Potty Training

In the summer of  2019 the kids were 2.5 years old. All 3 kids, Lucy especially, started asking about the potty and wanting to learn how to sit on the potty like a big kid. Lucy talked about it the whole summer, and we planned a boot camp in July with me, Derek, and my mom to be 3-on-3. We wanted to try and knock it out in a week. We did the whole no underwear or pants thing for a couple days and stayed outside and pumped them full of water and juice and smoothies. We went to the potty every 15 minutes. We sat timers and did the potty dance and gave rewards and stickers and all the things. We went full out! We then tried to put them in underwear and let them feel how gross it was to pee and poop in their underwear. Even though the universe was fighting against us that week with Lucy getting a ruptured ear drum on day 2 and Oliver falling and busting his lip open and needing stitches on day 3, we made huge progress the first couple days. The kids loved peeing in the potty and the boys had pooped once or twice in the potty. However, the driver of the whole endeavor, Lucy girl, decided on day 3 that this was not all that she had dreamt it to be in her imagination. The boys had gotten a little toy train for pooping in the potty and when asked if she wanted to pick from the prize box and poop in the potty, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Mommy, my not want to do this anymore. This is so disappointing.” And from that moment on she was done. No interest. It didn’t matter what we offered or what we tried. She didn’t care. If we had let her, she would have straight sat in her poop in her pants for an hour and not care .

Without her as the driver, the whole operation fell apart and we had to quickly pivot expectations. For the foreseeable future (the next 9 months), we accepted that the kids would be in pull-ups. They still loved to pee often in the potty, but also peed without hesitation in their pull-ups. And they refused to poop in the potty. I still count the 2019 potty training boot camp as a win though, because after that they were very comfortable peeing in the potty and knew what to do and what I was expecting of them. They just didn’t want to do it. That is still progress.

Finally around their 3rd birthday (January 2020), they started to show interest again. We started encouraging it a little more, but still didn’t have the time to do another boot camp so we rode it out for a few months gaging if they were really interested. Quarantine hit during that time and Derek and I were both teaching with our kids at home with us, so that was not the time to make a big shift. We waited a little longer than we probably could have, but that is completely fine. We had a few other things going on in the midst of a global pandemic. It was actually comforting knowing that we didn’t miss our window. It did not matter that our kids wore pull-ups until they were well into their 3rd year. No one judged us. It meant nothing about their intelligence or our abilities as parents. Side-note: we as parents need to take that pressure off of the kids and off of ourselves. 

In April 2020, Derek and I as teachers were on spring break and decided that we had a couple days to just try and see how the kids responded to being motivated a little more. We had a potty treat mason jar that still sits in our bathroom that has held skittles, marshmallows, starbursts, M&Ms…it changes but the concept was easy – each time you pee or poop, you get a treat. I know that the whole food bribery thing has mixed reviews from doctors and nutritionists, but at this point, that was what worked. Also, they didn’t need the bribery long. After a couple weeks they stopped asking for a treat each time they peed and just accepted that this is what we do. We also offered them suckers if they went the whole day dry. This also only lasted a couple weeks and it just became the norm. However, they do still occasionally ask for a potty treat when they poop in the potty. But they only remember about half the time. I only give it to them if they ask for it. If that is what it takes for me to not have to change anymore poopy diapers, I’m all for it. You can have that little 2g of sugar! We also used stamps for a while and that was fun. Each time they peed I would let them choose a stamp and they could put it on their arm or belly or somewhere silly. Another motivator was fun underwear. We let them choose the characters (paw patrol) and we would throw away the pair if they pooped in it. This actually made them really sad to throw away Rubble or Skye and helped them stay motivated to keep their favorite characters clean and dry. I made them walk it to the trashcan and say goodbye to it and tell me why we had to throw it away. They also had to clean the mess up with a paper towel on their own (then I would secretly go back and clean it up with a Clorox wipe later).

Lucy is still somewhat of an outlier because she still sometimes gets in the zone and just decides that playing is a better option then peeing and comes up to me with a straight face and says, “Mommy, I peed on the floor. Can I have the towel. I’ll clean it up.” But for the most part they understand that being a big kid means you pee and poop in the potty. This was our journey. All journeys are different. The biggest thing I learned in our potty training journey is that the kids will let me know when they are ready. They always do. Each kid is different. It is ok if it takes a while. Taking the pressure off of myself and off of them made a huge difference. Life is messy, it’s ok if potty training is too.

Thoughts on Mourning and Being Grateful

Over the last few weeks I have talked to friends that have cancelled their weddings. I have mourned with friends as they have lost a loved one without getting to fully mourn or even to celebrate the life of their loved one with others. I have talked to seniors in high school that aren’t getting the closure and ending that they imagined. I have talked to family members and friends that are missing big life events like babies being born, college or grad school graduations, family trips, the ending to a great school year, or simply just missing community. 

Right now there are so many unknowns and it’s ok to mourn that this season does not look like you imagined it would look. As I have listened and processed with others in this season, I have noticed that so often we are sitting in this tension between the excitement of really big events and at the same time feeling sad and disappointed. Regularly I catch myself feeling so angry and frustrated and yet so content and thankful in the exact same breath. The dichotomy of emotions, excited/disappointed or angry/content, it can be exhausting. Trying to balance it all and process it all at the same time is challenging, but it’s also necessary. The most difficult part is when we let ourselves feel shame as we wrestle with the tension.

