the terrible twos: can we change the name?

The script is pretty predictable.

Surely I’m not the only person who has had the following conversation with a stranger in Target:

Oh, she’s so cute.

Thank you!

How old is she?

Two.

Oooooh, the terrible twos.

Now, I’m used to people saying unhelpful and/or unnecessary things to me in public, and it usually doesn’t bother me. These conversations are well-intentioned and genuine more often than not. Plus, I’m not one to turn down adult interaction of any kind any more.

This one though? Can we please call “The Terrible Twos” something else?

Why?

Because “The Terrible Twos” implies two things. Neither is true but both are easy to believe.

First, the phrase “terrible twos” suggests that there is a beginning and an end to this first hard stage of toddler-ing. That you just have to make it through this one terrible year and then you’re scot-free! That the terribleness will cease once that third birthday rolls around.

It’s also problematic because it can make you think that the terrible things only happen at age two, and I think the unfortunate side-effect of this one is that it gives some people a false sense of security.

These are the people who, when you tell them your kid is two, respond with an overly dramatic, “Oh, just wait. Three is way worse.”  

Now, I only know as much about parenting as a little over three and a half years can teach you.

(So, very little.)

But I do know something with utmost certainty:

You can’t avoid the terribles.

At least that’s what Jake and I have decided to call them.

organic

The tantrums. The power struggles. The point at which a light bulb turns on in your child’s head, and she realizes she can challenge your authority.

Maybe your kid will start to test your limits exactly at two. Maybe it’s two and a half. Maybe your kid is pushing three and a half and you think you’re in the clear.

You’re not, I’m sorry to say.

The terribles will come for you, too.

BUT (oh, for the love, of course there is a but), the terribles don’t have to beat you.

These kids of ours? The ones who throw 45 minute tantrums because of the color of a dinner plate or rip chunks of hair out of a sibling’s head?

(These are definitely not scenarios which I have witnessed firsthand.)

They have been entrusted to us. They are ours. And, if we don’t love them well, who will?

Plus, I’m also resolved to believe that the terribles will end.

That with consistency and grace and thoughtful correction, we can make it through this stage of parenting (relatively) unscathed.

At least, people tell me this, and I’d like to believe they aren’t lying to me.

But also, we’re starting to see the shiny side of consistency and follow-through with one kid, and it. is. refreshing.

And just in time for another to start toeing the lines of obedience.

The terribles are coming for her too.

And even though I don’t know exactly how long the phase will last and that it likely won’t be over in a single year, I do know that we will come out on the other side better versions of ourselves (especially the toddler).

And that I won’t ever call them “The Terrible Twos” again.

Who’s with me?

thoughts on fiction and reality (and also a giveaway!)

I set a pretty intangible goal for myself in this new year with the whole “pray for hard things to change me” business.

And, while it’s one of the better resolutions I’ve ever set for myself, I also made a tangible one (I love a good SMART goal as much as the next, people).

Read (at least) one book a month.

So far? So good.

Although, I almost didn’t make it because I literally chose the most stressful book of all the books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

I know, I know. I can’t believe I hadn’t already read it either.

love.png

This particular novel is historical fiction, and, in its briefest terms, follows two sisters as they struggle to survive the German occupation of France throughout WWII.

It only took two chapters for me to realize I was going to read the entire thing with bated breath.

You likely know by now that I am a naturally angsty (my second favorite adjective) person. I don’t disconnect wires very well. When I think about something, I also think about how it connects to everything else I am also thinking about.

Anyway, I was telling Jake about the book a few nights ago, and as I tried to convey just how anxious I was about where the story was going, he responded as anyone would expect him to:

“You know it isn’t real, right?”

And I’ve been thinking about that question a lot since.

Of course I know that it isn’t real. The characters were fictional. It was a novel, after all.

