When your daily activities are in concert with your highest priorities, you have a credible claim to inner peace. – Hyrum Smith


My Sweetie

My Maddie girl just captures my heart...

All Better
I have been pre-training for my marathon training.  I am wayyy out of shape.  Even when I'm in shape, I have a very high heart rate when I run.  It's usually around 180.  I have a healthy glow long after I've stepped off the treadmill [read: I look like I'm about to die for a good half hour].  The other day, I finished my run and rushed home from the gym so Aaron could leave for an appointment.  I had no time during which to cool down.  When I arrived, the kids looked up, alarmed.  "Mommy!  What's wrong?" Maddie demanded, concern furrowing her little brow.  I smiled and huff and puffed, "Mommy's okay.  I just went for a run.  I just need to cool down."  As I sat to stretch on the floor, Maddie walked over and took my face in her tiny hands.  With eyes halfway shut, she gently kissed my cheek, forehead, other cheek and lips.  "All better?" she asked.  More than better.  Perfect!

Forever and Good
The kids love absolutes.  I think it helps them make sense of the world.  No, the ladybug will not come back to life; she is dead forever.  Permanent marker on clothes will be there for good.  Daddy will always come home from work. 
The kids like to combine phrases at times, and when they want to emphasize the finality of something, they will often say "forever and good."  For example, today Maddie told Parker he could have her Barbie doll "forever and good."  Parker declined.  Then Maddie extended the ultimate olive branch: "I want to watch whatever Buddy wants to watch for my show [cartoon]."  What a sweetie!

Awesome Christmas
We made iced sugar cookies today.  I allowed the kids to choose their own and decorate them.  What masterpieces they created!  Icing, sprinkles, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, sprees, you name it.  As Maddie sat, happily licking her fingers, she sighed contentedly, "This is a great Cwismas, is it Buddy?"  Parker responded, "It's awesome." 
"Yeah, this is an awthum Cwismas."


All for me

I totally had an epiphany tonight!  I was driving in the rain and listening to the radio when a beautiful song came on.  It's called How Many Kings by Downhere.  I've heard it many times before and been moved by the beauty of the singing and the lyrics.  I was singing along and came to the part where they sing about how Christ died "all for me [and] all for you." 

I caught myself thinking, 'Wouldn't it be nice if that that were true.'  I have always struggled with the concept that Christ died for me.  I've always been more comfortable with the idea that he died for us [the whole world].  I mean, why on earth would he be willing to endure such torture and ultimately sacrifice Himself if it were simply to save little old me?  Sure, I've read the parable of the lost sheep.  I have the head knowledge that he'd leave the other 99 to come save me, but in my heart, I've always doubted.  It just didn't make sense to me. 

As the song played on, a story I'd seen on TV popped into my head.  It was about a mother who used her body to shield her two children when a tornado ripped through their home.  The ceiling was literally falling on her and breaking her back (leading to permanent paralysis in her legs) as she selflessly covered her children.  I am sure the thought ran through her head that she might die.  I mentally put myself in her shoes and knew in an instant I would not have hesitated to shield my children, even if it meant I had to bear excruciating pain and possible death.

Then my thoughts drifted a bit further.  What if I only had one child to shield?  Would I make the same sacrifice?  What a no-brainer!  Of course I would.  Each of my children is equally precious to me.  I would die for one or all, it wouldn't matter. 

I finally got it!  Christ died just for me...and just for you.  I am so excited that it finally makes sense to both my head and my heart!  I love how the gift of parenthood keeps on giving and giving.  I'm not sure I would have grasped this concept without it (though many Christians obviously can and do).

I am especially excited because now I can explain it to my kids with confidence.  It is my sincere hope that one day they, too, will understand this truth and positively revel in Christ's amazing love!

P.S.  Here is a link to the show about the mom who saved her kids...


Gladdest Day

Today was a great day. 

It didn't start out that way.  It started out with me snapping at the kids as I hurriedly tidied the house before a play date.  You read that right, before a play date.  [How dumb is that?]  The toys and clothes were put away.  I desperately needed to sweep (and use a Clorox wipe to scrub off rogue spit-up drops that managed to escape my attention and dry like cement on the floors).  I contemplated taking pictures of my full [nasty] dustpans.  Somehow I felt like I needed proof of just how bad it was.  I wanted all those people who say, "Oh, just leave it!" to look at those pictures and tell me if they would be comfortable leaving it on their floors.  I'm talking spaghetti noodles from last night's dinner, broken crayons, stickers, human hair, cat hair, dirt, tricky little dried peas (from who knows when), sticks, dried bits of play dough, etc.  Nasty.

Parker and Maddie wanted to play...with toys we'd just put away.  I just wanted them out. of. my. way.  Nice, huh? 

The guests arrived, and a wonderful time was had by all. 

Not long after our friends had left it was "quiet time."  By some miracle, all three kids were in their rooms at the same time.  I knew I had a good hour to catch some z's.  But I couldn't.  I tossed and turned.  Something my friend said during the play date played over and over in my mind.  She said she loved reading my blog because it reminded her of just how precious this time [with our children while they are little] really is. 

As I lay in my bed, I was overcome.  Precious = valuable.  What do I value?  A clean house?  That's pride.  Time with my children, now that is valuable, to be cherished, not squandered.  I am certain some readers are sick and tired of reading about this revelation.  I know I am.  Shouldn't true revelation inspire revolution?  Where is the change? 

I jumped down off the bed.  Lying face down on the floor I reached out to God.  I prayed for humility.  Here I was again.  Treating the priceless gifts that He has literally placed in my hands with disdain and annoyance.  I begged for forgiveness...for some true and lasting change in my heart. 

An old sermon I'd heard years ago tickled my brain.  Something about repentance and turning your behavior around.  As I was writing this blog, I did a little research.  Did you know there are actually about four different words in the original Bible texts that have all been translated into the word "repent" or "repentance" in modern translations?  One means to regret or feel sorry (been there, done that).  But one means "turn."  Basically, it means don't just feel badly and say sorry; quite literally turn your behavior around.  Repentance is an action.

I couldn't wait to get off that floor.  I ran upstairs and hugged my babies (the older ones, anyway; I haven't had enough time to really mess things up with Jack yet).  They were confused but happy.  "Is quiet time over already?"  I was grinning and crying.  "It is today."

We went downstairs and began work on some "ordaments," as Maddie calls them.  Flour and salt flew everywhere.  Dough dropped on the floor.  Mushy ornaments were torn.  With each perceived infraction, two little heads whipped around to gauge my reaction.  I didn't even have to fake it.  I shrugged and laughed, dismissing it with an "It happens." 

Love and warmth and kindness filled our kitchen.  I watched in amazement as my two (typically territorial) children shared.  Maddie climbed atop the stool and immediately scooted to one side.  "Here, Buddy.  Here's a place for you."  "Do you want this cutter, Maddie?"  They squished dough balls and traded cookie cutters for the better part of an hour.  When we were finished, the counter was lined with stockings, gingerbread men, candy canes, and hand prints.  They were beautiful.

With a huge smile on his face, Parker sighed, "This is the gladdest day ever."  I couldn't agree more. 

Tomorrow is another play date.  Remember the mom with the white socks [see previous post: I saw your socks, and I'm sorry]?  They are coming.  My floors are a mess again tonight.  Maybe I'll see if the kids want to play with the dustbuster and suck up some crumbs tomorrow.  Maybe I won't.  What I do know is that with God's help, I will set my pride aside, and tomorrow can be the gladdest day ever, too. 