While obviously very different than a global pandemic, I have been remembering and channeling many emotions that I felt during my pregnancy and giving birth. 

Since I was a little girl, I had dreams of enjoying pregnancy and that the day I gave birth would be a magical day. I imagined the announcement and the gender reveal. I imagined getting to breastfeed and all of the cuddles that the newborn stage would bring. In reality, pregnancy and the triplets’ birth was not at all how I had pictured it. I of course am so grateful that I have my 3 blessings but pregnancy was painful and TERRIFYING. I literally thought one or all of them would die everyday. And then they were born, and I laid in a room alone for 2 hours wondering if they were alive. They were rushed to the NICU, 2/3 not breathing. And then I couldn’t hold them for a couple days and they were in the hospital for 5 weeks. We couldn’t really have visitors in the hospital and there was a lot of fear and unknown. 

I had to give myself permission to mourn not having a “normal” birthing experience. I cried each night as I set in an empty nursery at home pumping milk into a machine for 5 weeks while my babies set in a hospital room without me. I mourned not having a “normal” pregnancy and that I had to go to see a doctor almost every week while pregnant. I was scared every time. I mourned that I never got to surprise Derek with a positive pregnancy test. I mourned not ever getting that sweet calm newborn stage at home with one tiny human. I mourned that I won’t ever have any more kids.

It’s ok to mourn that this season is different than most peoples’ “normal” engagement. And that probably your wedding won’t be “normal” either. It’s ok to mourn that you missed prom and graduation and countless other rights of passage. It’s ok to mourn that this trip that you had planned for years or months is not not going to happen. It’s ok to mourn that your child doesn’t get to finish out the year with the teacher that was so good for them. It is ok to mourn that your child doesn’t get a birthday party, or that you don’t get a birthday party. It’s ok to mourn that you miss your friends and church. It’s ok to mourn that you were just starting to find a healthy rhythm to life when all of this hit, and now you are back to being full of anxiety and feel alone. Let go of the guilt. Let yourself feel the feelings. The only way to get through your emotions is to get through them. (I have been listening to a lot of Brene Brown these days – if that speaks to you, go listen to her podcast. Find language and peace with your emotions.) Another thing they said on her podcast was that there is no room for comparison of grief. The worst loss is your own. We need to let go of the guilt that comes with knowing that someone else’s pain is always “worse” than our own. I’m going to say it again. Let go of the shame. Let yourself mourn.

But as you mourn, remind yourself of the truth and goodness and wonder that is around you right now too. It is both/and. There are both things to mourn AND things to celebrate. Sometimes in order to find the other side to this coin, we have to simply be still and listen. We also, just have to give ourselves permission to feel all of the feelings. Just like I would go through all that mess and pain every day 100 times over to have my 3 amazing healthy kids. It’s ok to lean into both of those truths. I mourned a “normal” pregnancy and birth story but at the same time celebrated that I get to watch 3 adorable and wild humans form a bond with each other and with me that few people will understand. I gained community and support beyond what I could dream because I could not survive on my own. I rejoice every day knowing that I get to be a mom to 3 of the sweetest and coolest kids I have ever met. I can be both thankful and completely content, but also angry and disappointed at the same time. Take time today to both allow yourself to mourn AND to be thankful. Life was meant to be lived leaning into both. 

Quarantine Day7

Yesterday I let myself be sad. The first 6 days of Quarantine,  I went so hard and wanted to be super positive and do all of the things and do them well – teach every class, be present for the kids, take care of my high school kids, have a strong positive presence on social media, be a light of joy in a hard time, be a good wife and support my incredible husband who worked with a team to get our school of 1600 students and 150 teachers online in 1 day, take care of myself, don’t have anxiety, focus on today, feed the kids, teach them how to pee in the potty, make this a fun and memorable time for them…the list goes on. Yesterday I took a break from all of it. I didn’t take a single picture. I did lots of cuddles on the couch watching Frozen 2 and several other shows. I cried. I let myself be really sad because I miss people and unknowns make me really anxious. I yelled at my husband and then made up with my husband. I texted friends to help me. I asked for advice. I went for a run but didn’t worry that I had to walk some. I cried some more. I wished that I was an introvert but then realized that this whole thing is just as hard on introverts (well introverts with small kids) because they never actually get to be alone either. Yesterday I let myself feel all the emotions.