But a good novel, I think, blurs that line between fiction and reality. And, you can’t reinvent the human condition. Love and sacrifice and fear? They are real even if a story is not.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love and sacrifice and fear lately. Wondering what exactly my responsibility is in the numerous small-scale and global problems I see or hear about on a daily basis. Feeling vastly insignificant in my desire and ability to incite change. I’m only one person after all.

But my wires crossed while I was reading The Nightingale yesterday.

In the end, fifty years after the end of the war, one of the characters (no spoilers!) remarks:

It strikes me suddenly: These are the families of the men who were saved. Every man saved came home to create a family: more people who owed their lives to a girl and her father and their friends.¹

I think the ripple effect is real, and I honestly hope that someday I get to look back on my life and see how far-reaching each moment was. To especially see the things that felt insignificant at the time and the lasting impact they had for the Kingdom.

To see how love and sacrifice and fear worked together to make a difference.

A large-scale impact can start small after all.

And that’s a reality I hope never to blur.

•••••

Now, here’s something fun: I’d like to give away my copy of The Nightingale. What good is the literary experience if you don’t share it with others?

Also, I’d like this book to wreck somebody else’s life for a few days like it did mine (you’re welcome and I’m sorry in advance).

If you’d like my copy, there are two ways you can let me know:

  1. You can comment on this post.
  2. You can comment on or reply to whatever social media outlet led you to this post.

Whatever route you choose, either type in a few hand-raising emojis OR tell me a good, non-stressful book to read next. Goodness knows my blood pressure can’t take another one like this for awhile.

I’ll put all your names in a hat and make Jake draw one out Friday!

weddings, birthdays & more.png


¹ I altered this quote slightly so as not to spoil one of the plot lines.

you CAN just be whelmed.

I’ve been feeling whelmed lately.

Yes, of course, this is a cultural reference from the late 1900s.

Specifically, it’s a nod to the acclaimed 1999 hit, 10 Things I Hate About You¹ in which high schooler Chastity wonders aloud, “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”

Anyway, Chastity, you can be.

The end.

Oh, sorry. You were hoping for something shorter this time?

I realized it the other day. It was 7:30 and all our kids were in the bed (all the praise hands for that one – we’re getting there when it comes to sleep!).

Jake and I were sitting on the couch, and I was trying to put words to an anxiousness I had been feeling.

And as we talked through it, Jake articulated exactly how I had been feeling: equal parts underwhelmed and overwhelmed.

So, whelmed.

The life of a parent is as such.

It’s underwhelming because every day is exactly the same. The same regimen of wake times and meals and toys and bedtimes and negotiations (while being sprinkled with the periodic play date or library story time, of course). And then the weekend comes–those days of rest you used to live for–and nothing changes. You do it all again.

But it’s also overwhelming, and I feel this at the end of each of these predictable days of preschool transit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I wonder if I’m doing a good enough job. Am I loving them well enough? Am I offering them enough undivided attention? Are they eating too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?

(Answer: Yes, of course they are. Whatever, okay?)

So whelmed, although I will admit this to be my own personal definition, is somewhere in the middle.

grow.jpg

I suspect I’m not the only one to feel this way. To go through my days spinning my wheels a little as I try to balance the enormity that is life with the ordinary, particularly simple things that are present all the same.

The more I think about it though, the more I have decided that my general “whelming” feelings aren’t so bad because they keep me rooted in the things that matter.

On one hand, the place in the middle reminds me to love my people well in the simple and understated moments. To unplug from my distractions and pay attention (which is, unfortunately, easier said than done). To engage with them and listen to them and really be with them.

On the other hand, those moments in which I begin to feel overwhelmed are important too because there is a world outside our home that I will one day send our kids into, and the only people wholly responsible for preparing them to face that world are Jake and me.

I want to feel the weight of that because I want to do it well. I want their love and compassion and kindness someday to be rooted in the eternal. To be saturated with Truth.

Which is something that certainly won’t happen by accident or happenstance.

free (2).png

So, in the end, I guess I don’t really hate feeling whelmed.

Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.


