Approval Addiction Part 1

As a freshman in high school I read a book by John Ortberg called The Life You’ve Always Wanted. In it he talks about the approval addiction. I knew then that I would always be battling that addiction. I have always wanted to please others – especially those that I dearly love. I want to help and not be a burden. I want to do everything that I possibly can to keep them from being disappointed. With that comes lots of anxiety and an unhealthy desire to be needed and appreciated. I am a helper and a perfectionist. I am a two on the Enneagram with a strong one wing.

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The Enneagram is a beautiful personality test that goes beyond answering the question “Who am I?” and explains the motivation and fear behind why we do what we do. While most personality tests that I have taken are static, this one is very movable and allows space for the way we change in times of stress and security. To take a test click here. BUT please be aware that it often takes months to figure out your exact type. The test just gives you an idea of where to start reading and learning about your type. Message me if you want more details.

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I think we all have something in our lives like Paul when he profoundly exclaims in Romans  7: 15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” The Enneagram and Brene Brown’s book that I talked about last post have given me the language to explain why I do the thing that I hate but often do anyway. It has given me the words to express and identify how and why and when I get most anxious. It has given me understanding of my husband and other relationships beyond what I could have imagined. Finding words in the midst of shame brings freedom. Shame and fear live in silence and secrets. There is so much freedom in having words and language for feelings that I have always had and never understood! I have had the best conversations because of the Enneagram over the last couple months! My goal is that maybe I can help someone else find their own voice along the way.

Even if you are not a two or a one on the Enneagram, you probably know someone that exhibits these characteristics. Females, especially women in the church, often mistype as a two. We are told our whole lives to support, help, and take care of others. That is the role we often play in the church and at home. This role is a vital one and beautiful. But I often want more. I can talk about women’s role in the church another time in another post, but for now, what I urge you to do as you read these thoughts is to picture your Enneagram two friend, wife, daughter, brother, etc. Step into our shoes for a minute to understand just how we see the world. The beauty of the Enneagram for me has been to both find language for why I do the things that I do, but also to find compassion for how others (especially those close to me) view the world. 

With that in mind, I want to walk through some “two” thoughts that I have had over the last month or so. There are a lot so I’ll post some this week and post the rest next week. If this resonates with you or sounds like a loved one that you have, please come back and read the rest next week!

Thought #1: When people that I love share their pain, I often hear that I have failed. If they are anything but happy, it must mean that I did something or failed to do something that could have made their life better. I failed to take care of them. I feel shame. I have failed at keeping them happy. Or I get angry and think they have failed me, why aren’t they stronger? There is rarely a middle ground. Learning this about myself has allowed me to listen to my loved ones in pain without feeling defensive or angry. 

Thought #2: My Enneagram thought of the day (click this link to get daily enneagram emails) talked about making guilt provoking comments towards people. I do that. I set unsaid expectations for them and drop little comments to make them feel bad if they don’t fulfill my secret wishes. But I do it all in the name of making them better and can’t fathom doing something with poor motives because that would mean that I’m not caring for them and thereby unlovable. I truly believe that if I am a burden and not taking care of my loved ones then they couldn’t possibly love me back in return. I am learning to verbalize these expectations. I need to love without strings attached. Just because I would know to do something for someone to best take care of them, does not mean that I should expect them to do that in return. That isn’t fair, and it isn’t real love.

Thought #3: I’m not very good at the in between. I have 2 options: to be perfect or to be the worst failure ever. I either think I have great intentions and do everything for the right reason and have an inaccurate sense of self-importance, OR I think I have failed and hate myself and think I am unworthy of love. There is no in between. Speaking truth that I am neither perfect nor a failure and yet loved has been life giving. 

Thought #4: I slept great last night. I woke up to find out that Derek slept terrible. I immediately felt shame for having slept while Derek didn’t and wished that I had slept poorly in his place. This is not normal. It’s ok that I slept better than he did. I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t need to be defensive about my good nights sleep either.

Thought #4: In health, I move towards a 4. I am able to be more self aware and in touch with my full range of emotions. I’m not afraid to admit when I am sad and angry and maybe don’t have the best intentions. I am ok when others are disappointed in me or when I don’t have to be the one to fix their problems.

Thought #5: When someone is upset with me or hurt I feel a deep desire to fix it and make it better. Even if I didn’t do anything wrong, I want to make it better. I feel like if they don’t see me as helpful, then I cannot be loved. Sometimes this plays out poorly because I force my “help” on people that don’t want or need it.

Thought #6: Twos are the only number that never go to the thinking triad. We don’t go their in stress or security. It’s all feelings and some anger. So, I can only process outside myself so talking or writing are the only ways that I can actually figure out my feelings and thoughts – hence the creation of this blog.

Thought #7: It’s hard when people ask what do I feel or what do I need because I often don’t know. I feel everyone else’s feelings and know everyone else’s needs, but verbalizing my own often seems impossible.

Thought #8: I often can not fathom that something I did could hurt someone else. Because if that’s true, then I am a failure, and I would not be capable of being wanted or loved. The truth is that I do hurt others sometimes. I am not perfect. Grace is real.  

Thought #9: A girl I was going to tutor decided to drop her class. She is a perfect stranger. I have never even met her. I really want to call her and convince her to not drop the class. Not because I want to tutor her although I do, but mostly I don’t want her to miss out on the wonderfulness of statistics because she is scared or doesn’t have all the info. I want to help her!! But she did not ask for my opinion. She does not know me. She does not need me to fight for her or to save her. But I am fighting my urge to fix this “problem.” I have to re-learn how to say “No”, especially no to things that aren’t even asked of me, in every new season of life.

Thought #10: I know it’s crazy that I often have so many emotions that aren’t even mine, and it’s silly that my friends and family have to ask me, a mature adult, what do you want, what are you feeling, and what do you need? It makes me even more thankful for the people in my life that patiently understand and help me process my true feelings and needs. 

Learning about the Enneagram has helped me start to navigate through these feelings and emotions and scenarios. In the words of Suzanne Stabile, I tend to “over-prepare, over-react, over-think, over-feel, and over-respond.” The Enneagram has given me self-awareness and language to try and see the root of my anxiety. I am just starting to touch the surface of allowing myself time to be confused and to discover my true self.  I am allowing myself time to just sit with these thoughts and let them be. I need time to find grace and to know that I don’t have to take care of everyone or always have it figured out. If you are an Enneagram two, rest today knowing that you are not alone and that you are loved beyond what you do.

And if you are a woman (or man) that feels forced into these two feelings and emotions because you are told that your goal in life is to support and that your feelings and emotions are not important – I hope that you also hear that you are worthy, you are valued, you are loved for YOU. Not for your service and support but because of your uniqueness and simply because you are a daughter of the King. 

And to those of you with loved ones that are twos, tell them today that they are appreciated, loved, and needed not just because of what they do for you or how they take care of you, but simply because of who they are. 

Meditation and Imperfection

If you have not read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection then do everyone and yourself a favor and go to Amazon right now and order it. In fact, let me give you the link: click this!  I’m not kidding. Forget reading this post, go now. It has changed what I believe about myself and my lifelong battle with perfectionism and anxiety. Well, this book along with a very helpful therapist and learning about the Enneagram have helped me start to find the root of my anxiety and panic attacks. I hope you read that correctly that this is just the beginning. I still have a long way to go and will always probably struggle with both perfectionism and anxiety. But I have felt so much freedom in several things that I want to share. 