This morning, I feel better. I feel less tired. I feel less alone. This morning I still feel a little anxious but I know that I have several friends just a text or marco polo or zoom away. I know that physical activity has to be a part of my daily routine during this season. I am thankful that I have been through panic attacks and see the warning signs and am aware that this season of isolation is a breading ground for poor mental health. Yesterday, I felt shame for feeling anxious. If you are struggling, you are not alone. You are loved. You are strong. Talk to someone. Anyone. Be vulnerable. Go outside. Stay active. And write. The emotions aren’t the problem. The problem is the shame. Life is not meant to be lived only with rose colored glasses. We are allowed, I am allowed, you are allowed to be sad and to be afraid of all of the unknowns. But we have to remember that this is not how the story ends. Anxiety doesn’t get to win. In a way there is unity in the fact that we are all in this season together. It may look different for everyone but everyone has a Both/And. Life in general is both full of things to be grateful for and things that bring pain. Embrace both. This season enhances both. It enhances the awareness of the people surrounding me and the fact that our health care system is full of servants. It enhances my appreciation for my job. It enhances my need and love for rest and long walks outside. But it also enhances my anxiety and fear in a very real way. It enhances how hard life with 3 three olds can often be. It enhances my need for people. It’s ok that it is both. We need to lean into both at the same time. See the beauty along with the brokenness. “For when I am weak, then He is strong.” 

Dropping the Pacifier

We have been through many transitions in these almost 3 years of triplet parenthood. Some easier than others. The move from our room to their nursery wasn’t too bad. The move from rock-n-plays to their cribs was a little harder. The transition out of swaddles was a scary one. Switching from formula to milk and from bottles to sippy cups all turned out better than I had imagined. Starting pre-school was fairly smooth. Learning to eat baby food and then solid food was a mess but fun.

Learning to crawl and walk with all 3 was exhausting but exciting. Helping SLO learn to talk without comparing them or making them feel behind or different was a challenge but communication with them has been so incredibly helpful and makes for really cute stories. We tried the whole potty training thing, but well we still have a ways to go. I’m sure there will be a post on that in the future, but it’s still a work in progress – a messy work in progress. I cannot even think yet about transitioning from cribs to toddler beds with all 3 in the same room (#cribsforlife). Another transition, one that I had been fearing was…the dropping of the beloved pacifier.

Now Lucy girl never took to a paci. She shunned it and clung to a little, soft, lovie that she refers to as “Pink.” Thankfully it is the color pink, so she makes up for her lack of originality with accuracy – although she does have a blue one that she calls “two” but it is much inferior to “Pink” and not at all the point of this post haha…My boys, on the other hand, loved their pacifiers. Our pediatrician warned us at their 2 year well-check that we might need to start weening them off of the paci, but I was in no rush for that to happen. Having good and quiet sleepers is how I survive life with 3 toddlers, and the thought of taking away the one thing that helped them get to sleep and stay asleep…well it was terrifying. I couldn’t imagine the havoc that cold turkey would cause to my very active and loud boys, so I took a different approach. I went for the long con. I slowly started taking away the pacifier. 

Step ONE: Pacifiers stay at the house. This one we did fairly early on. I would keep a couple in the diaper bag for emergencies but encouraged school and the church nursery to only use them for emergencies.

Step TWO: Pacifiers stay in their bed. They could use them at nap or bedtime but that is it. We stayed at this step for several months. They were always excited for bed and nap because that meant that they could have a hit of the paci. They surprisingly didn’t fight this as much as I thought. I had to be VERY consistent with it though. I did not allow any exceptions. They each had about 3 in their bed so that they could find one at all times while sleeping. Sleep again is crucial for our sanity. Mostly I just watched their cues. I noticed that once they gained more language and vocabulary I was able to teach them other coping skills for being frustrated and scared. Honestly Daniel Tiger helped some with this too. He is so good at teaching them how to cope with emotions in a healthy way. We do a lot of deep breathing. I encourage them to take breaks when they start feeling fussy or agitated and make it a fun thing. They get to sit on the guest bed with pillows and books and even a flashlight to take a break away from the others. Then they come back ready to play again.

Sidenote: All that to say, if a pacifier helps your child feel safe and secure – I am not at all trying to convince you that should change. I am all for pacifiers and all for calm and emotionally secure toddlers. We all do what we think is best for our kids at the time. It’s so hard to know! I just thought I would try to see if I could convince them to find other ways besides the pacifier to calm down, and for the most part it worked.

Step THREE: We slowly started reducing the number of pacifiers in their beds. At one point I think that both O & S each had 5. But we reduced it to 3 in each bed. Then after a couple weeks, we reduced down to 2. Then after a couple weeks we reduced to just 1. We stayed there for a little while, and I didn’t even talk about where the others were disappearing to. I was sneaky.

Step FOUR: We slowly and intentionally started encouraging both boys to find a stuffed animal or blanket that they wanted to sleep with and encouraged that as a form of security so that they would not see the pacifier as their only form of security at nighttime. For Oliver it became a little puppy stuffed animal (which he named “Puppy”). For Shepherd it was a blanket that my mom made out of one of their old sleep sacs that he loved and a stuffed Pokemon Bulbasaur (“Car-Car” and “Bulba). Again, they are very original in their naming skills. Oh and Shepherd also had a Cocker Spaniel beanie baby that he called “Lion.” So that one is kind of original. 