I often wonder what professions the kids will choose when they grow up.  I thought I had Parker pegged.  He is a real dare-devil.  He likes to climb to the tops of trees, do "tricks" on his bike (which still has training wheels on it, mind you), walk across the tops of monkey bars, etc.  He always tells me not to worry, because he is a "professional."  Yeah.

Given his interests and coordination, I daydream about his future as a snowboarder, gymnast, and so on.  However, the other day, I decided perhaps I had pigeon-holed him and needed to reconsider his options...

With Jack on my hip I entered Parker's room and encouraged him to change his clothes so we could go out.  He was wearing his favorite [ratty] orange shorts.  He knows that he must change into pants when we go out, given the fact that it is fall (and thank goodness, too cold to wear those grimy things outdoors). 

Parker dropped the shorts, revealing the fact he decided to go "komodo" [commando] today.  He began to dance around, naked.  He was very amused at his, er, anatomy.

"Hey mom!" he exclaimed, "How 'bout you tell Jack one day when he grows up, he'll have big private parts like this."  [More gyrations]  Clearly this child does not have a confidence problem.

I quickly turned away to shield Jack from the display.  Aw, who am I kidding?  Jack is 3 months old.  He doesn't have a clue.  I turned away so Parker wouldn't see me cracking up.

Stifling a chuckle, I repeated, "Yeah Jack, one day you'll have big private parts, too."

Parker prattled on happily to himself as he pulled up his underwear, "Yeah, and everyone will say, 'Wow!  Look at those big private parts!"

Who is everyone and why are they all admiring his private parts? I wondered to myself.  That's when it hit me.  The career option I had ignored thus far: adult entertainer.  His dad will be so proud... 



It has been an exciting time in our house. I have been so inspired by things I have seen on the web that I have tried lots of new activities with the kids.  (So many, in fact, I fear they may begin to expect crafty entertainment on a regular basis.)

Keep in mind that I am very frugal [cheap] and creatively challenged [only capable of stealing and replicating good ideas, not creating them]. I believe the best ideas are fun for both the child and the parent. In order for me to enjoy myself, the activity usually has to be easy to set up, easy to clean up, very engaging [they should be interested for a good 20-30 minutes], and cheap.

Here are some pictures of our recent undertakings:

I LOVE this project. It could not have been easier. I think I found it on Pinterest: Put paint in a bag. Tape it to the window. Let them smear it around. (I also gave them q-tips so they could write letters or draw pictures - another Pinterest idea.)

This was fun for a rainy day.  The kids wanted to play outside.  I wanted to stay in.  This way they could get some energy out and have a neat sensory experience at the same time.  (Idea courtesy of playathomemom3.blogspot.com)  They loved the fact that I let them throw the balloons at each other and splash as much as they wanted!

The water in tub was warm; the water in balloons was cold.
Demolition is always the best part!
Water, water everywhere!
We tried this one today. We made our own Mission Impossible obstacle course out of streamers. What an inexpensive, simple way to have fun and work on motor skills! Parker loved the idea that he was dodging laser beams.  (Idea found on Pinterest.)

Creating the chaos...

Careful now! 

Time to tear it down...almost as much fun as setting it up!

I just hope I can find more activities for the long winter months ahead!



Parker loves rocks.  He has a massive "collection" that lives on our back porch.  It was inside, but due to his tendency to spread it all over the floor and our habit of walking in bare feet, it was banished to the porch.

Still, it's not unusual for me to find strays littering the floors of our home from time to time (especially after an outing at a park).  So, today when I went to wake Parker from his nap, I was not surprised to see a smooth, oblong, slightly cracked object on his carpet.  I tilted my head and nudged it with my toe.  "Is that a ro--" I started to ask.  My eyes traveled a bit farther.  More "rocks."

Oh. No.  In case you haven't guessed by now, it wasn't a rock.  At least, not one that came from the ground.  Ughhh! 

Parker was groggy.  "What is it mommy?"

"It's poop."

I immediately turned my attention to Maddie.  She is, after all, the child who tends to relieve herself in inappropriate places. (See previous posts: It's all fun and games; Poop in the tub II, etc.) I went to her room, and waking her as gently as possible, I asked in the sweetest tone I could muster, "Maddie, did you poop in Buddy's room?"  She stared at me blankly, cocked her head (as if sincerely searching her little memory banks), and answered plainly, "No."  Hmmm...Maddie generally owned up to this sort of thing.

"Well, someone pooped on his floor.  I want you to come in and take a look and make sure it's not yours." [Yeah, because looking at it would make all the difference.  I'm sure she'd be able to determine if it was hers or his by staring at it.  Idiot!]

She followed me into his room, dutifully examined the poo, and shook her head.  "Nope."

I started to chuckle and shake my head.  The kids looked at me as if I were crazy.  It was like they were waiting for their normal [read: angry] mommy to appear and begin ranting.  I mentally debated the pros and cons of just cleaning up the mess and going on about our business.  In the end, I decided it would drive me crazy if I didn't know.

I began to pace the floor and lay out the facts like I'd seen lawyers on TV do so many times:
"There is poop on the floor.
Parker, you say you didn't do it.
Maddie, you say you didn't do it.
I didn't do it.  Jack didn't do it. And Daddy didn't do it.
Maddie, you were playing in Parker's room before quiet time.
Parker, no one has been in here but you since quiet time started..."

Parker interrupted my musings: "Mommy, I need to change my shorts.  These are all sweaty from my nap."

I took a closer look at his navy shorts.  They were soaked.  When he handed them to me, I smelled them.  "Honey, you peed in your pants." 

"No I didn't!" he insisted, insulted.

"Come here and bend over for a second."  Aha!  A chuckle escaped my lips.  The kids were very confused.  I was strangely satisfied, peaceful almost.  My detective work paid off. 

Parker has been under the weather for a few days and has been taking naps again (during which he sleeps like the dead).  Today, when I checked on him, he had set up his blankets and pillow on the floor.  Sometime during his nap, he had moved to his bed (leaving the trail of...evidence).  He didn't even realize he had an accident.  Poor guy!

He looked confused and upset.  "It was you, honey.  You didn't know it.  It's okay."
He burst into tears. 

He was consoled by an episode of his favorite Godzilla cartoon while I sanitized the floor.  All in a day's work!


Maddie girl

That's what I call her...My Maddie Girl.  She is my baby girl, and she just blew out three candles on her pink and purple pony cake.  Three.  This ain't my first rodeo.  I know how it works.  I know that the days are long and the years are short.  I know that cooing and gurgling gives way to little broken sentences all too quickly.  I know that with each birthday my children celebrate I am always left shaking my head, misty-eyed, wondering where the time has gone. 

Still, it takes me by surprise.  Takes my breath away.  I was thinking about it the other day.  That Beatles song "She's Leaving Home" popped into my head and I was reduced to a sniveling mess. 

She's Leaving Home by the Beatles (in case you've never heard it)

So often when I watch Maddie play or dance or sing, I find myself staring into space, unintentionally pressing the mental fast forward button...Suddenly I am waving goodbye as she steps on the school bus, trying not to chew my nails when she takes the car for a spin by herself, videoing her graduation, helping pack the car for college, fixing her veil on her wedding day....  Okay, okay, I know.  She's three.  I sound psychotic.  But if you only realized how quickly the last three years sped by, it's not much of a stretch to imagine the next 30 zooming past at lightening speed.