First of all, the highlight of this book and the main thing that I learned from my counselor was simple but huge – I need to love myself more. I need to be kind to myself. The root of my panic attacks is my anger. Anger at myself. It’s not the root of my anxiety. I’ll talk about that more later, but it is the difference between feeling overwhelmed and entering into a full blown panic attack. I just get so mad! I’m talking hysterical ANGER. I scream and want to hit things and just hate who I am in that moment. I cannot logically pull myself together. I feel like a burden and like I’m letting everyone down around me. I feel like I’m wasting time that could be spent sleeping or resting or pouring into all of these people that love me daily. I start to spiral into pure shame and guilt. Shame that I am not strong enough. Guilt that I again have failed. Brene is an expert in shame research. It’s amazing the way shame and perfectionism are tied together. I feel so ashamed that I can’t be the person that I want to be. Which causes me to be so angry. It’s also amazing how I think it’s ok to call myself an idiot (and much harsher words). I would be so upset if my kids ever spoke those words about themselves, or if they ever heard me speak those words out loud. In her book Brene says, “I don’t want my level of self-love to limit how much I can love my children or my husband…loving them and accepting their imperfections is much easier than turning that light of loving-kindness on myself…I know that I can talk to myself in ways that I would never consider talking to another person.” Why is it so much easier to beat myself up? 

In an effort to train my brain in self compassion and to lavish grace on myself and others, I have started meditating in the morning. I always thought that just sitting and breathing was weird and a waste of time. (I don’t know if you can tell, but I really hate wasting time.) I started though with an app that my counselor told me about called Meditation Studio. I have also tried the app Headpsace. Meditation studio uses mindfulness meditation which I like a little better. Both of these talk you through how to be gracious even in the quiet. It reminds me to not be angry when my mind inevitably drifts or when I spend 5/10 minutes daydreaming or nodding off.

The main focus of meditation is breathing and giving grace in those moments of quiet. Following along with an app when you first get started is so helpful. It’s like having a personal trainer when you are trying to get in shape for the first time. It helps keep me accountable and really instills the grace over myself that I desperately need. And most importantly it is teaching me how to breathe. I know that sounds weird, but breathing in meditation is an artform. I have always been an athlete. In sports, especially in running, I was taught different ways to breathe to best enhance my performance. Meditation breathing is similar. If you focus on how your body reacts to the breaths and on how your mouth and stomach and nose respond to each breath, it helps your muscles to slowly relax and your mind to focus. I have to be intentional about relaxing my legs and toes, my arms and shoulders and fingers, my jaw and head. With each breath, I release a little more guilt and pent up pressure and relax a little bit more. 

It was really hard at first for me to sit still and just breathe for 10 minutes. Now though, I can’t picture starting my day any other way.  That small amount of quiet breathing changes and shapes my mind the rest of the day. I often still get overwhelmed because I still have triplets and life is still messy, but I subconsciously start taking deep breaths and am more apt to give myself grace. The breaths bring me back to those 5-10 minutes of peace that morning. I am reminded of what calm looks like. I have a reference point of how to relax. I remind myself that it’s normal to get overwhelmed. Brene talks in her book about how to identify an issue or problem without over identifying it. I tend to do that a lot. I am really good at over identifying my weaknesses instead of just naming them, owning them, and moving forward. Meditation gives me the space to practice identifying a weakness and moving on. Even if that weakness is not being able to focus that morning. I simply say “wandering” and refocus without beating myself up. Learning to let go of most of that anger has been so freeing. 

To make this my own, I often combine meditation with breath prayer and lectio devina. I read a psalm and pick out one word or phrase that really sticks out to me. Then I set my timer to 5-10 minutes or I start my app, and I just sit. I sit up straight, keep the lights off, lay my hands out, close my eyes, and I breathe. I slowly breathe in and out (4 seconds in, 4 seconds out). And I focus on that word or phrase and focus on my breathing. If my mind wanders, I just gently say wandering, and gracefully move back into breathing in and out – in through my nose, out through my mouth. As I breathe in I picture that word or phrase. As I breathe out, I release everything else so that in time just that word remains. It remains on my heart and in my mind the rest of the day.

Sometimes, if I have a certain person pressing on my heart as I enter into my meditation time, I can spend that time focusing on breath prayer for them. It’s best to stick with just one person so you don’t spend the whole time jumping around. With each breath, I breathe in calm and breathe out a word that I want to pray over them. I breathe in peace or grace and breathe out strength or confidence to cover them for today.

I have also used meditation breaths at night if I can’t sleep. I have woken up several times in the middle of the night with my brain spinning about all the things that need to happen or a crazy dream. Once I start meditation breathing, my body is reminded to calm down, think logically, and to relax.

Other times I use my mantra or theme verse for this season in my life as I meditate. I spend the entire 10 minutes really placing the words on my heart and in my mind. I have it memorized, so I close my eyes and say one word with each deep breath. I slowly in the morning ingrain it in my mind, so that when I start to get overwhelmed in the day, I start breathing and that verse is on the tip of my tongue and in my head. It’s amazing what memorizing scripture and simply breathing will do.

My verse for the year that has spoken truth to me in so many ways is Exodus 14: 13-14. it says: 

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet.”

“Don’t be afraid” – In the moments of complete exhaustion and when that long list of overwhelming things that has to be done all at one time is almost too much to bear, smile. Remember the way that God has already delivered you. Remember who you are. Remember who HE is. Know that you are enough. Give yourself grace. Don’t be afraid of what is to come. Don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t be afraid to say No. Don’t be afraid to say Yes. Smile.

“Stand firm” – Breathe. Be present. Stand in this current moment. Don’t drift into the past or let your mind wander into all of the things that you need to get done tomorrow. Don’t run or lay down. STAND. Stand FIRM. Be strong. You are strong. God is stronger. Be still. Breathe.

“And see the LORD’s salvation that he will accomplish for you today” – You are not the savior. You are not a martyr. You can’t save everyone or anyone. It’s the LORD who does the saving. He is the savior. He is the deliverer. Take that pressure off. He will keep His promises. You are not alone. He is with you TODAY. He is doing great things today. 

“For the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.” – The context of this verse comes right before the crossing of the Red Sea. The Israelites were escaping the Egyptians. The plagues had already happened. They had already placed the blood over their doorframe in Egypt as death fell on the firstborn son and animal of the Egyptians, but the Lord passed over the Israelites. They were protected, and then they were delivered. The LORD delivered them and led them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. All too soon though the Israelites forgot. The Egyptians had changed their minds and began to chase them. They were right on their heals and the Red Sea was trapping them. They felt like there was no way out. Surely this was the end? Surely God can’t protect us this time? But here Moses is proclaiming that this fear is formed from lies. The truth is that these Egyptians – this huge, impossible, demon that is chasing you and trying to devour you – there will come a day when you will never see it again. God will win. The Lord will deliver you. He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is a God of redemption. He is a God of deliverance.

“The LORD will fight for you”  I have been doing a lot of fighting lately… 

Fighting for perfection.

Fighting to not be a burden.

Fighting to help everyone.

Fighting to be seen and known.

Fighting to be a good mom.

Fighting to be a good wife.

Fighting to be a good daughter, sister, friend.

Fighting to remember every detail.

Fighting to find myself.

Fighting myself.

Fighting for control.

Fighting to be worthy of love.

Fighting for forgiveness for my constant shortcomings.

Stop. The LORD will fight FOR you.

“and you must be quiet.” – It doesn’t say that you must fight with Him. It doesn’t say that you must complete a list of tasks before you are worthy of being fought for. It doesn’t say that you must look a certain way or act a certain way or be prepared. You don’t have to be perfect or have it all figured out. You just have to be quiet. 