¹ Great news: 10 Things I Hate About You IS ON NETFLIX. (In case anyone was wondering what we’re doing tonight.)

in case anyone else is as tired as i am.

Tired is the new status quo over here.

In the past four months, I can count on one hand the number of times I have slept for longer than two hours at a time before being awoken for one reason (a baby who hasn’t quite figured nighttime sleep out yet) or another (the three-year-old who forgets how to cover herself up with her blanket in the middle of the night).

You might think I’m exaggerating for effect, but Jake can back me up on this one because he sleeps about as well as I do. And, if you need further evidence, you can reference the two pounds of coffee I buy every other week.

I know we’re not the only ones living in a constant state of exhaustion. I also know that the fact that we can attribute this exhaustion to our children is indeed something to be thankful for. Please know that I’m not complaining.

Rather, I’m trying to establish our baseline. It is an indisputable fact that Jake and I are tired pretty much all the time. And it can be frustrating to feel tired all the time.

(Sleep deprivation hardly brings out your best qualities, after all.)

Now, as you might remember, I’m trying to shift my perspective this year. To focus on letting  the hard things change me instead of praying for the hard things to change.

So, in light of that, here’s what God had to say about my current state of exhaustion:

For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.¹

He doesn’t promise me sleep, but He does promise rest for my soul.²

come-to-me-all-who-labor-and-are-heavy-laden-and-i-will-give-you-rest-29-take-my-yoke-upon-you-and-learn-from-me-for-i-am-gentle-and-lowly-in-heart-and-you-will-find-rest-for-your-souls

My physical body may be tired, but my soul doesn’t have to be.

That. That is something of hope when you’re dragging yourself out of bed for the fifth time in the middle of the night. When your alarm goes off two hours earlier than you wish it would. When you just. can’t. catch. up.

There’s hope. Always hope.

And, tonight I feel restored in knowing that exhaustion can’t touch things like joy or peace (to name a few). There is rest for my soul.

So that’s where I’m at. Tired but satisfied. Sleep-deprived but replenished. Exhausted but well-rested.

Wondering if I’ll ever sleep through the night again (of course I know I will. This is the part where I exaggerate for effect.) but also feeling rejuvenated because I’ve been promised a more important rest.

The most important rest.

And hopefully that’s what I’ll remind myself of when I reach for that third cup of coffee tomorrow.


¹ Jeremiah 31:25

² Matthew 11:28-29

new year. new prayer.

I didn’t start 2017 in a particularly good mood.

I usually like to think about fresh, white canvases and blank pages to write a new chapter of our story into on the first of the year.

Instead, I woke up in the thick of post-vacation chaos: suitcases and miscellaneous bags of things strewn all over the living room, piles of mail that needed attention, and kitchen countertops that I think were under the clutter somewhere.

And that’s not to mention the three tiny people in our house who were equally struggling to get back on rhythm.

I had a headache by 9 a.m.

And yet, headache or not (Oh, you thought it would have gone away by now?), the blank page remains. And, it’s not in my nature to ignore it.

It’s so easy for me to get bogged down and frustrated about this phase in my life. And lately, I’ve found myself praying things like, “Please help him sleep,” or “Please calm her down,” or “Please cancel the rest of residency for the year, so Jake can be home all the time to help me.”

And then, this week I was reminded of something I wrote a few months ago about finding value in the hard things.

So, I’ve decided this year, my resolution is to seek change for myself rather than from other people.

When it comes to the sleepless days and sleepless nights (all the coffee over here, people), I’ve decided to start praying for patience and strength and gratefulness that God chose me for these kids.

When it comes to said screaming kids, I’ve decided to start praying for wisdom and that God would help me know our kids, so I can love them well.

When it comes to residency, I’ve decided to keep praying that it would be cancelled because that, at least, seems pretty reasonable.

Solomon asked for wisdom, too. And, as we enter the new year, God’s response to his request gives me hope:

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind.

in-paradise-1

So that’s where I’m at. Standing on the blank page of 2017 and knowing that when I look back on this chapter in a year, I’ll be a wiser, more patient, and better rested version of myself.

