank you for diffusing a tense situation when I was worn out from the struggle. You were a real blessing.

You've also inspired me to be on the lookout for opportunities to bless other weary moms.

We need more women in this world who are kind, compassionate, and willing to step up and help instead of looking down noses and leveling criticism or a glare. Tired moms need wise women to come alongside and to show them grace.

At least I need that. How about you?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Most Crucial Part of Your Day

If you had to guess which chunk of your day was the most important, in which your productivity held the most weight, would you guess the morning?

Because until not very long ago, that would have been my answer. I tend to have more energy as the day begins. There is something invigorating about a fresh, new day- a blank slate, new opportunities, endless possibilities.

In actuality, the most critical part of your day is the very end of it. I'll tell you why.

What I do tonight has a direct impact on my tomorrow.

If I decide I don't feel like doing the dishes and tidying up, I will wake up to a messy house and feel defeated from the moment I get out of bed.

If I stay up way too late watching Netflix and surfing Pinterest, I will be groggy in the morning and probably fail to get up as early as I ought to. I will start the day running behind and feeling grumpy.

If I don't take the time to look at the calendar and sketch out my basic to dos, I might miss an appointment or amble along in the morning because I haven't determined the day's set priorities and schedule.

If the diaper bag isn't packed, breakfast is unplanned, and I haven't laid out clothes for myself and the kids, chances are we are going to be running late to that early doctor's appointment. And chances are I will feel stressed out, yell at my kids, and pull everyone down with me into a bad attitude spiral.

And so on.

But on the positive side of things...

If I push myself to just quickly clean the kitchen and pick up toys, tomorrow I will be encouraged and energized right from the get go. I won't have to spend the first hour or two playing catch up on yesterday's mess, so I can get busy with my to do list right away.

If I go to bed at a conscientious hour, I will get enough rest {provided the kids cooperate, ha ha} to get out of bed when my alarm goes off, giving me more time in my day, and allowing me to enjoy some peace and quiet before the rest of the house wakes.

If I have carefully planned my most important tasks and when I will do them, I can get right to work without thinking about it. This means I will waste less time and accomplish more.

If I have to pack the kids up first thing in the morning, but I've set everything out the night before, set my alarm, and planned exactly what we are eating and wearing, the morning might still feel rushed, but it will be less stressful and we should be on track to get out the door on time.

You see what I mean?

What makes it hard is that we are tired at the end of the day. Our natural inclination is to take the path of least resistance. Our will power reserves are all used up and t.v. and junk food sound more inviting than washing dishes and planning ahead.

But when I push myself to make just a little more effort, not only do I get these big difference makers done, I also usually have time for a bit of relaxation and fun. It is unspeakably worth it.

I didn't realize that my night was the most important part of my day until going through Crystal Paine's Makeover Your Mornings {catch the irony here?} course. Once I "made over" my nights, my mornings drastically improved.

If you are looking for help in managing your day-to-day and boosting productivity, I highly recommend Crystal's program. With 14 video clips and a corresponding workbook, Crystal walks you through how to make the most of your mornings, starting the night before.

While you might think the scope of the course is limited {what's the big deal with mornings?}, making over your mornings can have a life altering impact. You will be challenged to think through your priorities, to develop goals reflecting them, and to order your life in a way that enables you to accomplish said goals. It is powerful stuff folks.

I actually bought the course with my own money and went through it before deciding to become an affiliate. So FYI, the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I do make a commission at no extra charge to you when you purchase through them. But you can know with confidence that I am recommending this as a product I've personally invested in and benefited from.

I went through the course in the third trimester of this last pregnancy, and now that we are trying to get back into the swing of things, adjusting to our new after-baby normal, I'm probably going to go through the videos and workbook again. Crystal is very inspiring to me, and I find courses and challenges to be very helpful in motivating me to get and stay on track.

Do you agree or disagree that evening is the most crucial time of your day? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Raise Good Eaters

American kids in this day and age are some of the pickiest eaters in the history of our planet. Known for snubbing vegetables {often even fruit!} and subsisting on macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, fruit snacks, and french fries {shudder}, their diet is mainly composed of highly processed grains and sugar.

No surprise, American kids aren't the healthiest when compared to their peers in other first world countries.

As a mom this concerns me. I want my kids to eat all the good and healthy stuff, and to learn to enjoy a broad variety of tastes and textures. Not only do I want them to be healthy, I also want them to be polite when dining in the homes of others. From my oldest daughter's baby days I've pursued this goal.

While we are far from perfect, my two older kids {ages 4 and 2} are pretty good eaters {number 3 is only 5 weeks old, so I'll let you know how it goes with that one}. I can only think of one specific food a piece that they do not like {S has a hard time with eggs, and W with tomatoes}.

We do have other food issues- they are pretty messy eaters {which we are trying to work on}, and will complain about what is on their plate- but generally speaking, with a little parental encouragement, they eat whatever is set in front of them. Seriously, whatever- from curry to broccoli to bell peppers to carrots to tilapia, etc.