So today – may you be filled with all the goodness and measure of the Lord’s promise. May you allow Him to fight for you. May you be still and see His deliverance in your life. You are worthy. You are loved.

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Grace Not Perfection

Derek and I are so grateful that we were able to go back to China this year. We took 20 high school students along with 2 other amazing adults and spent 10 days in a place that is close to both of our hearts. Derek has been going to Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village outside of Beijing for 10 years, and it is was my 4th trip. It’s hard to explain how beautiful this special needs orphanage is to us and so many others. We love the way they love and show Jesus to the world. The second reason that this trip was so good for me was that I was able to really pour into the high school students that came with us. I loved getting to be 100% focused on them. I love the way God has provided a ministry for Derek and I in this season with 3 little ones. We absolutely love that our house is open to students frequently to just come and play and talk and hang out. That’s what we have always dreamed of. When SLO is running around though, I am constantly switching between focusing on the kids and students. In China, I loved just getting to focus on those amazing 20 students that we brought with us! We had so many great conversations about life and Jesus and how to love ourselves and others and how to make Jesus come alive in the everyday. The third reason that China was so life giving to me was that I was able to eat 3 meals a day while sitting (the food in China is the BEST!!), and I got to read! I haven’t had much time lately to read (shocker right?!) so getting to pour over some good books was really refreshing to me.

I was very intentional about choosing books that would help me in my quest to find peace in my imperfections since this is something that I desperately need. The two books that I chose were Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 

Grace Not Perfection was good and practical and spoke truth into many of the things that I am currently doing. I already live a pretty organized life. I get rid of clutter. I make time for things that bring me life — like good conversations with girls that I mentor, writing, working out, quiet time in the morning. I get good sleep (surprising, right?). I ask for help. I still have date nights with Derek. I have given up on the picture perfect house and clothes and babies and have enjoyed and found contentment in our own beautiful circus (cue Greatest Showman music – my new favorite album). We have a house cleaner and aren’t ashamed of asking for help. We have good community and family that pour into us constantly. We also seek it out and are intentional with surrounding ourselves with people that love us and love our kids well.

Even though most of Grace Not Perfection was just re-iterating these things that I already believed and practiced, the last section was really good for me. I want to share a little excerpt. First though, let me put this into perspective. I am writing this morning with 2 sick kids at home and the 3rd will probably get sick in the morning. I’m talking 104.7 high fevers for 4 days each kid (not at the same time so it lasts forever). We have had our fair share of sickness lately. Sick babies and being trapped inside takes a toll on me. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. One baby is hard, triplets are really hard, sick triplets are near impossible. Derek and I had planned on me having a day to work on writing and AP Statistics this week, so I decided to try and go today. I spent the first hour of my time sitting in the parking lot of the coffee shop crying hysterically in my car, stressing about the kids being sick, stressed about Derek trying to be super dad (which he actually is super dad) and not calling me if it gets too hard, mad that they are always sick, and mad at myself for not being able to let go of everything. On top of that, my AP Statistics online class didn’t work out, so I’m mad and upset that I don’t have stat to work on. Mostly though I’m angry that my kids are always sick. That when my kids get sick, all 3 get sick and it takes 3 times longer for them to get better and so few people really understand what that’s like. I’m angry that the summer is more than half over, and we have only had a couple days at home with 3 healthy kids. I’m angry that I can’t just sit and hold my sick baby(ies) because there are always 2 others to chase. I’m mad that instead of enjoying my morning off, I’m worried about the kids and unable to shut my brain off and let go. So in that frame of mind, I read this from Emily Ley’s Grace Not Perfection:

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to look… Stop right there. How is it supposed to look? When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty in our lives. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. And we’ve established that standard of perfection in our work and our families based on what? Social media highlight reels? Perfect people? (Im telling you — they’re like unicorns. They don’t exist.) Being a woman with many loves and responsibilities will test your patience, stretch your will, and make you love more fiercely than you ever thought possible – because time is your most precious commodity. Remember, though, that this part of life — this busy, crazy, circus-like place you’re in — is but a season. It will come and go just like all the others. Let some things slide. It’s ok if you don’t wash your hair for a week at a time during this phase. (That’s what dry shampoo and top knots are for!) There will be plenty of other times to be that kind of beautiful. Now is the time to be another kind of beautiful. Now is the time for patience, gracefulness, four books before bed, thoughtful communication, adventures, and being a master at Candy Land.”

So today instead of dwelling in the land of self-pity and self-hatred, I will seek to love where I am and who I am. I will do my best to spend a few extra minutes laughing at the crazy and a few less minutes on my phone. I will steal all the hugs and sick snuggles that I can get, even if they are fewer than most. I will cut myself some slack and give myself and my friends and my husband and my kids grace, grace, and more grace. And then I will give myself a little more grace. I am hardest on myself. Many years ago, before I was even married, I sat with a 10th grade student that is now one of my dearest kindred spirits. She shared with me about her struggles with anxiety. She gave me a quote that was her phone’s screensaver and has sense been my screensaver off and on for a long time. It said, “I will hold myself to a standard of Grace not Perfection.”

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This has been my screensaver off and on for several years.

Since then, we have both been through many ups and downs, and we both come back to that phrase often. It’s not something that you learn once and move on. It’s a constant daily battle. But today, and then again tomorrow, and then the next day, I will strive to hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection. In the next post, I’ll share with you about how Brene Brown and her book really opened my eyes as to why this is so hard and how to start to try to fumble into letting grace become my reality.

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

I have always been high stress and high anxiety. As a high school student, I was not satisfied with anything less than a 100. As a teacher myself, I now understand why my teachers were often frustrated when I would argue my 1 point after making a 99. I was that kid. I also played about 5 sports depending on the year. You could say I am fairly competitive…ok very competitive. I hate losing. I hate failure. I hate dependency. I love to be the one helping others and hate when I have let someone down. I have a very high standard for myself. Mistakes waste time. 

It turns out that these qualities clash a little with being a parent…especially a parent to 3 babies at one time. At any given moment, I am holding one screaming child while trying to chase 2 more. While my body is physically chasing children, my mind is simultaneously trying to plan out dinner, pack for the day, prep for tutoring, connect with friends, figure out how to best form community, attend church and bible study, mentor high school/college girls, be intentional about my marriage, treat each of my kids as individuals, be present, have quiet time, take care of myself, eat well, be a good daughter, a good sister…These are all good things, but my mind is exploding. I am beyond overwhelmed. I am constantly failing at something. I have written before about my dependency (see last post), and I am constantly feeling like I’m letting someone down or forgetting something. My brain just doesn’t have enough room. The result equals lots and lots of panic attacks. I’m talking curled in a ball, hysterically crying, unable to think logically, panic attacks. I kept trying to “fix” them. I joined the gym and REALLY thought that would be the end of the panic attacks. Surely I just need to work out, then I won’t be overwhelmed. It did help. It actually helped a lot, but I still got overwhelmed. And when I got overwhelmed I felt like a failure and then got stressed about being overwhelmed and felt guilty for being overwhelmed and felt like a burden on everyone around me…cue another panic attack. After a week of not sleeping because I was having panic attacks all night, I decided I needed a different solution. 