I'll have 18 short years to really be with Maddie - to love her, teach her, guide her and watch her grow.  Well, 15 now.  I think one of the scariest things about parenthood is that nagging fear that you will somehow miss the mark.  You won't get it right.  You will not adequately instill important values and virtues and therefore will somehow damage your child.  In the hopes of sparing them discomfort or pain, you will push your own "perfect" agenda [see cookie-cutter life I have planned for Maddie above] and push him or her away.

A dear friend of mine often says his [adult] son grew into a wonderful man in spite of his parenting.  I love that line.  I know that in many ways, I need to just step back and let Maddie grow into Maddie. 

So, I will take a deep breath and try to live in the moment with her.  We'll take one day at a time.  I will enjoy her twirling and whirling and singing and best of all, her kisses.  I will try to stand back and get out of her way (which is probably the safest move anyway since she has all the grace of SNL's Mary Katherine Gallagher).   

Picture of SNL's Mary Katherine Gallagher
Picture of Maddie at her first dance class.  Notice the teacher's arm position versus Maddie's...

I can also take great comfort in the fact that I am not the architect of Maddie's life (thank goodness!).  That's already been taken care of by the greatest Planner of them all. 

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

I will love her and do my best to guide her and revel in the fact that I am the lucky one who gets to be called my Maddie Girl's momma.  I'm the lucky one who gets to watch her grow...and I look forward to doing just that.  Happy birthday, sweetheart.

Maddie singing her favorite song


Bad words

Everyone was finally loaded in the van.  Cooler with lunches for everyone (including Daddy who would meet us later), check.  Manual breast pump with bottle (in case I had to feed Jack on the go), check.  Sunscreen (in case it's sunny), jackets (in case it's not), cell phone, camera, and partridge in a pear tree, check.

It was 9:30.  Everyone had gotten dressed, gone potty, and Maddie even let me brush her hair (miracle of miracles).  We'd make it to the doctor on time for Jack's two month check-up, feed him, and even if they were running behind (because they always are) we'd still arrive at the pumpkin farm on time for Parker's preschool field trip.  Whew!  I allowed myself to exhale.

My zen moment was interrupted by a tiny voice from the backseat:  "Mommy, you said [insert bad word]."

My eyes shot open wide.  "What?!"

Parker: Mommy, you said [bad word].

Me: [genuinely confused] When!?

Parker:  As we were leaving the house.  You said it.  You said [bad wo-]

Me: Okay!  Okay.  I really don't remember saying that, but if you say so, I probably did.  Mommy is so sorry.  I should never say words like that.  I was very rushed, but that doesn't make it okay--

Maddie: (chiming in)  Noooo.  We don't say [bad word].

Me: [getting flustered] Okay!  Okay guys.  You're right.  We don't say that.  I'm very sorry.

Visions of Parker relaying the story to his innocent preschool playmates while they jumped from bales of hay as judgmental teachers and parents looked on filled my brain.  Time for damage control.

Me: Parker, I know Mommy shouldn't have said that bad word, and I'm very, very sorry I said it [understatement].  I need you not to repeat it anymore, okay?  Don't tell your friends--

Parker: But...

You see, Parker has found the bad-word tattle-tale loophole, and he loves it.  I can't tell you how many times he has come home from school with a story about so-and-so who said "fart" or "poop" or some other forbidden word.  He delights in relaying the offense, as it gives him the opportunity to use the word himself.

Me: If you need to tell someone, tell Daddy.  Just don't repeat the word I said.  Just say, 'Mommy said a bad word,' and I can tell him what it was, okay?

Parker:  [grudgingly] Okay.



Maddie's smile

You know what they say about Helen of Troy...how her face launched a thousand ships?
Well, I know I'm biased, but I believe the same could be said about my daughter.  Her smile lights up my life

And if you think her smile is amazing [if you don't, I don't want to know], you should try one of her hugs.  Soft, surprisingly strong arms around your neck, her face buried in your hair.  Maddie's hugs often end with a kiss.  She doesn't grasp the concept of a kiss on the cheek.  If you attempt that, she'll grab your face with both of her little hands, hold it steady, and plant a tiny kiss on your lips.  What could be sweeter?   

Maddie is her own person.  Opinionated, obstinate, exuberant, flamboyant...  Who knew so much drama could reside in such a little body?  Winning her favor is like winning the lottery...odds are you won't, but if you do, you are on top of the world.  I shake my head just thinking about her.  How I love that little girl!


Several days ago two inmates escaped from a correctional facility in Lexington.  They were last spotted near Louisville.  More specifically, they were very near Grammy and Pawpaw's house (a fairly remote and wooded area).  Grammy called to warn me not to stop by with the kids.

How exciting!  Parker is constantly asking me to tell him stories about bad guys, jail, escapes, arrests, etc.  I couldn't wait to tell him!  I know this probably sounds awful or bizarre to some people.  However, if you really knew Parker, you would realize this real-life story was about the best thing since sliced bread. 

I was able to spin it in such a way that he would realize we were not in any danger.  It was pure excitement.  I finished by saying the police might need some help catching these crooks.

His eyes were as wide as saucers.  A grin played on his lips.  "Oh!  Hold on!" he exclaimed.  He took off like a shot and headed for the basement playroom.  When he emerged, he was a sight!

Shin guards on his legs, a quiver holding an arrow (with no tip), a bow, two flexible wooden train track pieces dangling from his shoulders, and his favorite "flag" socks with stars and stripes [very patriotic].  After I took his picture he added a plastic headset with earphones and a microphone (so he could remain in contact with the police).

He quickly explained that he would shoot the bad guys' tires, rush in, tie up their feet with the train tracks, and call the police for backup.  Good plan.  He insisted we call Grammy and get details.  "What kind of getaway car were they driving?"  After learning it was long and black, we went outside to scope out his hiding spot.  He settled on the screened in porch and set up a plastic tub as a shield.  Then he decided he needed a more thorough command center.  Soon our back porch was littered with rocks, plastic swords, a Thomas the Train pop-up tent, a plastic Jack-o-lantern he named Lancy, and other essentials.  He sat and scanned the traffic [about 1 car every 5 minutes] for over half an hour.  Every few minutes, I would get a status report: "I saw a car, but it wasn't black, Mommy."  "I saw a black car, but it wasn't long."  "I saw a red car." 

We took a break to go to Costco to buy diapers for Jack.  Parker was pretty sure the crooks were inside the store.  He took all of his gear, just in case.  He told anyone who would listen about his important mission.  Then he decided the entire store might just be a trap set for us by the bad guys.  Convinced they were in cahoots with the employees, he eyed the workers suspiciously.  We barely escaped. 

Back at home, the scouting continued.  Parker explained he would really like a medal from the police (if he caught the bad guys).  I pondered aloud that they might already be in custody.  He looked so disappointed. 

"Oh...But Honey, they might just give you a medal anyway."

He glanced up at me, unsure.

"Yeah!  You know, most people aren't nearly as brave as you are.  Most people, if they found out some bad guys were in their neighborhood, well, they would just hide inside and lock their doors.  But not you!  Look how brave you are!  You are out here with all of your weapons and traps trying to catch them!  I bet if the police found out about how you tried to help, they would award you a medal of honor for your bravery."