Step FIVE: Taking away that final pacifier from their crib was a little harder. I couldn’t just sneak it away. First we focused on taking it away at nighttime but kept it at naptime. At night, it’s not as big of a deal if they take a while to fall asleep. I knew it was time when the boys started chewing on the pacifiers. I would wake up to find shredded pieces of the pacifier nub in their crib. A lot of people cut off the nub and say it broke, but my boys started doing that themselves. I randomly made a deal. I had no idea if it would work, but it DID! I told them that big boys fall asleep by reading books. I told them that if they wanted to be a big boy they could trade in their pacifier for a book! They could sleep with the book and read it as they fell asleep in bed. I hyped it up big time. Oliver right away was pumped and picked a book (not paper pages and nothing that could be ripped up easily), and surprisingly he did super well with it!! Shepherd took a little while longer, but that was ok with me. Every night and every day at nap for about a month I would ask, “Do you want to be a big boy and read to fall asleep??” And for a while Shepherd would say “No, I want paci.” BUT he would see that Oliver got to read cool books. When Shepherd chose pacifier, he did not get anything else in his bed. He had to choose. Eventually they picked book and never looked back. Shepherd probably lasted 2-3 weeks longer than Oliver at nighttime and then he slept with his pacifier at nap time for even several weeks after that. Eventually though they were just ready.

Again, this worked for us, but it may not work for you and that’s ok. We all just find the right thing and right way for you, your family, and your kids! I thought it might be helpful to share our story of dropping the pacifier.

Don’t Take Yourself so Seriously

Last month I took my 2nd annual silent retreat. Last year I realized that I needed (not necessarily wanted) a day alone – 24 hours – to not text or help or insta or talk to anyone but me and God. It’s often hard for me to figure out my own needs and feelings because I spend so much of my emotional energy taking care of others and thinking about their needs. So, in an effort to listen to the Spirit and take a minute – or 24 hours – to see what God was trying to tell me, and let myself (with a nudge from Derek) take a day off.

Derek and I work hard to give each other days off throughout the year, but this one is different. My silent retreat is a very intentional time to pray through a vision of where I am and what I want for my near future. I listen to God best on a trail. I need trees and a map and comfortable hiking clothes. I need to get tired and breathe deeply. I feel most connected to God when in nature.

I also got to stay at a hotel. My tendency is to check instagram, facebook, check in on my people, binge watch my current TV show, call someone I haven’t talked to in a while, or at least watch a good hallmark movie. It takes a lot of intentionality for me to not do these things for 24 hours. I have to give myself permission to play. Permission to not get anything accomplished. Permission to let expectations, even my own expectations go. I have to waste a little time away from technology and spend several hours just being still or walking around. It was painful to not reach for my phone and fill empty minutes scrolling through social media. It hurts a little bit. Honestly, I didn’t sleep very well either. It is hard for me to be really still. Detoxing is never easy. 

I was aching for my feet to hit the trail, but in the hours before my hike, I felt God giving me permission to waste time and relax and just open myself up to what he wanted me to hear. Each time I would hear a message I would stop briefly, write it down, and continue to walk and process what that means for me and for my life. The holidays are such a busy time, and I have gone back to this list several times to remind myself the truth that exists even (and especially) in the middle of high expectations, travel, to-do lists a mile long, taking kids from one thing to the next, decorating, and trying to squeeze perfection into every second of each day. 

With that in mind, this is the message that God put on my heart:

Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Waste a little more.

Play a little more.

It’s ok to forget things.

It’s ok to let some things go.

Make a mess.

Get dirty.

Spill things.

Get lost.

Go the wrong way.

Take a nap.

Roll the windows down.

Listen more.

Talk less.

Don’t be in a rush.

Let people go in front of me.

It’s ok to be wrong.

Let other people make mistakes too.

Give lots of Grace.

Be kind even if it means letting someone else win.

Take the longer route.

Take time to look people in the eyes.

Give away more.

Live simply.

Simply love.

Take time to enjoy this life that you are working so hard to build.

I sat in the middle of the leaves for a while on the trail and looked for a verse that would help me go a little deeper into what the Spirit was placing on my heart. I have read this verse so many times. We have prayed this verse over our kids since before they were born. Reading it in The Message though made it come to life in a completely new way.

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 MSG

Learning to let more things go and that grace is way more important than perfection has freed me so much these last couple weeks to remember that God is God and I am not. As the holidays continue to just get busier and full of chaos, let this be a reminder to you too. It’s not about getting it all done correctly, or even getting it all done. Advent is a season of sitting and waiting and remembering. I pray that we all find some space for stillness in this Holiday season and that above all we accept the Grace that the birth of Jesus brings us.

When I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I find myself in a season that is a breeding ground for shame. Just being an adult is hard enough in this world of social media and high standards. Then when you add in parenting, marriage, family, friends, ministry, missions, and all of the other hundreds of little things that I’m supposed to do on a daily basis like feed the tiny humans and make sure everyone has clean clothes…well let’s just say I can never get it all done. I hate that I can never get it all done. I feel shame about the fact that I can’t get it all done. I am also ashamed that I have anxiety, crippling anxiety, about all of these things. I feel shame that I am not enough, and I feel shame in the way I deal with not being enough. That is where I began the year and my meditation time with this verse. 