I have been mentoring for as long as I can remember. It brings me so much life and purpose to walk through life with girls that are younger than me. I love being vulnerable and honest and learn just as much from them as they do from me. It has always and will always be a part of my life. In fact, it’s how Derek and I met. We both love doing ministry and especially love when our ministries overlap. In ministry and mentoring, I tell girls constantly how amazing counseling is and how normal it is to need to share your thoughts and emotions with a professional that can help you sort through all of the millions of jumbled webs in your head. The funny and ironic thing is that I didn’t think that I needed to go to a counselor. I didn’t need counseling. I could do this by myself. I was fine. I could fix this. Counseling is too expensive. I am too busy. I’ll just pray more and it will all go away. I believed these things to be true. Turns out, that didn’t make them true.

In ministry, I also talk a lot about how important it is to understand that mental health is real just like physical health is real, but to be honest it’s still hard for me to really wrap my head around that concept. Recently Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lost their lives to suicide and again I am reminded of the truth that so many people do not understand mental health. I believe that many of us deep down think that if we are full of the Spirit and if we are close enough to God and read our Bible enough and have enough quiet time, that we don’t need help with anxiety; we don’t need counseling. If we have God, we won’t be depressed or have panic attacks. The phrase “mentally ill” gets responses like. “Oh, they really need Jesus in their life.” While someone with cancer or a broken bone or an ear infection gets prayed for in a totally different way. I am not depressed, but I am not mentally well either. I have been so angry at myself for not being able to control my thoughts. I have been so angry that I have punched walls and the floor and yelled. I have been so disappointed in myself and felt so much shame and guilt because somewhere deep down I believe that I should be able to get a hold of this. I can control this. I can fix this. Or at least, God can fix this. I just have to pray more.

I want to say very clearly that I believe that if you are depressed or struggle with anxiety or any sort of mental illness:

1. You are not alone.

2. It is not your fault.

3. Prayer, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are real and alive and strong and powerful. I believe that God heals. But in the same way that someone with a broken arm needs to go to a doctor, oftentimes if you are dealing with depression or anxiety or any other mental illness, you need to get help. AND IT’S OK TO GET HELP!!!! 

It doesn’t mean that we aren’t strong enough or close enough to God. It doesn’t mean that we have failed. I think that everyday it is becoming more and more socially acceptable to proclaim that you go to counseling. Even though that is true, and even though I finally did go. I have only been once and it was amazing and so helpful (I’ll talk more about it later), but I’m nervous to go back. Most days I have again convinced myself that I don’t really need it. I convince myself that it’s too expensive or that I don’t have the time. Derek (my oh so wise husband) strongly explained one day that if I broke my arm, I wouldn’t sit around saying, “Sorry I’m not going to the doctor because it’s too expensive.” Or “I would love to go to the doctor to fix my broken arm, but I just don’t have time.” When will I finally wrap my head around the fact that mental and physical illnesses are not that different?

I’m not writing this, pretending that I have all the answers. I don’t. In fact, I have few answers. But what I do know, is that there is no shame in seeking help. 

Surviving the Sick Season with little kids

January-April has been filled with germs, snot, teething, ear infections, Hand Foot Mouth (Satan’s disease), sinus infections, pollen, eye infections…The list goes on. We have officially been through 5 bottles of tylenol, 5 bottles of motrin, about 8 bottles of nasal sinus rinse, been to the doctor more times then I can count, and we survived! Well as I write this, I just got back from the doctor and 4/6 ears on my triplets are infected again, so kind of survived. haha I will start off by saying that many of you have had it MUCH worse. My babies are overall very healthy babies, and I am beyond grateful so please don’t read this as me complaining. BUT it has been hard. By the end, we gave up on trying to keep the healthy baby (or babies) from getting the sickness and just started trying to infect them from day 1 so that we could have 3 sick babies at one time instead of a sick baby constantly. No matter how hard we tried to quarantine or keep pacifiers, toys, and cups separate, it’s just not possible. Everything goes into their mouths, so it’s just impossible to prevent the spreading of germs.  When Shepherd and Lucy got Hand Foot and Mouth (seriously it was the worst), Oliver was healthy for a day and a half, and we felt bad for a little bit knowing that it was just a matter of time until he succumbed to the terrible sores and fevers that is HFM. There is no way to quarantine him so we just started feeding him after S&L. We pretty much just sped up the inevitable. As sad as that sounds, I would suggest that to any Moms of Multiples out there. When one gets sick, let the others get sick quickly. Make them share spoons or pacifiers. They WILL get each other sick. It is so much easier to have one really hard week, then to have 3 pretty hard weeks. 

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Having sick babies was and is hard in ways that I did not expect. The hardest part of making it through this sick season has been taking care of myself. I started out this blog as a way to process all that God has done in our journey from miscarriage, to infertility, through IVF, and now as we raise our triplets. We have had many unique (or maybe not so unique) experiences, and I hope that we can provide resources to people going through similar circumstances. Throughout this entire journey I have been completely open and honest because Derek and I believe that healing comes through brokenness and that community is truly formed in vulnerability. So in that frame of mind I’m also going to share with you my weakness over the past few months and things that I have been doing to bring peace and healing to those areas.

I have always been a “do it myself” kind of independent person. I love exploring and run everywhere. I rarely do things slowly and am pretty clumsy because I just start moving and end up running into something. I love to be outdoors. I thrive on sunshine, good company, and stretching my muscles. I love to help others and to lead others and talk to others. I am a 2 “The Helper” on the Enneagram Test but tend toward an 8 “The Challenger” in times of stress. Lately, my 8 self has been strong. I have been stressed and anxious. I have had panic attacks. I have been controlling. I have not been eating healthy things. I have not been drinking water. I have been pouring every ounce of me into the kids and some into Derek and friends and mentoring but not much into me. I have spent days and weeks trapped inside on sick weeks with no space to move, fresh air, or people to talk to. The thing about panic attacks is that you stop thinking logically. When I am in a good place, I know that this is a season and that sickness doesn’t last forever. I know deep down that I am doing a good job and that I am not alone. I know logically that the kids will be fine (maybe even better off) if I do an ok job at parenting instead of a “perfect” job. I know that it’s ok to stress. But when I am in the middle of a panic attack, nothing makes sense. I start out by stressing about something that is not a huge deal. Then I get stressed about feeling stressed, and mad at myself for not keeping it together. Then I feel guilty about not keeping it together, which makes me stress more. So I feel guilty about being stressed and then I stress about feeling more guilty. The stress about being stressed is the worst. If the kids are around, then I can pull myself out of the stress cycle quicker, but if I’m alone or just with Derek my mind goes haywire. I get so stressed that I can’t eat, and I forget to drink water, and I just started to snowball. 

In that insane period of about 6 weeks when I didn’t know what day it was or what time of day at any given moment, I had to give up my desire for independence and embrace the beauty community. Derek and I are incredibly blessed with a village that would bring us food or come hold sick babies even if it meant they might get sick. My mom came for an unplanned visit to help clean and let me eat and do laundry. We had people send texts and grubhub (it’s one of our new favorite ways to bless people – food delivered right to your door – There are so many options to choose from!). When you aren’t sure how to help someone struggling regardless of the thing causing the stress, food always helps! Even now that the kids have been healthy for a little while and life has calmed down, I have people offering to bring food, and it is always a huge blessing! We also had people providing wisdom left and right and seriously, even though I felt isolated and trapped, I never was. So many people loved us well. But, I still felt like I was just surviving. 