Parker beamed.  "Can you call them right now and tell them?"

Um..."Well, let's give it some time to make sure they've actually caught the crooks."  I thought about how I could get out of this one.  "Honey, even if the police don't give you a medal, I will give you one.  I know you are really brave."

"Yes I am, Mommy!"

Time to head to the craft store...


Best times

Note:If this post seems oddly out of order that's because it is.  I started writing it over a week ago, then life (and other blog posts) happened.  Just wanted everyone to know it's not all doom and gloom in the Rausch household...

I have really been enjoying having three kids.  I am actually pretty surprised by my own positive attitude.  I'm not trying to brag.  It's taken me a long, long time to adjust to motherhood.  It has been a slow, less than graceful process.  Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time would know that!

Tonight I was thinking about the parts of my day that I enjoy the most.  I was surprised to realize that the time I tend to treasure the most is the time I am able to spend with each child individually.  I absolutely love the late evening hours.  Parker and Maddie are tucked into bed, and I can give Jack my undivided attention.  After he eats, he takes a leisurely bath.  He loves the water (so much so, that he has fallen asleep during his bath at times).  He will stare at me wide-eyed while I pour water on his little belly and sing lullabies.   I lay him on our bed and gently dry his tiny arms and legs.  We have entire conversations in coos and gurgles.  I kiss his squishy cheeks, and he rewards me with an enormous toothless grin.  After wrapping him up in soft pajamas, we play on his mat in the living room.  He has some "tummy-time." With eyes as big as saucers and raised eyebrows, he seems to surprise even himself with his upper body strength.  I cheer him on as if he were an Olympic athlete.  When I notice his brow begin to furrow in frustration, I scoop him into my arms and cuddle with him.  Finally, he is swaddled and carried up to his crib, where after a few brief cries, he drifts off to sleep.  He is amazing!

Tummy time!

Then I have time to think back on the rest of my day.  I adored my "special time" with Maddie today.  While Parker was at preschool and Jack was napping, Maddie and I just played.  We ate play food in the basement playroom.  She served the food and was quite bossy.  "No, Mommy!  Don't eat yet!  We have pway!  Gah is gweat.  Gah is good.  Wet us thank him for our food.  By his han we are fed.  Give us, Ward, our day-wee bwed.  Amen!"  I would take a pretend bite, and then if I went for another bite, she would repeat this mantra.  "No, Mommy!..."  After we ate (and prayed) for a long time, she decided it was time to do our nails.  She insisted on painting her own nails ["Because I'm a big guh-wuhl!"] and mine.  Salon-quality, let me tell you!  She was so happy to just be with me, and it warmed my heart.  She kept repeating, "Dis is Mommy-Maddie special time. Not Buddy [Parker]?"  I replied, "That's right."  "Not Jack?" she'd ask.  "Just Maddie," I smiled.

Future make-up artist

The best time of day with Parker often comes during "quiet time."  I have given up on the nap-time fight.  Parker and Maddie are sent to their rooms for "quiet time" during Jack's afternoon nap.  If they fall asleep, fine.  If they don't, fine (as long as everyone is actually quiet).  Often I will slip into Parker's room during this time.  He's always surprised to see me.  I put my finger up to my lips to let him know we have to be very quiet, so Maddie (who is directly across the hall) won't know I'm sneaking in.  "Do we get to have special time, Mommy?!" he whispers excitedly.  I grin and nod.  We play Rescue Heroes or build train tracks or read books.  Then I tuck him into his bed, snuggle up next to him and sing Silent Night (his favorite song) quietly into his ear.  He closes his eyes, murmurs, "Mama, mama, mama," sighs, and kisses my cheek.  It is the best.

First day of preschool this year

Now if only I could figure out how to be just as fun-loving and affectionate when I have all three of them together.  *Sigh*

Just so you know

Dear Parker & Maddie,

Sometimes I question whether or not writing this blog is a good thing.  It started out as a way to help me remember all of the day to day details of your childhood (that I feared I would forget).  I wanted to fill it with cute memories, funny stories and the like.  In fact, I have omitted several incidences that I would rather forget (either because of your bad behavior or my own). 

However, I fear that one day you may read this blog and wonder, "But what about all the bad days?"  Like today.  And sadly, many other days.  It's not that the day was all bad.  I just found myself failing over and over.  I want to write about it because I want you to understand...I want you to understand our life situation, my motivation, and what I think and feel about you.

#1.  I love you both so much that it literally makes my heart ache.  I will always love you, though I may not always like your behavior.  Your are my precious, precious gifts from God. 

#2.  Life is challenging right now, and it's not your fault.  Parker you are 4, and Maddie you are almost 3.  You are both active, strong-willed, and inquisitive.  Jack is only 2 months.  He requires a huge amount of my time and energy.  I know it's hard to be patient while he's eating and quiet while he's sleeping. 

#3.  I have the best intentions.  Like when I promise you both some "special time" and Jack wakes up early from a nap needing to eat right away.  Or when I say we will go to the park but then realize Jack hasn't had a nap in his bed all day and really needs one.  Or when I say I'll play a game with you while I'm nursing him, but your game requires me to sit on the floor and I can't find a position that doesn't break my back, so I have to move (which, according to your rules, ruins the game you've created). 

#4.  I'm sorry.  Kiddos, I'm a sinner.  Though I start out with good intentions, my own selfishness often prevails.  I snap at you.  I yell at you.  I glare at you.  I am so, so sorry.  Mommy is a work in progress.

I want you to know that after I was finally able to tuck Jack in for the night tonight (after a very, very long day), I went to each of your rooms, kissed all over your sleeping faces and whispered in your ears, "Mommy loves you.  Mommy loves you."  I want you to know it deep inside.  I want you to believe it despite my bad behavior.  I want you to remember it.  I love you. 


Roller Coaster

I think perhaps I've chosen the wrong name for our blog.  The Rausch Roller Coaster might be more accurate.  When I nurse Jack in the middle of the night, I often find myself reflecting upon the highs and lows of the day.  Our days and weeks really do seem to consist of just that...extreme highs and extreme lows.

Take Friday, for example.  The kids were so excited.  They had been waiting all week for this day.  You see, Aunt Beetle [Natalie] had graciously agreed to have us spend Friday night at her house.  We were going to celebrate her birthday (which was on Wednesday) and all go together to Applefest in a nearby town on Saturday.

Starting on Monday, the kids began to ask if it was Friday yet.  They began packing on Wednesday:
1 blankie
1 pillow
1 soft toy
2 hard [plastic] toys
tra-bull [travel] cup (a special cup daddy bought for each child that had a straw and a lid...only to be used on long trips)

This trip was going to be special.  We would not only see our beloved Aunt Natalie and Uncle John, but we would get to spend time with cousin, Sebastian.  This kids are completely in awe of this little guy.  Every time they see him, he is doing something new and amazing.  First it was smiling, then batting at toys, then babbling, crawling, walking.  They can't wait to be around him!  The vast majority of our visits have occurred when they come into town.  They live north of Cincinnati (and if you read on, you will understand exactly why we don't make the trip often).

The Thursday before the trip we had another high.  I took all 3 kids on our first ever trip to the grocery store by myself!  Even more amazing...it was a huge success!   We not only bought the ingredients for Aunt Beetle's cake, but we also purchased all the groceries we'd need for a week - with no major meltdowns. 