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

If this is true, then I cannot live in shame any longer. If the grace of Jesus is really enough for me, then I have to let go of how many mistakes I made today. If His grace is really sufficient, I have to quit beating myself up about letting my kids watch tv or eat hot dogs or go to daycare or whatever other mom guilt is thrown my way. I have to let go of the fact that I missed opportunities to fix or help or speak truth. I have to let go of the fact that I could have loved better, could have spoken better, could have acted better, could have been braver, or stronger, or wiser. I have to let go of the fact that I am not a perfect friend or mentor or daughter or sister. I have to let go of the fact that I could have said something different, had more patience, been a better mom. I have to let go of the fact that I cannot do it all. I have to let go of the fact that I still get anxious. I have to let go of the fact that I made mistakes, will keep making mistakes, and will probably hurt someone’s feelings or disappoint them. In shaming myself, I am saying that His grace is not enough for me. In covering myself with self-hatred thoughts and words, I am saying that I am above the grace of Jesus. By drowning myself in shame, I am saying, your death, it doesn’t cover me. It doesn’t count for me. Is that what I want? NO! 

So LET IT GO! Let the shame go. Let His grace be sufficient. 

“For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I admit and embrace that I am not enough…I mean really embrace and accept that I cannot, will not, and should not be perfect…When I let myself find freedom in the grace of Jesus and fully live knowing that I am imperfect…When I breathe in and out with the knowledge that I am broken in weakness…Then and only then, will the power of Christ be made perfect. As long as I keep trying to be strong all on my own, Christ’s power will have no room in me. There is no place for the Spirit to fill me if I keep pretending like I can do it all on my own. If I keep trying to be everything to everybody, then I will just keep ending the day in a ball on the floor full of anxiety and brokenness. BUT if I can embrace my imperfections and allow myself the freedom to be forgiven and accepted with all of my faults and weakness and shortcomings – not just sometimes but each moment – then the power really comes. Then the power of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, it is perfected in me.

The Bible is full of stories of God using a broken person, group, or place that the world defines as weak, in order to bring power into the world. That is not by accident. God has proven over and over that He is most powerful when us humans step back, accept that we are weak and allow Him to really show off. It is possible for God’s power to be shown in me no matter what, but it is only perfected when I admit and embrace that I can never be enough on my own. 

Now this does not give us license to sin or make excuses for immoral behavior. Christ was able to admit his weakness, let the power of God fill him, and still remain sinless. Sin and weakness are not synonyms. 

“Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

So, I must then take it a step further. Not only should I just be weak and accept it, I need to boast about it. I need to shout that I am a screw up. I make mistakes. I need to own it. I need to quit pretending that I have it all together or even that I should have it all together. I need to own this hot mess that I am. Instead of getting embarrassed by my inadequacies,  I need to let go of these crippling expectations and allow Christ to dwell in me. Again, this does not mean that I get a pass to sin but instead that I now can focus on progress over perfection. I have to admit, out loud, that I do not have it all together. Quit the pretending. For him to really fill me with the Spirit, I need to acknowledge without fear that I am struggling on my own and in need of help. This whole life, adulting, parenting thing…It’s all hard. Only when I embrace my weakness, embrace my anxiety, embrace my imperfection, then the power, the spirit of Christ will dwell in me. It will come in, grow roots and start living inside of me. When that power lives inside of me, it starts to seep out into everything I do. But I have to remain humble in knowing that I alone am weak, and that is ok.

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I don’t have to be happy that bad things are happening. I’m still allowed to have bad days. I’m allowed to get angry and be frustrated. I’m allowed to beg for another way, just like Jesus did in the garden before dying on the cross. This verse is not saying that God makes the bad things happen for you to be filled with power. It is saying that even though you will go through all kinds of hardships, you can be content knowing that Jesus is hurting with you. This world is broken. It is fallen. Jesus is not going to take away all the distress from your life. I truly believe that a good father shouldn’t and can’t move every difficulty out of the way for His children. But a good father does sit and listen and stroke our hair and cry with us in the insults and pain. He walks with us, gives us wisdom, gives us strength, and gives us POWER! He doesn’t need the bad things in order to give us power. He does however use the weakness, insults, distress, persecution, and difficulties to redeem the brokenness inside of us and bring forth power. He redeems it by filling us in those moments of weakness. He fills us with His spirit so that we are overflowing with the strength and power of Christ. He surrounds us with the church, the body, and our community to strengthen us and help us put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We can be content and at peace with our weaknesses because Christ is enough. We don’t have to be enough. Life is full of BOTH hardship and life-giving moments. It is full of both insults and encouragement. It is full of both distress and laughter. It is full of both people that tear you down and powerful community that can fill you up. It is full of both difficulties and wonder. I am both weak and strong at the same time. That is the way life is meant to be lived. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Again, I don’t have to rejoice in the fact that the bad is happening BUT you can rejoice that in that moment or season of darkness, in this roller coaster of life, God IS YOUR STRENGTH! Christ is POWER. 

Christ died to wash away our sin and guilt and shame, but he was also RISEN from the grave to show and fill us with POWER. Even in our darkest days, know that Sunday is coming. May we walk in that power today. 

Leaving and Letting Go

Derek and I decided long before we had kids that missions and service and ministry would be a part of our lives. We actually decided that even before we met each other. We both feel called to work with teenagers. We fell in love because as teachers, we were both the last ones on our hallway each day with students in our room, and we would encourage each other and learn from each other as we just naturally started our ministries. Then, once we got married it just made that ministry even greater. Getting to go on mission trips together and pour into teenagers and people around the world as a team has just always been a life giving calling for us both. 