Finally during Spring Break (first week of April), Derek was home all week and the kids were healthy for an entire week which hadn’t happened since the beginning of January. Together we started brainstorming ways to get me back to my – just stressing a normal amount – self. I needed margin. I needed the kids to start napping. I needed to dream about possibilities of using my brain again. I needed to reach out to all of the women that mentor me and help me process. I needed to have time that was just for me regularly. I needed time to eat and drink water. So, I joined a gym. Not just a gym, but a gym with childcare! Some days, I barely work out and enjoy just sitting in the sauna or in a comfy chair or at the cafe. Some seasons are just seasons of survival. It’s part of life. Sometimes life is just hard and exhausting. When you can take a breath or even before you get there, make sure that you find ways to really take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself looks different for everyone! Some people need to work in the yard, plant flowers, get their hands dirty. Some people need to carve out time each day to sit in the quiet and read a book or listen to a podcast. For me, I needed to use my brain and get some exercise.  In addition to joining the gym, I started tutoring more. It sounds crazy that adding something to my plate made me stress less, but I have loved getting to use my math brain!!

Another thing that Derek and I have both always done is to spend quiet time in the morning. We are both morning people so we also usually get up early everyday. I give myself about an hour before the kids get up to eat, pray, stretch, get dressed and fix my hair. That simple act of getting ready calmly and without rushing actually does help. A lot! It’s often the only meal I eat in peace, and it’s the only meal that I get to eat all of. I usually have to share half of my meals with my 3 beautiful vultures. 

Another thing that I love doing to bring peace and wisdom into my life is that I ask a few women that I admire and love (some my age, some older and full of wisdom) to come hang out with me. I ask them questions about how they handled parenting situations. I listen to their stories and find camaraderie in knowing that I am not crazy or “the only one.” Mostly though I just hang out with them. Having people to mentor you is clutch! Shout out to all of you wonderful women that I admire and cherish (you know who you are!). Thanks for bringing joy and wisdom to my crazy swirly mind 🙂

I have also learned that when someone asks what they can do for me, I actually give them something tangible that they can do. I ask them to bring me food or to come play with kids or to come hold a screaming sick child for me. I have learned that most people who ask if they can do something genuinely want to help. Letting them isn’t easy. I am very independent. I hate not being able to do everything on my own. It physically pains me some days. But in letting others love me and love my kids I have gained so much more. I have also realized that it brings other people joy to help. For starters my babies are seriously cute, so who wouldn’t want to help. haha But for real, when you refuse to let people help, it takes away their ability to bless which isn’t good for you or for them. Letting others serve you is so hard sometimes. We always want to be the ones washing the feet, but sometimes my feet are just too tired, and I need to sit down and let other people in.

What works for me though, may not work for you. The bottom line, take time to figure out what brings you life and find a way to get that into your regular routine. If you don’t know what brings you life, then start searching. Taking care of yourself takes work. It takes time. It takes courage. Asking people to come into your life, your messy life or messy home, is hard. Sometimes it’s plain embarrassing, but it’s what brings life. Im learning to embrace my dependence. 

Top 3 Teething Toys and Top 5 all time Favorite Things That I Never Knew I Needed

A few more lists just for fun! Remember to click on the link in red to find out more info.

Top 3 Favorite Teething toys

#3 Sophie The Giraffe

These are expensive and I was very skeptical. BUT they are the perfect size, have lots of appendages for the kids to grab and hold, and is the perfect texture to chew.

#2 Banana Toothbrush

This was a surprisingly amazing toy. The bristles feel so good on their little gums and the shape makes it so easy to hold!

#1 Ice Rings

Some days these are the only things that help our babies calm down when their teeth hurt. If I go to the freezer for anything, Lucy immediately runs and tries to grab a teething ring before I can close it. They treat them like popsicles.

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Top 5 Favorite Things I Never Knew I Needed

#5 Things to make homemade baby food

I know that most people think it will take too long to make their own baby food, but if we can do it with triplets, so can you. We also bought some form the store so please don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t buy food if that’s what works for you. Just know that if you really want to make it, or need to save money, it is possible! We blended in our ninja blender and then halfway through we got a good immersion blender and it was amazing! We would pour the mixture in these freezer silicone molds. In the morning, we would pull out what we needed for that day and keep the rest frozen. I only made really easy and cheap things and bought the other flavors for variety. We saved a lot of money though by making the easy things. Sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, avocados, and unsweetened applesauce. You can also throw in kale and spinach to any of those very easily. If you want more info let me know.

#4 Amazon Alexa and a good playlist

I never realized how much I would appreciate Alexa. She has become my friend. haha As a stay at home mom, I often only talk to Derek and Alexa on a given day. Derek and I made a bunch of different playlists on spotify and stations on pandora and changing up my music throughout the day always brightens my mood. The kids also look at the echo every time I say Alexa. I wonder if they think she is a real person? I love starting my morning each day with worship music and it is so easy to just tell Alexa to play any music my heart desires 🙂 She also gives me the news each morning and helps me stay connected to the outside world.

#3 Baby Cage

We call it a cage, others call it a play yard 🙂 It is so helpful not just so that I can walk away safely, but when the babies are all in one place it makes it so much easier to get them calm and entertained. I only use the Dupelo blocks and bristle blocks in this play yard so they aren’t all over the house. It keeps certain toys contained to one small area! It is also easy to take apart. I used a few of the pieces to block off my Christmas tree this year and the babies never got to the tree. I used a few of the pieces to block off the stairs and certain rooms when I want to contain them. I also plan on taking it outside this summer to put in the grass!

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#2 Baby Breeza

If you have just one baby, and especially if you breastfeed, then you probably won’t need this. BUT if you have multiples and/or you formula feed, this is a MUST!! I mean a COMPLETE game changer!! In our peak days, we were making 24 bottles a DAY. That is a LOT of bottles. This machine is a keriug for baby bottles. You put the formula powder I the top, water on the side, tell it what amount you want and it dispenses the perfectly mixed and perfectly warm bottle. Also, if you get one, we have tips on how to make it work even better!

#1 Wagon

We got our kids this wagon for Christmas, and it has been so much fun. If it’s too cold or rainy outside to go for a walk, they ask to just get in and be pushed around in the dining room. Some days I will just strap them in the wagon and we sit on the front porch. It’s great because they can put all of their toys in it and play while we walk. The straps keep them locked in tight and safe. We are having a blast with this thing and the fun has just become. It will grow with them for a long time 🙂

Baby toys for ages 15 months and under

This list was fun to make because we really do have a blast with our 3 monkeys. They love to play and laugh!! The teacher in me sets up stations around the house so that they don’t get too bored and fussy. I have different toys in different little corners and rooms and spots throughout the house. Those toys stay in their certain rooms in spots around the house so that we move to a new spot for a new activity which keeps toys from getting lost and keeps them from getting too upset. I only clean up the house once a day. Every night after the kids go to sleep, Derek and I have 30 minutes of no talking clean up time. haha He puts on a podcast and zones out and cleans the dishes and kitchen, while I get 30 minutes where no one is touching me or talking to me, and I quietly put everything where it belongs which is oddly very satisfying. Being touched out and in need of silence is a very real thing in motherhood – especially motherhood x3! Other than that though I let them play hard. I have also come to terms with being ok when people come over and my house is a wreck. Again I only clean up when it’s nighttime, so if you come over in the day time, watch your step! haha I have learned that everyone’s house is a mess and living life in the mess with people is true friendship! Having community is way more important to me than a clean house. 

That said, here are my top 10 favorite toys from this year. I put months that they played (are playing with) them. If it has a “+” that means that they are still currently playing with that toy. Like I said in the last post, if a toy is able to withstand my 3 crazy kids, then it is well made and durable! And we don’t have space for toys that don’t get played with. Another fun fact about our toys and house – Derek and I sell our used toys and baby gear on Facebook Marketplace as soon as our 3 outgrow it. I know that doesn’t work for parents that are planning to have other kids, but as soon as they outgrow it, then put it up in the attic or storage out of the way. We only have current things out. We also put up half of their Christmas toys and are slowly getting them out each month. Ok, now the much anticipated list! Remember that the link is in red, so just click on the name to read more about it!