When we arrived at the house, we began work on the cake.  I put the kids in charge of dumping the [pre-measured] ingredients in the bowl and turning on the mixer.  In hindsight, this was not the brightest idea.  They would inevitably push the lever too hard, mixing at level 5 instead of 1.  After I was covered in flour and had wiped down the counter and floors for the umpteenth time, I decided perhaps it was best if they were responsible for turning the mixer off after each ingredient had been added.

Come Friday, we were ready!  After dropping Parker off at preschool, Grandma came to watch Maddie and Jack while I hit a huge consignment sale.  A few hours later, I returned home with Parker and a ton of fall kids' clothes.  I felt like the day couldn't get any better.  We were all giddy with excitement about the sleepover.  When I put the kids in their rooms for "quiet time" I packed the van.  I woke them early, in the hopes they'd be quiet [read: groggy] for the car ride.  That was my first big mistake. 

By the time Aaron got home, every one had been screaming and crying for an hour.  I fed Jack, and we hit the road.  Mistake #2:  Not making sure everyone had "gone potty" before we left.

We took the kids through the McDonald's drive-through for a super-healthy dinner (with the all-important toy included).  Mistake #3: Mixing the kids' juice with water and putting it in their "travel cups."  Juice box = 4 ounces.  Juice box + water = 10 ounces.  (We would soon pay for the combination of mistakes 2 & 3). 

Then we made mistake #4...Aaron and I decided we wanted a healthier option and stopped at Subway.  By the time he re-entered the car after getting our dinner, Maddie was already straining against her seat buckle, crying that she wanted to get out and asking, "How long [until] we will be there?!"

After we'd been on the expressway for about 10 minutes, the real chaos began.  "I need go potty!"  "Me, too!"  "I'm about to weak [leak]!"  "No! I'm gonna leak!"

Stop, potty, start again.  15 minutes later, repeat.  During the second stop, I purchased some popcorn and poured equal amounts into their now empty happy meal boxes with the express instructions not to spill it.  Moments later popcorn was sailing through the air.  Daddy was not happy.  Maddie was giggling defiantly.  Parker was whining, "She's throwing popcorn at me."  Useless threats ensued.  "I need go potty!"  Then traffic.  No end in sight.  "I NEED GO POTTY!!!" 

It was nearly 8:30 at night.  The car slowly inched toward the next exit.  We decided we would have to head home.  The real tears began to flow as the kids realized their dream trip had ended before it had even begun.  Cue the wailing: "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Then Jack began to scream.  With three crying children, we made our last potty break, cried "uncle" ourselves, and turned the van around.

Our week of joy and anticipation had come crashing down around us.  After all three kids were tucked into bed, Aaron and I sat in the living room with wide eyes, shaking our heads.  "What happened?"  How had we come to this?  There was a time when a trip to Cincinnati was a hop, skip, and a jump.  We'd listen to music, sip our drinks, perhaps the passenger would read a magazine.  Those days were certainly over. 

As I nursed Jack later that evening, I listened to the soft sighs and squeaks he made as he snuggled close.  Kissing the top of his tiny head, I thanked my lucky stars that those days were over.  I'll take my roller coaster any day.



Being a grown-up

This morning Parker threw Aaron under the bus...big time.
As he was drinking his milk, he said, "You know, mom, Daddy breaks all the rules."
I was wiping down the counter.  "Oh really?"

Parker: Yeah.  Last night, he gave us [pausing for effect] chocolate chips...in the living room...while we watched a show!
Me: Hmmm...
Parker: Maybe you should have a talk with him...

I chuckled.  I have to give Aaron credit.  He did, after all, take all 3 kids so that I could go to Bible study by myself last night.  It was wonderful.

I explained to Parker the order of authority in our house.  I explained that mom and dad were on the same team, and dad was kind of like the team coach.  I smiled, "One day you will be the daddy and have to make lots of decisions, too."

Parker let out an exasperated sigh.  "I know mom.  I know what it's like to be a grown-up."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah.  You have to be patient with kiddos, be kind, do good responsibility, don't mess everything up, don't knock down buildings..."

Thank goodness he understands the importance of resisting the urge to destroy buildings.  We must be doing something right.


Just Jack

Just wanted to write about a few milestones for Jack and some family dynamics...just so I remember.

He went for his 1 month check-up and weighed in at 10lbs 1oz.  He is sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch at night and on a 2.5 - 3 hour feeding schedule during the day.  He still only cries when he is hungry or tired (very distinct cries; hungry sounds like a snorting little piggy, tired sounds like "la, la, la").  In short, he's a perfect angel.

On Sunday, right after a feeding, he looked up at me and gave me a huge open-mouthed grin.  Since then he has smiled every day.  Today (Thursday 9/8/11), he rolled over from his tummy to his back.  It surprised all of us.  Maddie and Parker had been sitting next to him on the playmat on the livingroom floor.  Once they saw it, they wanted to see it again.  We placed him back on his tummy, and Maddie tried to assist him by grabbing his stomach and rolling him.  (Poor little guy's head would have slammed back and hit the floor had I not caught it.) 

Big brother and big sister love him so much.  They still argue over who gets to take the dirty diapers to the trash.  Maddie "speaks" to him often in a language only they can understand ("goo-goo, ahhh").  Parker rinses his dropped pacifiers and places them in his mouth.  They rock him in his carseat while I get ready to go places.  They gently bounce his little chair and talk to him whenever they get the chance.  They always want to hold him and have their pictures taken with him. 

There were many times I was really worried about having three children.  Would there be enough of me to go around?  Could I possibly love another child as much as I loved Parker and Maddie?  Would he get enough attention?  Would I ever have a moment to myself again?  How on earth would I handle three on an outing by myself?

As I lay on the table for my postpartum exam, feet in the stirrups, Jack in a carseat in the corner, Parker and Maddie sharing a chair next to my head, my questions were answered.  Sometimes there is not enough of me to go around.  Of course I could (and do) love Jack as much as Parker and Maddie.  He is growing and happy and will have just enough attention.  I may get a moment to myself again...in about 18 years.  And finally, I will handle 3 on an outing by myself just fine...perhaps not with as much poise and grace as I would like, but we'll survive.


The Progression of Play

So we found some craft sticks (that look like medical tongue depressors) in the basement...Parker immediately inspected the package, spotted the sample crafts that could be created, and proceeded to choose the most elaborate one.  After much begging, I agreed to make the dinosaur.  It was ridiculously difficult, but we made it.  Then, of course, it had to be painted.

My instructions were as follows:
Paint only the dinosaur with your paint brushes.

Followed by:
Yes, you may use your hands to paint the dinosaur.

*Sigh* Yes, you may paint your entire hand, but not any other part of your body.  (Those are tattoos on Parker's belly, in case you were wondering.)

I began to see this was a losing battle...
Okay, don't touch anything.  Go outside, take your clothes off, and you can paint whatever you want (on your body...do not paint the van, garage, stroller, etc.) while I wipe down the table.

Moments later I exited the house to find little, naked, greenish-brown monsters running around in my driveway.  It was reminiscent of a scene in that 80's movie, the Blue Lagoon.  A boy and girl were stranded on an island after a shipwreck or plane wreck or something.  Years later, when another ship was searching for them, the rescuers saw what they assumed to be savages/natives on the beach and continued on their way.  Sadly, they really were the missing children...They had just been playing in the mud and sand and acting crazy.   I had to laugh.