I don't claim to have all the answers, and heck- in 5 years I might be singing a different tune when their relative lack of pickiness falls apart- but after reading a lot on the topic, observing other parents feeding their kids, and experimenting in my own home, I have a few good ideas to get you to your goal of raising healthy eaters.

Everyone eats the same meal, no substitutes. Following in my mother's footsteps, I decide what will be served at each meal. What I decide is what goes. I'm not a short order chef, so there will be no sandwiches or freezer chicken nuggets made for a child who isn't impressed with my menu. If I'm making something new or not a favorite, we serve each kid a small portion and request that they do their best to finish what's on their plate.

I don't really tailor my menu planning to my kids. Of course I like to serve one or two of their favorites each week {they both love tacos and spaghetti and meatballs}, but I tend to rotate meals that you might assume only grown ups like {salmon. soups of pureed vegetables. chicken tikka masala. ratatouille.}. If adults like something, kids can like it too.

Minimal {or no!} snacking. My kids usually only have one snack a day after nap time, before dinner. Of course there are exceptions- Sunday's almost always mean snacking in Sunday School and the nursery, and if we go somewhere I tend to relax our normal routine. But if they haven't eaten since breakfast, they are always hungry at lunch time. Hungry kids are way less picky than kids who've been snacking all day. And a kid who gets snacks on demand knows that there is no downside to refusing to eat his dinner.

We used to snack a lot more around here, but when I cut back I was shocked at how much more my kids ate at meals. Foods served at meal times tend to be healthier than snack foods, so that is another bonus of not snacking.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Don't assume that because a kid hates something the first time that they will absolutely never like it. Many tastes in life can be acquired, and studies have shown that it can take up to ten, even twelve tries to develop the taste for a new food.

In my own adult life I have definitely observed this phenomenon. Since meeting my husband my tastes have changed dramatically. I grew up kind of picky... but he loves a variety of foods and is a big fan of pushing himself to repeatedly try what he doesn't like. This rubbed off on me, and now I actually like coffee, bell peppers, salad dressing, and spicier cuisine.

As previously mentioned, S isn't fond of eggs and W has a hard time with tomatoes. They have each been encouraged to eat these foods on many, many occasions... but the dislike lingers. I still periodically ask them to try a bite or two in case their preferences change. Compared to the average kid, I think having only one food dislike is pretty good.

Go easy on the drinks. If we had allowed it, I think S might still be living off of milk via a bottle. The kid loved her bottle, and took a long time to develop any interest in solids. Once she actually started eating them, she still only managed bird sized portions.

Until we stopped giving her milk in between meals {water only} and only offered her milk after she had eaten a good portion of her dinner. All of a sudden our little lady was eating like a champ! I don't think every kid needs so drastic a measure, but if your child happens to drink tons, try to hold off on the liquids until after they've eaten. It just might work miracles.

For more excellent wisdom on children and food, I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything. I read it a year ago, found it completely enchanting and engaging, and learned a lot to boot.

What are your tricks for getting your kids to eat everything? Please add to my list!

The links above are affiliate links- which means that if you make a purchase through them, I receive a small profit at no extra charge to you. But you should know that I am an avid believer in reading for free through your library. Thanks for supporting The Purposeful Wife!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

He is Good, No Matter What

This post was written over three years ago and somehow got buried in a "drafts" folder. I just stumbled upon it, it resonated with me, and so here it is. S is now four years old, with a few eye problems that she might have had even if she wasn't born so prematurely. Thankful for His goodness, and want to continue to be so even when things don't go so smoothly...

When S came at 27 weeks, weighing 1 lb. 15 oz, oh how we prayed. Hundreds of Christians around the world got on their knees and brought our baby before the Lord. We prayed for her healthy growth, for weight gain, for no added complications.

He answered them. Mercifully, S got off light. At two days old she was off the ventilator and on the nasal cannula. She never contracted NEC, didn't show even the slight beginning stages of ROP, was free of bleeding on the brain. Her PDA closed on its own, and in fact she never required surgery for anything. If you're not a preemie parent, that was a lot of gobbeldy-gook that basically means she had the simplest and most straightforward outcome we could hope for.

The worst she walked away with was a Chronic Lung diagnosis and an at home oxygen tank, which she came off of at 4 months old. Doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment gave only positive feedback. The neurologist who saw her at 6 months told me how lucky we were, that for being born 13 and a half weeks early, she is perfect. And I told him the glory goes to God.

People told me they were praying. I shared how S was improving, and they exclaimed, "God is so good!" And He is. He definitely is. I am so very thankful for my daughter's health and well-being.

But it is vitally important to me that God be called good whether S ended up healthy or not. If He chose to take her life, would we still praise Him as good? If she had suffered major complications that had affected her the rest of her life, would we still call Him good?

This was my number one concern. Because God is good whether my life circumstances are or not. God is good when we are healthy, and just as good when we are sick. God is good when the sun is shining, and just as good when it is dark and stormy.

His ways are higher than ours, and when things look a mess down here, from His view it is all working together for a far greater weight of glory.

Are you praising the all-good God today? Will you praise Him as good no matter what trial He places before you?