Now that we not only have a child, but THREE children at once, I feared that this special part of us might have to be put on hold or change for a while. And in a lot of ways it has changed. I stay at home with our 3 kids instead of teaching. Students and former students come over to our house now to play with our kids instead of me having lunch or breakfast with them. In addition, we now get the privilege of pouring into 3 small humans together as a team and as ministry. I recognize that our family alone is a huge and wonderful and life giving ministry. BUT I still feel called to go. I love that even though so many pieces of our ministry look different right now, so far we have been able to be leaders on mission trips the last 2 years while raising our triplets. Both my parents and my in-laws have been champs and are willing to watch our kids while we follow this call on our hearts to go. 

That said. I’m really terrified this year. Last year when we went to China, I was so exhausted from taking care of 3 newborns. I hadn’t been out of the house much and the trip just felt so freeing. I felt like I got to remember who I was and how to slow down again. That trip began a journey of self-discovery in me. It reminded me to not get lost in this craziness of motherhood but to listen to the Spirit. It began a season of healing for me. Plus I just loved pouring into the high schoolers on our trip. We were going to a place that is so close to my heart. Shepherd’s Field feels like another home. I felt so confident leaving for that trip, and then coming back I had this image of the kids running to me and jumping in my arms…

Well, for one thing the kids weren’t really running yet, but when we got back, it was hard. Lucy and Oliver were fine and honestly ignored us when we walked up the stairs for the first time after being gone for 10 days. They just kept playing. Shepherd on the other hand was ticked. He was mad that we had left him and wouldn’t let me touch him or hold him or talk to him. He was back to normal by that evening and even more so by the next morning, but it was still hard.

Now here we are several months later, and we are leaving for Honduras tomorrow. I really feel like the Spirit was at work the way this trip just happened to have an open spot the exact year that we aren’t able to go to China. While Derek and I were praying about how we could still be involved together in missions this year, this trip was instantly on our hearts. Derek has been on this trip around 10 times and he has always wanted us to go together. I know that this is where God is calling me. I know that I will find purpose and that God can and will use me if I let him. I know that this group of high school students is fantastic, and I can’t wait to get to know them better. 

But I’m scared. This time, I’m really really scared. My kids spent several days in the hospital just 3 months ago. It’s still winter, so there is a chance that they could get sick again and have to go back while we are gone. More than that, I’m afraid to leave Shepherd. I know that Lucy and Oliver will barely miss me (haha), but my sensitive Shepherd will be mad again. I’m afraid that it will mess him up. I’m afraid that he will be so mad at me that it will forever change our relationship. I’m afraid that he won’t love me the same. Last year he couldn’t talk. This year, he can tell me how mad he is that I was gone.

The truth is, those things might happen. They probably won’t, but they might. They might get sick. Shepherd might be mad at me for days or weeks this time. It might make his anxiety worse. He might cry for me everyday that I am gone. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go. 

If I don’t go, then God will still do amazing things on that trip. He doesn’t need me to make that trip great. I’m not going because I am this wonderful Christian and the best mentor and the only one that can pour into those high schoolers. That’s not it at all. I am not invaluable. But I do feel called to go. 

I’m going because I need my kids to know that even though they have forever changed my life and my ministry, my life is bigger than just the 3 of them. My ministry is bigger than the 3 of them. I feel guilty typing that. I feel scared typing that. But I want to raise kids that become adults that depend on Jesus and have coping skills to bravely take on the world. AND I am the best me when I have purpose outside of just them. I am a better version of myself when I am both loving them and others. I need both and that’s ok.

My theme for the year continues to be BOTH/AND. I am both a mom and a minister to teenagers. God has called me to both. And so even though I am scared…I will go.

Climbing out of cribs, Taking clothes off, Our first batch of stitches, and more!

In the last few months, our 3 toddlers have learned how to be expert climbers. We love to share the tricks that we have learned. First off, I am thankful that we have been extra vigilant in tethering all of our furniture to the wall and baby proofing to the max. With three monkeys running around, I wanted to feel confident that even though there are more of them than my number of arms, they are safe in our house. Somehow the kids constantly still find ways to show us what we need to add to the baby proofing list. For instance, our stairs are still gated even though they are really good at climbing chairs simply because I need a place to put things that they cannot get to! All of our cabinets are locked. except for the bathroom cabinets which we just cleared out and let the kids climb through freely as a sort of jungle gym, and our dining room chairs stay pushed against the wall all day unless we are eating so that they are not another jungle gym. 

We did have our first batch of stitches. Sweet Shepherd fell off of a little kid’s chair and hit his head at just the right spot. He wasn’t doing anything crazy or climbing where he shouldn’t. I think he might have inherited my ability to run into things and fall ungracefully. Sorry Shep! It split right above is right eye. I immediately called my wonderful pediatrician only to learn that my pediatrician does not give stitches. We had to take him to our nearest Urgent Care, but Urgent Care doesn’t open until 11am so we stopped the bleeding with neosporin and a bandaid until we could get there. Also, we went during Shepherd’s nap time with a scheduled appointment so that we could miss most of the germs in the waiting room.  I feared that it would be exhausting for him to go during his nap time, but it turned out to be amazing. He slept through all 4 stitches!! 