After lots of play, I instructed them to stick their hands in the air, march directly into the bathroom without touching anything, and climb into the tub.  This is the part where I lost my patience.  The door frames, the shower curtain and my shirt were all smeared with paint before they finally made it into the tub.  Grrr...Oh well.
That water never looked so dirty!

Despite the messes (or maybe because of them), it was an amazing morning.  Playing with these kids -  actually, just allowing them to play - is my guilty pleasure.  I always start out with a vision of how things will go (nice, neat, orderly).  The kids inevitably have a different idea.  Some days I fight them and force them to do things my way, and then no one has fun.  However, on days like this one, when (by the grace of God) I remember they are 2 and 4 and won't be for long, I can let them just be kids...and it's a blast!


It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

So many intense and contrary emotions and situations are flooding my life right now; I feel as though I can't keep my head above water one moment and like I'm floating on cloud nine the next. I'm not sure how much of it is internal [hormonal] and how much is just plain situational. Here are some examples...

Last weekend the entire family stayed home for the majority of the weekend. This may not sound odd to some families, but my husband is such the antithesis of a homebody that 2 days after Jack came home from the hospital the whole fam-damily took a trip to Bass Pro Shop because Daddy was so stir crazy. So, when Aaron voluntarily stays home on the weekend, it's a big deal. We cleaned, played, and cleaned some more.

On Sunday evening, after all three children were tucked in bed, Aaron grinned and asked if I wanted some wine. [Is the pope Catholic?] Soon he was off to the store to buy our victory drink. When he left, I surveyed the house...a wreck. How was this possible? Oh well. I started by unloading the diaper bag (which had become stuffed beyond maximum capacity over the course of the weekend).

What the...? Why was it soaking wet? I knew we'd put some wet diapers in there, but they weren't that wet. Then it dawned on me. Breast milk (which had been pumped and left in the pump...long story) had spilled all over the inside of the bag. The bag. My brand-new, super-cute, unexpected-gift-from-Grammy, embroidered-with-Jack's-name, diaper bag! I did what any sane person would do. I lost it. I sobbed. Why, oh, why couldn't I have anything that didn't get ruined? Why couldn't I have nice things that stayed nice?

With puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks, I looked around the room. Dishes piled high in the sink, a full dishwasher, shoes and clothes on the floor, crumbs on the table, toys under the table. I sat in a chair and sobbed. Just then Aaron came home, wine in hand, a smile that quickly faded. "What's wrong?" he asked innocently. How dare he? Couldn't he see that we lived in filth and chaos??

"My diaper bag!" I wailed. Between sobs, I explained about the breast milk. "Well, can't you clean it?" he asked simply. I glared. "Of course I cleaned it! It's just that nothing stays nice in this house! I'm sick of it! I'm sick of toys and laundry and dishes!" I could see the vacant stare in his eyes. He was retreating to his happy place. "Forget it!" I yelled.

Then I went about the house cleaning like a maniac. While I was picking up the toys and placing them in a laundry basket, wouldn't you know it, demon doll (see previous post -http://rauschfamilycircus.blogspot.com/2011/08/demon-doll.html ) fell on the floor and began to cheer. I went to the door and launched her off the back porch onto the driveway (secretly hoping one of us might run her over in the morning). Aaron shook his head and retreated to the office [a wise move]. The crying and cleaning continued for some time.

A similar scenario was repeated the next evening. Finally, I stopped, prayed, apologized to my poor spouse, and rested.

Fast forward one day...We went to Grandma's house to visit with Gigi (Grandpa Bob's mother) who was in town from St. Louis.  I put Jack down for a nap, then was able to rest myself while the two other kids played with Grandma and Gigi.  When I awoke, I found Parker playing cops and robbers with Gigi, each taking turns shooting each other with toy guns and giggling.  Grandma was preparing a picnic lunch while Maddie worked a puzzle.  My mom never ceases to amaze and inspire me.  Rather than struggling down the steps (to the covered patio) with Gigi's walker and a bulky picnic basket, she tied the basket to a rope and lowered it over the edge of her two story deck where Parker and Maddie "caught" it.  They were ecstatic.  Parker insisted they were pirates catching treasure.  It was a delightful day.

The next day was Parker's first day of preschool - another wonderful day!  This day was filled with milestones and blessings.  I had been so nervous that things wouldn't go well.  There were so many variables...would we wake up on time [we didn't], could I get everyone dressed and fed and out the door on time [I did], would Parker get along with his classmates with whom he didn't really make a connection at orientation [he did], would he listen to and obey his teacher [undetermined].  When he bounded into the van at noon prattling on and on about his new friend, Noah, his painting, and his excitement about returning on Friday when he would be allowed to paint his hand, I knew the day had been a success.  I offered up a silent prayer of thanks.

A few short hours later, Parker and Maddie were dropped off at Grammy's house so I could take Jack to his one month appointment.  When we arrived at Grammy's, it was like Christmas in August.  She had purchased shoes for everyone in the family, save Jack (who got a hat and bib instead).  I must say, Gram has amazing taste.  These are the shoes she got for Mommy.  (Score!)

I was giddy at Jack's appointment.  It was so exciting to be at the doctor's office with just Jack.  I know it might sound silly, but after having lived far from extended family and having to take multiple children to every medical appointment (including my own), there is something wonderfully relaxing about being able to focus on one child at a time.  I was able to answer the doctor's questions and snuggle with my sweet baby boy during the entire appointment.  I could think and speak clearly without interruption.  Even more exciting than the new found focus, was Jack's progress and growth.  He is now 10 pounds, 1 ounce and has grown 1 inch in length.  He is right on track.  I don't take his perfect health for granted.  I recognize it is a blessing from God and am extremely grateful. 

So there you have it...chaos and drama juxtaposed with fabulous family and memorable milestones.  That's life right now, and for right now, I love it.


Demon Doll

Well, okay, it's not exactly demonic, but it is the most annoying toy I have ever encountered (which is saying a lot considering I have three children who have so many toys it looks like Toys"R"Us threw up in our basement).

The toy about which I am writing is a cheerleading baby doll with a redneck accent. Its one bum eyelid combined with Maddie's salon-quality hairstyling have made it look quite creepy. Think Chuckie meets Toddlers and Tiaras, and you get the general idea. Even more disturbing than its appearance are its cheers. Hearing a small child's twangy voice shout semi-provocative cheers is just, well, disturbing.

Click on the link below to see a video of this little monster in action.

EW! What kind of creep wants to see a baby cheerleader "wiggling" anything?

In the video you may have noticed that the doll has small blue dots on her shoes and belly which you can press to activate different cheers. Recently the cousins (who so graciously gave us this offensive little gem) were at the house and showed Maddie that by pressing the palms of the doll's hands, you can hear two additional cheers. Oh goody.

Both of my kids love this thing. I don't get it. Perhaps it is because it is a hand-me-down from their beloved cousins. Perhaps it is just because my children tend to gravitate toward loud, obnoxious toys. I don't know. I suppose what they say about misery loving company is true, because I must admit, I am hoping my sister-in-law will one day have a baby girl...Then she, too, will experience the joy this doll brings to a home.