#10 Bag of Balls (8m+)

We were gifted these with a bouncy castle which is AMAZING! But we actually use the balls for so much more than the bouncy castle. I can put the kids in a small area and dump out some of these balls and it is instant entertainment. We always have at least a couple on hand. I can’t wait to get a cheap blow up pool this summer to put them in while they play outside.

#9 Baby Walkers (5m-10m) and  Learning Farm Push Walker (5m+)

There is a debate about walkers hindering babies from actually walking, but we used the mess out of ours until they started trying to walk on their own. Once they started showing signs of actually walking, we stopped using the walkers and used push toys instead like this learning Farm Push Walker. But for the months before they started walking, they had so much fun in these, and they in no way hindered ours from walking. In fact, they walked right on time if not early which is amazing for preemies. I have so many great memories in these walkers. Plus, this sit and stand learning farm walker can come off of the walker and was one of their favorite toys from an early age.

Side Note: Look at how short Lucy is in these walkers compared to the boys! For a long time the boys would walk everywhere, and Lucy would stay put and watch because she couldn’t reach the floor.

#8 Baby Jumper and Exersaucer (4m-14m)

We have used our baby bouncers so much! We kept thinking it’s time to get rid of them but the kids every would still want to play with them. We got 2 jumperoos and 1 exersaucer. They love both equally. The exersaucer grows with them more but the jumperoo one lets them jump more which they love. Sometimes the only way that we were able to eat was thanks to the 30 minutes of entertainment that these bouncers provided (Not kidding!).

#7 Books with Flaps (10m+)

My kids love all Nosy Crow books! They are interactive and have lots of sound or moving pieces or flaps! Flaps are the best! They take turns lifting it up to find the animals. And we always make the animal noises. They love them equal to Dr. Seuss books. I also have all Dr. Seuss books memorized. haha I was most proud of memorizing Fox in Socks. We read SO many books.

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#6 Fisher Price Kick and Play Piano Mat (3m-1year)

Our kids still sometimes play with this mat. They loved kicking it before they could roll, and it grew with them. We would change out the toys that hang down. Now they still walk over to it and play the piano that flips up.

#5 Play Kitchen (10m+)

As soon as our kids could stand, they have loved to play with their kitchen. They open and close the doors and play with the bowls and spatulas and have so much fun.

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#4 Shape Sorter (1 year+)

I couldn’t find our exact shape sorters (we actually have 3 different ones), but this one is very close! I am a geometry teacher so I am a little partial, but my kids love to push shapes into these shape sorters. They love to pick the right spot and sit for a very long time with me sorting their shapes every day!

#3 Tunnels (10m+)

Our three know exactly how to get out their tunnels and pull them out at least once a day to play. They play hide and seek in them and just crawl through them and giggle the entire time. They fold up so easily and are light so it’s easy to get them out as much as they want.

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#2 Band Instruments (10m+)

Our kids love to play musical instruments. We have a collection of maracas and cymbals and shakers and tambourines. They have so much fun with them!! They march around and think they are so big. They learned how to play the cymbals before learning how to clap. We have 3 sets of maracas, and they just walk around shaking them and dancing every day.

#1 Push and Ride Cars(10m+)

I think our kids learned to walk by pushing around their little Lightning McQueen cars that my mom got from Sams. They still race around the house with them by using them as walkers. They are just now starting to be able to sit on them and actually ride them. They have been so well used already by just pushing them. It’s awesome. Any push and ride car will work, but it is a must for a 1 year old!

Practical Things To Buy For Babies

Derek and I feel like we have a unique experience in reviewing toys and baby gear. Many families have 3 babies but having 3 at one time is rarer and means that we get to see exactly how durable an item is. Plus, if all 3 babies love a toy or item then it is definitely a winner. Furthermore, because there are 3 of them, we don’t have room at our house for toys or things that are bulky or aren’t very useful. I have had many people ask what items or toys our kids have liked so I spent the last couple weeks compiling a few lists. Today I’m posting my top 10 practical items in descending order and will post a top 10 toys, top 3 teething toys, and top 5 things that I never knew I needed – all within the next couple weeks. I also added the link to amazon for each item. Some of them have a couple links. Just click the name in red, and it will send you to Amazon so you can see or read up on the item. Don’t hesitate to ask questions!!

My top 10 favorite practical baby items

#10 Cabinet locks

We needed cabinet locks on every single cabinet in our house since we have 3 little zombies roaming around at all times! These were so easy to install and required NO drilling or tools! We had to get a couple packs so we have multiple magnet keys. We keep them all over the kitchen so you don’t ever have to go far to get one.

#9 Baby Bathtub and Bathtub Kneeler

This tub is a little pricey but someone gifted it to us, and it was AMAZING! It tells the exact temperature of the water so we knew exactly how hot/cold to make the water without stressing. It fit perfectly in our sink and in the tub. It was soft and just really helpful. Once they switched to sitting up in the tub, I would suggest getting one of these pads to keep yours knees from breaking. It makes bathtub way more enjoyable for me.

#8 Take and Toss Sippy Cups

We have tried so many different sippy cups! They can get so expensive too. These are by far the best in my opinion! We love them. Plus, they are cheap! The kids figured out how to use them easily. If they break, it doesn’t matter because they are so cheap. They are so easy to wash, and can be used for milk or water. We also have straw (camelbak style) bottles for water, but you can’t really put milk in those. These little cheap plastic cups are so good for milk AND water. Oh and they don’t leak either! It’s amazing. They also make a straw take and toss cup if you like that better. The only downside of the straw ones is that the kids can pull the straw out which can be messy, and the straw ones are not spill proof.

#7 Dr. Brown Bottles

If you are bottle feeding, find a bottle that works for you and get enough to last one full day. For us that was 24 bottles at our peak. We are now only using one at night before bed! We have always run the dishwasher once a day to clean the bottles (no more, no less). We had a little tub of soapy water that sits in our sink to put dirty bottles to soak in during the day, and at night we put all bottles through the dishwasher. I had heard that Dr. Brown bottles have too many parts to clean, but if you get one of these dishwasher baskets it is not hard at all!

#6 Rock n Play

Our 3 babies had reflux and were preemies so a rock n play was a must. The incline helps them with reflux. The NICU doctors actually suggested it to help with reflux and our pediatrician said it was great too. Plus, since it surrounds the baby on 3 sides it simulates a womblike feeling of comfort. We had all 3 sleeping in our room until month 5 so they fit easily in the room right beside us. When a baby cried, I could just reach over and rock them back to sleep without picking them up. They slept in these until they could roll back to front. We liked the manual rocker so that we could rock them only when they needed it, but some people love the automatic rocker.

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#5 Little Sound Machine

This little sound machine is SO LOUD!! It’s amazing how loud it is. You can travel with it, attach it to the car seat, or just leave it plugged up in the nursery. A good sound machine is a must. When we had 3 sleeping babies in the room next to us it was perfect for blocking out their sleeping noises but let us hear their cries.