(I can still pray for sleep, right?)

Here’s to another year of choosing to live each day well. Who’s with me?

the importance of being known.

I’ve long felt that one of the greatest challenges and responsibilities of being a mom is knowing my kids.

The phrase “I know you better than you know yourself” applies in perfect context to the tiny people who reside under my jurisdiction because I literally do.

I know their triggers. Their buttons. Their tendencies. 

Every time my girls react to something (whether positive or negative, although these conversations usually take place on the corrective side of the spectrum), it’s first my responsibility to figure out what they are feeling for them. Then, I’ve got to teach them the words to those feelings. And finally, I have to help them embrace strategies to deal with and/or or process those feelings.

So many feelings. Jake loves it. 

What a task though, isn’t it? Especially in this phase of discipline and correction and teaching, it feels so crucial to be a constant student of my kids. What makes them happy? What kind of attention are they trying to get from me? What triggers their negative behavior? What drives them crazy? What energizes them?

These are all questions I work to answer on a daily basis.

Maybe I’m thinking about it so much because I read this in a really great book recently:

Children come into the world not knowing who they are. They learn who they are from those around them.¹

As if I wasn’t already feeling enough pressure.

know

It’s funny though, because the more I think about my girls and their own various tendencies and needs, the more I begin to think about my own.

For instance, when I see Lily’s tendency to meltdown if she spends too much time in large groups of people, I am reminded of my own introverted need to spend time alone in order to recharge.

When I see Norah’s sadness when left out by her big sister, I’m reminded of the times when I’ve quietly given way to self-pity.

When I see Lily shut down because she picked up on a negative tone in my voice, I’m reminded of my own keen ability to perceive people’s feelings and even keener ability to let them affect me. 

I guess I’m finding that the better I know myself, the better I am able to know my kids and help them work through our shared personality traits and downfalls. Similarly, it helps to know Jake, too.

(Goodness knows their joint attempts to sneak out of the house weren’t inherited from me.)

The more I think about this, the more I’m reminded of the cyclical nature of being known. I’ll never fully know my kids or Jake just as I will never fully know myself. There’s no arrival point. As the landscape of our life continues to change, so do we.

We’re still in the thick of the hard work of the middle (which I suspect is really just the constant state of parenting), and my commitment to starting these early chapters off right for my girls remains firm.

And with that comes the added commitment to know them well. To continually know them well. Is there really any other place to start when you’re the ones tasked with teaching them to know themselves?

This parenting gig is not for the faint of heart.

Thankfully, I know this about myself: I love a good challenge and find solving problems exhilarating.

(Just kidding. That’s a pretty good description of Jake. I tend to freak when things don’t go according to plan. But at least I know that about myself, right?)


¹ Katherine C. Kersey as quoted in Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

kids and the hard work of the middle.

If you’ve been reading my writing long, this phrase might be familiar to you by now: the hard work of the middle.

It comes from one of my favorite books, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, in which Donald Miller suggests (to over simplify it) that our lives are like a story.

And, more importantly, whether this story I live is a good one is entirely up to me and the choices I make.

As for the hard work of the middle, you can find the larger passage HERE, but, in short, Miller says this:

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined.  The point of a story is never about the ending, remember.  It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle.

I was reminded of this concept again this week during a moment in which Jake and I were paddling especially hard but feeling like our boat wasn’t moving any closer to the shore.

Kids, amiright?

We’re in the thick of the hard work, and we exchange at least one high-five a day because we’re so proud of ourselves for not giving up.

(Also, we just really like high-fives. Big whoop.)

Parenting, I’m realizing, comes with an overwhelming sense of pressure. Because, not only are we trying to write and live the best stories we can for ourselves through the murky waters of the middle, we’re also charged with penning the opening chapters of our kids’ lives.

Eventually they will take the pen into their own hands, but for now, it’s almost entirely up to us.

The words we speak to them. The attention we offer them. The expectations we set for them.