On another note. We have done 2 things that have been successful in helping the kids to stay in their cribs and pack-n-plays. 2/3 take naps in a pack-n-play so that they can all nap in different rooms, and we use pack-n-plays when we travel. They started climbing out of those first. Oliver was the main culprit. He would climb out but then be immediately terrified and want back in. We could tell that for our 3, toddler beds would not be a good option yet. Fixing the crib situation was easier. We first dropped the crib mattresses to the ground which instantly helped. We had to be careful to not leave a gap between the mattress and the crib rail. We put quilts and thick fleece blankets under the mattresses to make sure that the mattresses were tall enough and that there was no gap. They have been sleeping like this in their cribs for a couple months now, and it works great!

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We also had one of our 3 start to take their pajamas and diaper off in the night. I walked in one morning to a naked Lucy. She was so confused at why this was concerning. She was sitting in a puddle of pee (thankfully not poop) saying “I NAKED!” When I asked her why she was naked she said, “I pee-pee.” Well, it’s hard to argue with that. I think she might be closer to potty training than I am. I am SO NOT ready to go down that road yet. So anyway, to help them keep their clothes on, and to also help them stay in the pack-n-plays we decided to add a sleep sac into the bedtime routine. It not only encourages them to keep their clothes on, but it keeps them in the crib/pack-n-play because in the potato sac fleece they can’t use their legs to climb. And they LOVE sleeping in it! They beg to put them on at night. I think it brings them back to their swaddle loving days, but their arms are free. It zips from the bottom so it’s much harder for them to unzip it. They are currently wearing a size Large. Link for the Halo sleep sac

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This was taken the morning of their 2nd birthday, and I put them all in one crib to try and get a cute picture.  Lucy is not a morning person. haha They do NOT all sleep together. 

We have also learned that it is possible to make a 15 hour car trip in one day with toddler triplets. We left at 3am, and they slept for the first 4-5 hours, and took a 2 hour nap during the drive. It made the trip so much better with them sleeping for a good bit of it. We only stopped a couple times to eat, get gas, and stretch our legs and even then the kids stayed fairly happy. I would move back and forth between the front seat and sitting in the back to entertain.

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We also, moved the triplets car seats to forward facing right at their 2 year birthday. We love our Diono carseats that can fit 3 across on the back row of our van!! They love being able to see everything as we drive now. It is so much fun, but I am so glad that I waited until they were 2 to turn them.

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Please let me know if you have any other questions about my current triplet toddler life!! I would love to write some things that you are curious about!

A New Year

As I look back on 2018, I am filled with a dichotomy of emotions that exist simultaneously. I am both exhausted and content. I have both wonderful memories from the year and some that are really painful. My heart is heavy and filled at the same time. It feels like I spent just as much time at the doctor, hospital, and emergency room, as I did just enjoying my precious babies this year, BUT at the same time in all of the sickness, our family was bombarded with love and support from our friends and family which brings me so much joy. I think that this is the way that life is meant to be lived – in the world of the “both/and.” With every hardship and negative, there is a positive and shining light to be found. Sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes I just don’t have the energy or time or desire to see it, but it’s still there. In fact, the positive may just be that we survived. I sure am thankful that “His mercies are new every morning.” I’m thankful for grace. I’m thankful for the ability to be both full of love and full of anxiety at the same time. I’m thankful that my babies are both messy and beautiful. I’m thankful that my marriage has both been challenged and strengthened this year. I’m thankful that even though my ministry seems smaller, it also seems deeper. I’m thankful that even though my kids have had around 13 ear infections, a few sinus infections, several stomach bugs, Hand Foot & Mouth, ear tubes, RSV, pneumonia, more runny noses, coughs and colds than I can count, stitches, bumps, bruises, busted lips all in 2018…today they are happy and healthy. I’m thankful that even though 2018 brought my most challenging mental and emotional year as I struggled through anxiety and panic attacks, it also brought me Brene Brown, the Enneagram, a good counselor, and more soul searching and self-discovery than I ever thought possible. 2018 brought both many tears, and also so many belly laughs that kept me rolling for days. 

Each year I pick a verse that defines what I want to focus on and meditate over for the year. I learn the context of that verse and memorize it. I put it on my heart and mind and soul. When I look back and read my verses from the years past, the feelings and emotions of that year come flooding back. I can feel where my heart was at that time and how that verse spoke to me. I have written a few times about my verse for 2018 – Exodus 14:13-14. I have needed this verse so many times this year. As I am sitting here praying and trying to decide my verse for 2019, the “both/and” feels very important. I want the freedom to feel seemingly opposite emotions at the exact same time. This year I want to embrace the fact that I am both weak and strong. I want to feel confident that even though my anxiety might not leave, the Lord’s grace will continue to be even more abundant. I want to focus less on where I fall short and rather on where Christ is more than enough. In fact, I want to acknowledge that without my insufficiencies, the fullness of Christ’s strength may not be seen. So today, here’s to me not being enough but enough all at the same time. 2019, I’m ready for you. 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Who am I?