Postiv Tension for a Mess-Maker

Parker and Maddie love Jack. They do not necessarily love all the time he spends eating [read: the time mommy is confined to a chair feeding him]. They want attention and will stop at nothing to get it. During one of Jack's naps, I took them outside and played Godzilla with Parker for a long time. After awhile Maddie requested we go inside, so I swept her into my arms for a big squeeze hug and carried her toward the house. As I was holding her, my entire back was doused with water. I turned to see Parker grinning, a water gun [more like a water bazooka] dangling from his hands. Grrrr.

We had a long talk about positive versus negative attention. Parker seemed to grasp the concept and insisted he really wanted "poztiv tension." I agreed to spend 10 minutes of "special time" with him when daddy got home (and could watch the other two). I know, I know...10 minutes sounds like chump change, but not to Parker. He was ecstatic. He couldn't wait.

As soon as dinner was finished, Aaron took Maddie and Jack, and Parker and I headed to the basement playroom for some special time. We simply built structures out of Lincoln Logs. To the casual observer, it might seem like no big deal. However, Parker had my absolute undivided attention, a capitve audience if you will. He loved it. When our 10 minutes was up, I announced "special time" was over and thanked him for playing with me. We could keep playing, but now others were free to speak to me and demand my attention.

Parker smiled up at me and said, "Mommy, when I grow up, I'm going to marry you." Then he paused. "Is that okay?" I chuckled. "That's sweet," I said, "but I would guess that by then, you'll want to marry someone else."

Parker looked a little discouraged and surveyed the mass of Lincoln Logs. "I probably won't make a very good husband...I might still be a big mess-maker."

I laughed out loud. "Oh honey, don't worry! Your daddy's a great husband, and he's still a huge mess-maker!"

"Really?" Parker was practically beaming.
"Oh yeah."


Welcome, Jack

Welcome to the world, little one. These are such precious times...It's hard to put into words all of the things I am feeling and all the things I want to burn into my memory.

The way you cry when you are tired; it sounds like you are singing, "la, la, la." The way you manage to wiggle out of a tight swaddle and wake up cold and crying. The way you suck in just the right side of your bottom lip when you sleep. The tiny crease in your forehead that never seems to go away, as though you are constantly perplexed. The fuzzy little hair on the top of your ears. (Don't worry; it will go away - at least, Maddie's did.) The way you squeak all the time, often so loudly you startle yourself and flail your tiny arms. The way your eyes flutter open and stare at my face when I sing to you. The feel of your soft, squishy cheek next to mine. I could go on and on (and likely will in a later post).

We knew you were coming and were anxiously anticipating your arrival, so it sounds silly to say you were a surprise, but you were. Just 2 days before your arrival, the doctor's examination seemed to indicate you wouldn't be coming anytime soon. I was so disappointed I cried [because I just couldn't wait to meet you]. Then late one evening, I noticed my contractions becoming quite regular. I was so excited I didn't sleep all night. Early the next morning [Thursday], we took Parker and Maddie to Grandma and Grandpa's house, where we dropped them off and picked up Grandma. Grammy and Pappy met us at the hospital. A few short hours and 3 pushes later, and you were finally in my arms. Just like Mary Poppins, you were "practically perfect in every way." 7 pounds, 13 ounces. 21 inches long. Beautiful!

Daddy was able to take a week off of work to spend time getting to know you and to help me care for you and your brother and sister. Today is the last day of that week. I'm not sure how things will go next week. In fact, I'm more than a little nervous at the prospect of being home alone with the three of you. A wise friend instructed me to take it one day at a time. Best advice ever. I don't want to miss or squander a moment.

I love you, Squeak.


Perfect Timing

I ache. For the last 3-4 weeks, unless I am sitting fairly still, somewhere in my body, something hurts...a lot. I don't get it. Pregnancy has always kind of been my thing. In general, I have loved it. I don't get morning sickness, I love my hair, nails and skin, I love not trying to suck in my stomach for a 40-week stretch, etc. This time around, however, due to the physical pain, I just don't like it.

That is why, when I hoisted my enormous body into the van after my 39 week check-up, I was crying. I had been certain all of the late-night painful contractions were doing something. Wrong! "No change," the doctor smiled sweetly. "He just doesn't want to come out yet." Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Afraid my smile looked more like a grimace or perhaps a sneer, I asked, "Well what if I want him to come out?" "Oh don't worry," she laughed, "we won't let him walk out of you. We'll induce you before you reach 41 weeks." Oh gee, what a relief! Thanks! I hobbled back to the van.

Then I had a revelation today. As I was holding Maddie on my lap and kissing the top of her head, I realized that if Jack had already been born, these precious two hours of cuddle-time with my 2 year old would likely never have happened.

My church recently built a new auditorium with big screens. As part of their summer outreach program, they have offered family-friendly movies every Wednesday morning to anyone who wants to come (complete with free popcorn and bottled water). Let's just say I've taken full advantage of this program.

I was extremely diligent [militant] with Parker's T.V. viewing when I was a new mom. He had absolutely no television until he was two, and then it was watched very sparingly (a 15 minute show before bedtime). He was only 18 months when Maddie arrived, so the television was a part of her little life before age 2 (what would the pediatrician say?!). These days, I can see the benefit of a more relaxed attitude toward the television (though I am still pretty anal about how much they are allowed to view).

Maddie could care less. She often skips her "show" altogether, preferring to read or work a puzzle instead. Parker, on the other hand, is glued to any flickering image with the drooling, open-mouth stare of a drug addict getting a fix. Taking him to the movies is a cinch. Maddie loses interest, and we end up in the lobby playing pretend, reading, or doing a puzzle [it's amazing what I can fit into my purse].

So, while the summer movies at church have been fun, they have not been quite as relaxing as I had hoped. If Grandma can't join us, Parker ends up whining in the lobby, or Maddie ends up whining in the auditorium.

Today was different, however. I don't know if it was the movie (Despicable Me), the warm blanket I'd packed [thank you, ginormous purse], or Maddie acclimating to longer viewing sessions [perish the thought!]. Whatever the reason, Maddie watched the entire movie. It was heaven. Not just the sitting down without having to move part (which was also greatly appreciated), but the cuddle-with-Maddie-for-2-straight-hours part. Not since she was an infant has she been in my arms for that long a stretch. I rubbed her soft arms, smelled her hair, kissed her head. It brings me to tears knowing that my arms will be full of another person soon. As much as I can't wait for that to happen (and to be free of all this discomfort), I am so grateful for the blessing of today and the precious time spent holding my girl.


A Golden Age

There are times when life is just good - when the kids are loving and oddly compliant, when your husband is overly-attentive, when friends (with generally hectic schedules) are readily available, when God just seems nearer somehow. Sometimes they are fleeting moments, like when the I catch the kids singing to each other at nap-time after a particularly rough morning, and sometimes they seem to stretch on and on.

This is one of those golden times. Our dear neighbor, Alex, is visiting us from Seattle. She is an anomaly. She has the exuberance one might expect from a teenager but also demonstrates responsibility, emotional maturity, and selflessness that are well beyond her years. We love her!

I was a little nervous that her visit was to occur so near my due date. I didn't want to go into labor and have her feel awkward about moving in with my extended family. I also didn't want to miss out on time spent with her myself. Plus at 38 weeks pregnant, I was concerned I couldn't be an attentive hostess and that she would be bored.