These are the days which set the course for all the ones to follow.

girls-fenceThey won’t remember these years with the detail I know Jake and I will, but the importance of the foundation we set for them now is not lost on me.

Parenting toddlers can be defeating. So many nights I’m left dwelling on the things I shouldn’t have said, the ways I mismanaged situations, or the issues I haven’t yet been able to solve.

And, while I believe Jake and I are doing a pretty good job at this whole parenting gig (high-ten for good measure), I also know that we do fail on a daily basis.

Oh the things I already wish I could erase from their books.

But there’s hope. There’s always hope when you look in the right places, and I’m reminded today of these words from Psalm 73:

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Thankfully, my kids don’t have to rely on my strength alone when it comes to these early chapters.

They will certainly see our flaws and failures as we walk through our respective narratives, but I can only hope that through those moments, they also see the promised strength of God and His renewed mercies each day.

And that’s worth an infinite number of high-fives, if you ask me.

remember-the-lord-who-is-great-and-awesome-and-fight-for-your-brothers-your-sons-your-daughters-your-wives-and-your-homes

the things fall teaches.

I am a student of the seasons.

Fall especially. There is just something deeply metaphorical about the transition from summer to winter–life shedding its dead and making room for eventual regrowth.

So, I’ve been breathing in the crisp air and listening a little more closely to the acorns as they fall from their branches and crunch beneath my feet all the while wondering what new thing fall has to teach me this year.

fall3I welcomed this particular fall from a hospital room as Sawyer’s first full 24 hours of life landed squarely on the Autumnal Equinox. It was fitting and good for my soul; a new season ushered in a new season.

This has been longest fall I can remember. Many of the trees here have retained their vibrancy (even despite a little rain which you might remember disrupted a baseball game not long ago…) and many others have yet to change at all.

Even so, I’m reminded that it won’t last.

The beauty of fall has to transition into the barrenness of winter.

It must change.

That’s usually what I think about during fall. The implications of change and “letting go” in my own life.

But this year I realized that something has to stay the same.

This season of my own life feels a little upended–a limbo of sorts. Much like fall, we’re in process. We’re letting go of the old way of doing things and making room for the new.

(You know, just the natural order when a baby arrives and shakes everything up for a time.)

And yet, I am sure of this: that He who began a good work in me will bring it to completion¹.

Because He is the vine and I am the branch. To abide in Him is to bear much fruit².

I am the vine.pngThe tree stays the same. It remains the constant throughout each season while the branches let go of the dead and make room for the new growth.

I’ve come to learn during each season of my life that change is good and necessary.

But even better is being tethered to something (Someone) life-sustaining during each of those seasons.

And so, I feel okay about the rain that has moved back in. It promises to steal some of our fall vibrancy and usher in the cooler (more seasonably appropriate) temperatures.

Through it all, I know that the important things remain and will give life to all the seasons to come.

fall4


¹ Philippians 1:6

² John 15:5

the beauty of the village.

I officially went back to work full time today. As I type this, I’m 7 hours into my 11 hour shift and, so far, feeling pretty good about my stats.

I got 100% of my kids fed, dressed, and out the door this morning by 8:10 for preschool drop off. Then, this afternoon, I got 100% of them home, fed, and down for their afternoon naps. (Although, my numbers look more like 66% if you want to look at the exact number who are willing sleep in their respective beds.)

Additionally, we’ve only had 2.5 toddler meltdowns, 1 pair of pants peed through, and 1 smashed tupperware container (which found itself too close to an angry foot during one of the aforementioned meltdowns).

Things are going remarkably well.

img_7016

Before Sawyer was born, I got a mixed bag of reviews as to how hard it was going to be. Some warned me that going from two to three kids was the hardest transition of any, while others suggested that it was really no big deal.

The answer according to my one month of experience with three? Bringing a new baby home is hard regardless of all outside circumstances.