I have been wrestling a lot lately with this very simple question: “Who am I?” 

For the past year and a half with newborn/baby triplets, I have been a survivor and just making it to the next day with healthy, happy babies. Staying sane was my goal and sometimes seemed like an unattainable goal. Now that Shepherd, Lucy, and Oliver are toddlers and especially now that they go to 3 half days of pre-school each week, I have time to really figure out my goals and identity beyond just survival. Do I want to be a teacher again? Do I want to solely focus on being a great stay at home mom? Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to run a marathon? Do I want to focus on ministry and missions? Who am I? 

Everyday recently I get asked 2 questions by friends, family, and strangers. I’m not talking once or twice… I have been asked these at least once a day for 5 weeks.

  1. Are you supermom taking care of triplets!?
  2. What are you doing with all of your free time now that the babies go to school?

For some reason, both of these questions make me feel super defensive. I have laid awake in the middle of the night several times over the last few weeks trying to come up with good answers to these questions. First of all, let’s clear the air, I am NOT a supermom. I am a very tired mom. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with patience. I struggle with balance and often feel like a failure. All of us are just doing our best one day at a time. If you had triplets, you would figure it out one day at a time too. If you have one baby, and it’s crazy hard, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t handle 3 babies, it would just be different. I do this whole motherhood of triplets thing with a WHOLE lot of help and a WHOLE lot of mistakes. But as soon as I can explain that I’m a mess and not a superhero, I get that 2nd question… “So, what are you doing with all of your free time now that the babies go to school?”

I’ve been on a journey since May to learn how to take care of myself and to find peace and presence in the chaos. Part of that journey was creating space and time in my life to practice self-care. I’m learning how to say no and how to be still. Those 12 hours each week with the kids at pre-school allow me to eat. They allow me to sit and think and breathe. They allow me to do laundry and go to the grocery store. They allow me space to deal with all the hiccups that come with having three toddlers like going to the doctor, cleaning up our dog peeing everywhere, or just organizing the house. They allow me time to not just survive. I feel so much guilt and so much shame in the fact that this time is free time. I can choose what I do with it, and I feel like I need to itemize every single minute of it to anyone that asks. I go into detail of how I tutor at night and that time allows me to prep for tutoring. It allows me to prep for dinner and to create an online class. I feel this deep need to make sure that people know I’m using my time wisely. I might need to go apologize to some strangers that were just trying to politely make small talk in asking me this question, and I instead went into this monologue about every detail of my Monday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. I feel like if I’ve been given this gift of time, but I have sadly attached strings to that time. Since I do not work a full time job, and since I pay money for my kids to go to pre-school, I better be able prove that I’m using my time wisely. Prove that it’s worth it. Prove that I’m worth it. 

So I am simultaneously trying to convince people that I am far from perfect, but using my time perfectly all at the same time. I’m emotionally exhausted. 

When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions they ask is “What do you do?” “Tell me about yourself.” My answer has always been, “I’m a teacher!” For the past year and a half, that answer has been, “I have triplets!” But now I have time to be more than just a mom of triplets. I have time to do things and find myself again. So back to the question…who am I? Who do I want to be?

My revelation is slowly coming from 2 places – first from my husband Derek (the birthplace of most of my revelations) and also from Lauren Daigle. 

First, Derek preached a sermon at our church a few weeks ago about the Holy Spirit and led everyone in an exercise of breath prayer. Click here to check it out.

At the end of the exercise you are standing with Jesus and he is looking you in the eyes and calmly and gently asks, What can I do for you? And I immediately wanted to yell – WHO AM I? Who am I, Jesus? What am I supposed to do with my life? I knew the answer was that I am His. I knew that. But even then I didn’t feel like it was enough. I didn’t feel like I was enough. I felt like well sure, of course I’m yours, but I still need to earn your love and Derek’s love and my kids’ love and my friends’ and parents’ love. I know I’m yours, but what do I need to DO?? Who am I was so intimately tied to what I do. It has always been tied to my grades, my thoughtfulness, my church attendance, my athletic ability, my relationship status, the size of my ministry, the way I care for others…

Then, a couple weeks Lauren Daigle released a new album called “Look Up Child.” The entire album has been on repeat at my house but one song in particular has been really speaking truth over me. In it, she asks the same question: “Remind me who I am!?” And the answer has nothing to do with WHAT she does but WHOSE she is. “You say I am loved…You say I am strong…You say I am held…You say that I am Yours.” That has to be enough. And all I need to do is believe.

Believe that I am loved. Believe that I don’t have to earn love. Believe that my goals and my identity and the answer to the question about my “free” time and all of the million things that need to get done everyday…they aren’t what makes me, ME. I still need to dream big dreams and create and aspire to do and listen to what God calls me, BUT that has nothing to do with who I am. I was so convinced that those things were all tied together. If all I get done in the 4 hours that the kids are at school is to refocus my brain and remind myself that I am loved, it was a successful morning. I don’t have to prove myself. I am enough.

Let me just leave these song lyrics with you and the link to the youtube video:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?

Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know (ooh oh)

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours

And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity.

You are not the sum of what you DO. You are loved. You are strong. You are a child of the King. You are enough.