#4 Ergo Plus Double Snap and Go Stroller and then Double Umbrella Stroller

We have triplet strollers which are great and very handy but the easiest way to transport 3 babies is to use a double stroller and a baby carrier (when small enough). This was my favorite baby carrier. And this was my favorite stroller when the babies were in their newborn carseats. We had Chicco key fit 30 carseats that fit in this stroller perfectly. We used it to go on walks, even trails, and also pretty much anywhere else we went. Being pregnant with triplets did a number on my back so I needed a carrier with really good back support and this one does! I could put it on all by myself and felt very comfortable with it. When the babies outgrew their newborn carseats, we started using this umbrella stroller and it is fantastic. It has great pockets and folds up fairly small considering. It’s sturdy and durable and has great straps. We now either use a single umbrella stroller if Derek is with me or our wagon (which is in a different list!).

 

 

#3 SwaddleMe Swaddles and Zippadee Zips

Every baby likes different swaddles so experiment until you find one that works because swaddles are the bomb. They helped our babies sleep so MUCH better. There is a reflex called the Moro reflex that causes the baby to feel as if it is free falling. Now that babies have to sleep on their backs they will involuntarily spasm and their arms will reach out for Mom/Dad. When no one is there, this can be scary for them. The swaddle keeps their arms from flinging up when the moro reflex sets in, which helps them sleep better. It’s brilliant. The transition out of the swaddle was the most feared of all transitions in year 1 for us. The zippadee zip was our lifesaver in this transition. We first started having the kids sleep in the zippadee zips for naps and slowly transitioned at night once they were ready (but not too early!). Lucy actually still sleeps in one and it’s so warm and comforting to her. Sometimes when she’s really sleepy, she actually tries to crawl into it on her own.

#2 Frog Chairs

I honestly couldn’t decide which list this one should go in. It is a favorite practical item, a favorite toy, and a favorite thing that I didn’t know that I would need! As I was researching different swings and bouncy chairs for babies, this one caught my attention because it turns into a rocking chair once the baby gets bigger. I had no idea just how much we would use these chairs though! Our babies often took naps in them as tiny babies. Being in the living room with us helped them get used to sleeping in places with more light and some noise. Then, as our babies dealt with reflux they had to rest after eating so each baby sat in their frog chair for 15 minutes after every meal. Now at 14 months, they love to climb in them and rock and think they are such big kids with their own chair. They have held up great!

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#1 IKEA High Chairs

This $20 high chair is the best! It is durable, has a strap for safety, is super easy to clean, and does not take up much space! They are perfect for us! They are so easy to take apart and put together that we will often travel with one or two.

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El Roi – The God who sees me

I’ve said it before, but I will say it again – Derek Wilson is amazing. I am sitting alone at starbucks on a Saturday morning getting ready for a women’s conference at church while he takes the kids most of the weekend. AND for my birthday, I’m getting another Saturday off duty too!!! He sure loves me and loves our kids. Last night at the conference the question that kept hitting me in the face is “What is your biggest fear?” And the answer that kept running around in my head was “Am I seen? Am I known?” Which seems silly considering most days all SLO want to see is me. They want to see me and touch me and tug on me and have me hold them and yell at me and laugh at me.

All.

Day.

Long.

It’s cute and sweet and they love me so much, but man I am touched out. Beyond that though is this fear that the “me” that I used to be has been forgotten and buried beneath a heavy layer of spit up, then another layer of poop, and then some snot and baby food piled on top. I feel like I may never be “me” again. Or is this the new me? If it is, I’m actually pretty good at it with the help of our amazing village. In fact Derek and I have been compiling a list of weird skills that we have acquired as a triplet parent:
I can pour off exactly 10ml of a bottle every time.

I know exactly how much is left in a bottle in the dark.

I can pull up exactly the right dose of medicine (1.6ml zantac, 1.875ml of motrin, and 3.75ml of tylenol, 5ml of amoxicillin) in one quick pull without looking.

I can remove 3 babies from any room in one try. Let me tell you that this is much harder than it sounds. You have to take the first baby fairly far away and put them in a safe place. Then the second baby can’t go as far because baby #1 will be crawling back to said room and will make it if you take baby #2 to where you left baby #1. Then you have to sprint back and place baby #3 just right outside the door and quickly pull it closed. I have this down to a science.

I know how to ultra baby proof a house and can tell you exactly what SLO will get into upon entering any house that is not ours.

During nap time I can hear the first faint cry and know who it is and if I should go get them or let them figure it out.

I can hold baby #1 while changing a dirty diaper on baby #2 with baby #3 pulling my hair.

I can rock one baby to sleep while feeding 2 others a snack.

I can bottle feed 3 babies at one time.

I can make dinner with 3 babies screaming and pulling on me.

I can change a diaper in the dark at lightning speed.

I can change crib sheets and one baby’s pajamas in the dark without waking up the other 2 babies.

I can split a banana into thirds without a knife. It’s actually pretty amazing and totally not messy.

I can open a door and pull a triplet stroller through it. (Automatic doors should be a thing. Everywhere. Or at least at the doctor’s office.)

I have so many schedules and numbers memorized in my head to keep up with who is taking what and eating what and doing what at any given time.

I can mediate a fight between 3 babies that don’t know how to communicate yet.

I can get 3 babies dressed – 3 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 6 socks, 6 shoes, 3 coats and load them all in the car in record timing all by myself.

The list goes on…

Being a mom in general requires skills. I mean mad skills. Being a triplet mom well it’s taken a lot of me. And I like this version of me. I really do. I adore my kids, and I love my life. I love that I get to stay at home (see last post). I love that I’m not just surviving but really living and enjoying life even though it’s crazy. BUT I miss me. I will forever wear the badge of Shepherd, Lucy, and Oliver’s mom with pride. I will shout from a mountain top that I go with them because I am so stinking honored and proud and excited to be their mom. But is that me now? Is that all that I am? When I was teaching, day in and day out, a lot of people saw me. In a lot of ways I got immediate appreciation. I of course had some haters, but overall I felt very validated as a teacher.  Now here I am in motherhood, one of the most under-appreciated jobs. My kids do not tell me how great of a job I did changing that 8th dirty diaper of the day. I don’t get told how impressive it was that I only lost my cool once today while three 1 year olds screamed hysterically for hours on end. Sometimes they really do appreciate me with the cutest smiles and hugs – it’s the best. BUT that is rare.

So I was sitting at this conference pondering how I can be seen and known again, and it hit me!!! God sees me. He always sees me. And He KNOWS me. There is a story in Genesis 16 about a woman named Hagar. She was an Egyptian slave of Abram and Sarai (before they were Abraham and Sarah). God had promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations, but Sarai couldn’t get pregnant. She was struggling with infertility (I feel you girl.) So they both decided to take matters into their own hands and use their slave, Hagar, to start this massive new generation. This sounds weird but it wasn’t that weird back in the day. Picture a creepier, more awkward version of fertility clinics. So faithful Hagar does as she is told and gets pregnant with Ishmael. But of course Sarai gets jealous and sends her away and Abram mistreats her and flat out forgets about her especially after Isaac is born. Hagar is forgotten. She was faithful and then just thrown out with the trash. She is a mother that no one saw and no one knew. So one day she is praying to God (verse 13) and He answers. He heard her and knew her. This is the only place in the Bible where God is called El Roi (the God who sees me). Hagar said,  “You are the God who sees me, I have now seen the One who sees me.” God is El Roi. He sees me. This is huge!! God sees me. Even on the days when I feel most alone and most overwhelmed, God sees me. On the days when all I want to do is walk to the mailbox, God sees me. On the days where my body physically aches from holding babies and cleaning. God sees me. On the days when life is just hard, God sees me.