You can sugar coat it with phrases like, “I’m just soaking in all those newborn snuggles¹” or “I wish they would stay this small forever²,” but it’s still hard. It takes time to catch your bearings–to find yourself again.

And I’m filled to the brim with gratefulness that I didn’t have to regain my balance alone. That I have had a village of people around us, near and far, willing to offer support and generosity and encouragement.

For the last four weeks, our refrigerator has been overflowing with meals we did not buy or make. A few of those meals even came from people I had never met before they showed up on my doorstep with arms full (a story for another day, I suppose).

And then there are the postal deliveries. The cards and packages that show up on your front step unannounced, reminding you that someone, somewhere is thinking of you. A village that transcends zip codes is a beautiful thing.

And there are also the prayers. The people, who I know, have been silently interceding for us. We felt, and continue to feel, the answers to those prayers.

And if that’s not enough, then you have the people who are willing to live in your house for weeks at a time and do all the things you shouldn’t have to do when you stay at someone else’s house–wake up early, clean bathrooms, do laundry. Between my mom and Jake’s parents, our house was the cleanest it’s ever been.

It’s not anymore, of course. But it was.

img_7023

I have been reminded throughout this past month of the beauty of the village and the ridiculousness of the notion that we could do this child rearing thing alone.

I don’t have any particularly deep thoughts on the matter. Rather, as I look back on the complete upheaval our life has undergone in the last four weeks, I mostly just feel grateful.

I feel the village.

My stats aren’t always going to stay this high. I narrowly escaped a meltdown this morning that would have been equal to 3 normal toddler tantrums. I won’t always be so lucky.

But I will always have the village. Near or far, I’m thankful God has placed so many supportive people in my corner.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got an afternoon of meetings to attend to. As I understand it, The Land of Make Believe is voting on some new playground equipment and my own two toddlers are going to have prepared some snack time proposals.

It’s a good gig, this one.


¹ See: My kid makes me hold him all night, and I’ll go crazy if I don’t find some silver lining. (Thankfully, we’re on the other side of this one.)

² See: I’m actually kind of ready for month two.

the one where I turned thirty.

I have arrived, and it feels good.

Now, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’ve been thinking about turning thirty since right around the time I turned twenty-nine. I like to really gear up for things, you know?

But as this particular birthday approached, I found myself more drawn to reflecting on the past than setting plans or goals for the future.

Can there be a more transformative decade than the twenties? (I have no way of knowing the answer to this question.)

I turned twenty about a month after Jake and I started dating. A year later, we got engaged, and a year after that, we had graduated college and were living the newlywed life. I started my “career” as a teacher at 24, had a couple of babies by 28, and had moved across the country to a city of champions by 29 (Jake and I like to take credit for all the various successes in Cleveland since our arrival).

I often ask people when I will start to feel like an adult, but in looking back, I see that it happened slowly over time. I was just a kid when I stepped foot into my twenties, and then each year shaped me or refined me or challenged me in some way. I walk into this new decade a completely different version of that doe-eyed college student who thought the end game was predictability and a white-picket fence.

My twenties changed me for the better, so I processed them the only way I really know how: I wrote about them.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-2-06-12-pm

I thought about each year of my twenties and tried to pinpoint what exactly it taught me. And what I found as I combed through each year of the past decade, is that God has taught me things all across my twenties which have perfectly prepared me for where I am today. Equipped me to continue to take steps forward even if I’m not entirely sure where the road ahead leads.

So, if you’re interested in all those thoughts, you’re welcome click the link below where you will find a PDF file–a compilation of essays I wrote in reflection of what each year of my twenties taught me: 

thirty-ten-things-i-learned-during-my-twenties

It is nothing out of the ordinary. The writing doesn’t contain any real tragedy or nail-biting cliffhangers (unless you’re particularly riveted by things like marriage or car trips across the country).

But I’ve come to decide that even the ordinary needs to be celebrated and acknowledged. It is real, and it gets us to where we are today. And, for me at least, that felt worth writing about.

So, here’s to thirty and all it has in store for me. For us. I like it already.