Of course, God's timing is flawless. Jack has not arrived, and if Alex weren't here, I would be drumming my fingers, snappy with the kids, cleaning like mad, etc. Her visit has been just what the doctor ordered. I find myself letting little chores slide, playing quietly with the kids in the mornings while she sleeps (she is a teenager, after all), and relaxing.

In addition to having Alex here, the kids' behavior has been, well, odd. Not bad odd, wonderful odd. I don't know whether or not this is a reflection of my own relaxed attitude, but they are so cooperative and loving it's almost spooky. Some days I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. For example, yesterday morning, they played with the same puzzle [sharing it - *gasp*], for nearly 45 minutes. The would build it, break it, and giggle, "Wanna do it again?" I took a video [mostly to prove to myself later that it was not a hallucination].

I have such mixed emotions right now. There is a part of me that wants to press the Pause button, that doesn't want anything at all to change, that will miss having relaxed breakfasts listening to just 2 tiny voices sharing the adventures they had in their dreams the night before, having enough arms to encircle both little bodies as I read a favorite book, etc. Then there is the other part of me that can't wait for that other shoe [or baby, rather] to drop. I can't wait to walk and not waddle, to push the kids on the swing without getting winded, to smell an infant again, to introduce the kids to their brand new brother.

For right now, I am just trying to enjoy our Golden Age and recognize that "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).



Maddie's favorite blanket is covered in strawberries. It's kind of ironic, since she is extremely allergic to strawberries. She calls this beloved blanket, "Shrawberry."

She has loved "Shrawberry" since she was born. I used to rub it softly across her lips to help her fall asleep. Now she does that herself. She can't sleep without it. It is so worn, it has holes in it. She insists on taking it everywhere. It drags the ground, and has to be washed quite frequently (which often requires negotiation/bribery and still results in tears).

Today, I noticed her love of "Shrawberry" has been taken to a new level. She talks to it. Over breakfast, she was asking it if it liked cereal. It was in a heap on the floor (and didn't respond). I was grateful she didn't attempt to feed it, as that would have resulted in yet another washing. At naptime she informed me "Shrawberry" needed the nightlight on. Okay...

I understand talking to a doll or stuff animal, but a blanket? Strange.



The only drawback of pregnancy that really gets under my skin is my weakness (or sometimes perceived weakness). There is a book called The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy in which the author describes a plethora of negative side effects of pregnancy...varicose veins, stretch marks, discomfort, etc. I can and have dealt with those types of things, many of which are permanent. Oddly, I am much more troubled by the temporary problems that pregnancy creates.

Lack of stamina, inability to bend at the waist [to weed the garden, for goodness sake!], need to sit frequently, inability to lift heavy objects, being discouraged from climbing ladders, etc. This is the stuff that makes me absolutely crazy! I hate being told that I have physical limitations. I suppose on some level it scares me. I realize that as I age, I will have more and more of them, but right now I am a healthy 30-something year old woman. Don't tell me I can't lift that chair!

Two events have triggered this rant: the gutter cleaning incident and the van leak. Allow me to explain...

There has been a tree growing in our gutter for months. A tree! Granted, it is a small tree, but come on! Our landlords sometimes post notices on their rent deposit box which read: Don't forget to clean out your gutters and change your air filters. I know it's paranoid, but I could swear they are referring to our little tree. It has bothered me for months. My husband is a busy man and does a great job keeping up with other tasks (mowing, bills, etc.). This weekend, I had finally had it. The gutter is on the edge of the garage (less than 10 feet from the ground). Our ladder is fiberglass and very lightweight. I easily maneuvered it outside and set it up (opened all the way, not leaning against the garage) right next to the gutter. I climbed up a few rungs, held onto a rung tight with one arm, and used a gloved hand to scoop out the debris in the gutter. Very simple. Then I made a big mistake...Proud of my accomplishment and eager to try out other, taller gutters on the house, I foolishly made a Facebook post. Unwilling to stand on the top of the ladder with nothing to grab but the house itself, I asked for a taller ladder. Well, needless to say, not everyone agreed with my activities. Due to all the negative (albeit caring) feedback, I simply deleted the post.

The second event occurred today. I realized I can't fix our van alone. Grrrr...
Last summer we discovered a putrid, moldy mess in the back where the seat had been folded down. Assuming it was the result of some wet (now moldy) towels left back there, I used every product known to man to get rid of the stuff. However, months later, the wet and mold had returned. We realized there must be an outside leak, took it in, and had the rear window seal replaced. Everything was fine for a time. Then I found the same mess after a very hard rain. I took it in again and was told that they would need to remove the interior panels to determine where the leak was coming from, as all the seals appeared to be working. That sounded costly. I decided we could save money by removing them ourselves. Heck, we have the ridiculously detailed illustrated repair manual, how hard could it be?

During the kids' nap, I decided to do it myself. Repair manual in hand, I unlocked the van and began taking the first steps. I got to about step 2 in which I was informed that 2 people are required to lift out the backseat. Foiled! You see, if I weren't pregnant, I would not have been deterred by this minor detail. What many deem a 2-person job can easily be turned into a 1-person job with a little ingenuity.

But not when you are pregnant. There are some things my body just won't let me do right now, and let me tell you, it really ticks me off!


Mommy Moments

I fill our days. In my efforts to ensure the kids are happy, healthy, physically active, socially capable, and mentally stimulated, I tend to overbook us. All of us. So much so, that recently Aaron boycotted a dinner date with friends. While I was upset at first, when I took a step back, I had to agree with him. Sometimes it needs to be just us.

I have a very hard time striking a balance. I tell myself that social interaction is good for the kids, that they have more fun with their friends than the do with their huge, often tired, very pregnant mommy, that it will give me a chance to relax. However, today I noticed some errors with those assumptions. I realized that when I schedule a play date at our home, I kill myself trying to make sure the place is picked up and sanitized. I realized that sometimes, the kids just want to stay home and play. I realized that they still think I can be fun, and they still want to play with me (even when I'm often tired and grumpy)...That one brought tears to my eyes. It dawned on me that we are constantly in the company of others (friends, cousins, grandparents, etc.); so much so that we are missing out on each other.

Last night I emailed the mother of one of Parker's preschool buddies to see if they'd like to join us at the Science Center today since it was supposed to rain. Luckily I didn't mention this to Parker because I didn't hear back from her before we left this morning.

I have to admit, I wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of taking the kids to the Science Center by myself (9 months pregnant), but as we fed the parking meter and skipped [they skipped, I waddled] toward the entrance, I found myself getting excited, too. I had a strange deja vu sensation. It reminded me of living in Seattle. We went places with friends, but I often took the kids out by myself. With no family around, we were frequently on our own.

There is something so refreshing about really watching your kids play. When it's just me with them, I am so much more engaged. I was on the floor building tubular creations, making pyramids out of foam blocks, and launching catapults. It was awesome! The kids had my undivided attention, and I loved every second...Well, every second until Maddie clawed Parker's face because he took over her computer game (at which time we all exited in a large, sobbing, whining lump of arms and legs).

By the time we were on the sidewalk again, they were skipping along. The whole trip was such a wonderful, eye-opening experience. It felt like a gift from God - realizing the kids are just that...gifts. They are not just responsibilities, little people to be educated, entertained, and cared for. They are here to enjoy me, and for me to enjoy as well.

I'm looking at my calendar in a whole new light. Time to book some "mommy moments" and "family weekends." I'm grateful to be learning this lesson while the kids are so young!