I have always struggled with an approval addiction. I desperately want people to like me. Here is the thing though, If I truly believe that God is who He says He is, then why am I spending all of this time wondering if people see me, when I should be spending time helping others see and know HIM! This has to be a daily, no hourly, prayer. So today, this morning, I pray, God, El Roi, the God who sees me, be the breathe in my lungs. Use me to make your name known.

Thoughts on being a stay at home mom

I have never had just one baby so I don’t know what it’s like to be a stay at home mom with just one child but life with 3 babies is very busy yet monotonous at the same time. I absolutely love that I am able to stay home this year and know 100% that this was the right decision for our family. I love that I get to see the their firsts (roll, crawl, walk, etc.),  and I love that I get so many sweet snuggles and get to know these little ones so well. I know what makes them smile and which toy is their favorite today (it changes everyday). I know the last time they pooped which is sometimes a rarity in our house. I know which foods they are currently liking, and I know exactly how much of their bottles (or lack of bottle as we transition to sippy cups) they take at each feed. I know their schedule so well that I could do it in my sleep, and some days I do. I love that I get to see their different little personalities come alive during the day. I know that Oliver will smile for pretty much anything and wants to be around people. I know that Shepherd may be the smartest because he is usually the first to learn every new thing, but he is also the most sensitive and needs to be held and calmed down the most. I know exactly how to calm each baby down. I know that Lucy is so independent but also needs special attention. She is so calm and quiet that she is often last and could be easily looked over if I give the boys all the attention that they demand each day so I have to be super intentional to give Lucy cuddles and kisses just because. If I wait till she asks for them, she may never get them but she secretly longs for them. I know that I have to watch out for the boys because Lucy will tackle them out of love, but sometimes it really hurts them. So I have to make sure the boys are safe and that Lucy knows it’s ok to play but not to push. I know each of their cries and usually what the cries mean. I know Oliver’s bored cry, Shepherd’s scared cry, and Lucy’s fix this cry. I know all of their hungry cries and their sleepy cries. I know things about them that Derek doesn’t simply because I spend so much more time with them. I know that if I had one baby then it would be easier to see the details in the shorter spans of time with just 1, but with 3, I love that in my full days with them I get to take my time learning about each one individually. If I had 1 baby, then those different cries and personality traits could be heard/seen in the evenings or mornings or weekends, but with 3 babies, that’s at least 9 different cries! I love that I know these details. I love that they sleep and eat amazingly well in a large part because I am at home with them and keep them on this super specific schedule that day care may not be able to do since keeping 3 kids on the exact same schedule is tricky. Feeding 3 babies at once is not usually on a day care workers resume. haha I know which order they need to eat and be put to sleep to make sure that the schedule is smooth and easy for the day. I love that they haven’t been sick much in this first year (knock on wood) because they aren’t exposed to as many germs. The list goes on…

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BUT man I miss working. I miss adult interaction. I miss using my math brain and teacher skills. I miss how every day is so different in teaching and every class is different. I miss the immediate gratification of knowing I just taught a really good lesson. I miss getting to eat lunch with my teacher friends, or really just getting to eat lunch. I miss teaching with Derek. I miss the retreat and school trips. I miss stretching my brain and writing a really good test ( I know…nerd alert). I miss being asked for advice and getting to know my students beyond just how they are at math. I miss talking to them about Jesus and life. I have wanted to be a mom since I was little, but I have also wanted to be a math teacher since 8th grade. I never changed my major or changed my mind. I have seriously always wanted to teach high school math. Teaching to me was a passion and calling and something that brings me a lot of purpose. Being a mom also gives me purpose and joy, but I feel like I had one of my arms cut off. Or maybe part of my brain. I know a lot of it is the lack of sleep talking, and I know that I do still have opportunities to stretch my brain. With three babies though, I am very busy all day moving them from one thing to the next. We rotate like stations to different areas of the house about every 15-30 minutes. We read books in the chair, play with dolls by the rocking chair, race cars around the kitchen island, look out the doggy door, play by the wagon and front window, play in their pretend kitchen, play in the cage with blocks, play with magnets on the fridge, etc. Then about every couple hours we go to the high chairs to eat. And now just once a day they go to their cribs for naps. I am constantly making sure that when they all 3 crawl (or walk) in different directions that they don’t hurt themselves. haha It is a wonderful circus, and I really do enjoy it. It’s not that its hard. In fact, it’s really not bad which people find hard to believe. The hardest part is that I literally do the same thing over and over again and the monotony makes my brain feel like its rotting away some days. I do things to help myself like listening to the news and reading intellectual books. I make Derek have discussions with me at night about anything we can thing of. I text and call former students and love that I still have a ministry with them and get to stay really connected with their lives. But I usually get to do these things in quick 5 minute bursts in between wiping spit up and changing a poopy diaper.

Maybe it’s the lack of nap time lately speaking. I had to wake up at 5am to write this, because in the last few days once they get up I’m on duty until Derek gets home from work. Nonstop. I’m lucky if I get to pee kind of nonstop. Staying at home is hard. It’s a sacrifice, and I am so thankful that I can financially do this. I really am incredibly blessed to watch my babies grow. After infertility we didn’t know if we would ever have babies in our house and we probably won’t ever have them in our house again. So I am soaking up the baby stage but staying at home all day everyday is really harder than I thought it would be. I really do miss my classroom, ministry, math, the creativity of teaching, and good deep intellectually stimulating conversations.

That said, its also really hard on Derek to not be at home. He is constantly sad about missing something and just misses the kids. He asks for videos and pictures all day because he leaves right as they are waking up and comes home right as they are winding down for the night and not near as happy and playful. He misses a lot. Just like I feel as though I am missing an arm because I am not teaching, Derek feels like he is constantly missing an arm because he isn’t with the kids all day. I know that if I was teaching right now that I would feel the same way. Having multiple passions and loving your job makes this whole parenting thing even more tricky. It’s hard to want to be in 2 places at the same time. It brings up a lot of feelings of guilt and makes it hard to be present. I feel guilty that I don’t find all of my fulfillment in this wonderful world of babies that I have longed for and fought for over the past few years. Derek feels guilty that he is missing so many things with the kids. And if we switched rolls we would still feel guilty.

Learning to deal with the guilt and pressure to make the most out of this season that I find myself in is hard, but rewarding. I’m finding peace in things like my morning cup of tea before the babies get up and our evenings together just me and Derek when the kids go to sleep. I find rest in the short breaks in the day when no one is crying and one or all 3 of the babies come and crawl into my lap for a snuggle. I find joy in watching all 3 learn to play together and interact with me. I find comfort in how well adjusted they have become and the way they love me and others. I find intellectual stimulation in this blog and in talking to former students and friends. Thank you for reading this and for being a support to me this year. This blog has provided a wonderful outlet for me to process my emotions but also to just use my brain. I’m grateful when readers ask me questions or further the discussion because it really does bring some adult intellectual interaction to my day that I so desperately need.

So, today on Ash Wednesday, as I look into this season of Lent and what it means to sacrifice and to be left wanting and waiting for more to come. I am reminded that life and motherhood and staying at home and going to work and just the sacrifices that life demands, well they are all worth it. But it takes intentionality to really believe that truth. It takes discipline and more sacrifice to find the time to sit with Jesus and be still so that He can lavish His truth over you. I invite you to walk through this season of Lent with me. Maybe it’s time to give up a luxury to find time to process guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe it’s time to find fulfillment and purpose in something bigger than even family and work. I know this is true for me. Every morning this week I have written out this phrase: “I am safe. I am loved. May your presence go with me and give me rest.” I pray the same over you today. May you find safety and love not in the fulfillment of work or family but in knowing that Jesus will give you rest.